Senior linebacker Isaiah Nkansah leads GVSU’s defense


Kellen Voss, Sports Editor

Senior linebacker Isaiah Nkansah leads GVSU’s defense

By Kellen Voss ([email protected])

(Image courtesy of

When looking through Grand Valley State’s football roster, one of the names that is hardest to pronounce is that of senior linebacker Isaiah Nkansah. Nkansah (pronounced NAH-KAHN-SUH) said that people have been getting his name wrong for as long as he can remember.

“I get my last name mispronounced 99 percent of the time,” Nkansah said. “The one percent is probably family and close friends, couple coaches too, but it even took them a while.”

Nkansah makes a tackle or big play for the Lakers about as often as his name is mispronounced, as in his four years at GVSU, he has totaled 162 tackles, with 15.0 of those being tackles for loss, and has earned three varsity letters for his contributions.

Nkansah is having a stellar senior season at GVSU, as in five games, he has racked up 42 total tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and a blocked field goal. 20 of those tackles came in the Week 2 comeback win against Delta State, and for his efforts, Nkansah was named National Defensive Player of the week.

As good of a season as Nkansah has been having, the team hit a speed bump this weekend when they lost to the Ashland Eagles on a last-second hail mary, 20-17. Nkansah attributes that loss to the defense losing focus in the fourth quarter, since they were able to hold Ashland scoreless for the first three quarters.

“Obviously the loss hurt, and we got complacent on defense,” Nkansah said. “We were lights out for three quarters, but they put it on us in the last seven minutes.”

GVSU will look to get back to their winning ways this Saturday, Oct. 12, against the Cardinals of Saginaw Valley State, and Nkansah is excited to see the defense make a statement in that game.

“We got a high sense of urgency,” Nkansah said. “Saginaw is going to come in here and they’re going to be live and ready to go, so we got to bring more intense energy.”

As one of the seniors on this defense, Nkansah feels a responsibility to be a leader. Thankfully for him, he learned how to probably lead thanks to fellow linebackers he has played with, one of which playing in the NFL now.

“We came in as freshmen and saw the guys go all the way to the national semi-final,” Nkansah said. “That was probably the best group of seniors I’ve seen lead, with Matt Judon and all those guys. Dylan Carroll last year was a big help as well.”

Playing football runs in the Nkansah family, as Isaiah’s older brother Elijah played college football at the University of Toledo, has played in games as an offensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks, and is currently on the Houston Texans’ practice squad.

While Isaiah would love to follow in his brother’s footsteps, he hasn’t put much thought about his post-football plans, mostly because he wants to focus on this season.

“Of course I’m going to try out for the NFL,” Nkansah said. “I’m not focused on that, because I’m focused on right now. You see scouts out here, but if you’re focused on that, you’re not focused on practice.”

That focus has been a big part of GVSU’s success, as in terms of goals for the rest of the season, Nkansah wants to help win as many games as he can, not just for this year’s team, but last year’s team as well.

“We want to finish this right and do what other seniors in front of us couldn’t,” Nkansah said. “I want to be the best version of myself. It’s not a one-man team though, we got 11 men on the defense. I know that if I don’t make every play, but if the defense is making plays, we’re doing our job.”