Saints rookie Isaiah Foskey, a former De La Salle star, shows what friendship’s all about during NFL draft

What does it say about a man who in one of the biggest moments of his life — a moment he worked years to achieve — would pause the celebration to be with a friend’s family in a hospital room?

“Bro, you don’t have to do that,” Gunnar Rask told his former De La Salle High School football teammate, Isaiah Foskey. “Go celebrate with family and friends.”

Rask was planning to be with Foskey on Friday evening, just as he was on Day 1 of the NFL draft on Thursday.

The cupcakes that Rask and his mother brought to the party were such a hit that Rask stopped by the cupcake store to bring fresh ones Friday.

But while picking up the treats, Rask received a call from his mother.

Rask’s maternal grandfather, Jon Ireland, a former football player himself who had watched Rask and four cousins play at De La Salle and met Foskey numerous times, took a turn for the worse.

He was being placed on life support.

Rask rushed to the hospital, telling Foskey that he wouldn’t be able to attend the party, which included Foskey’s relatives from New York.

“Totally understand,” Foskey said.

Gunnar Rask, a former De La Salle High football star who went on to play at Cal, poses for a picture with his grandfather, Jon Ireland. (Photo courtesy of Gunnar Rask)Gunnar Rask, a former De La Salle High football star who went on to play at Cal, poses for a picture with his grandfather, Jon Ireland. (Photo courtesy of Gunnar Rask) 

Rask and his family packed into the hospital room in Antioch to be near Jon in his final hours. When the New Orleans Saints selected Foskey in the second round with the 40th pick overall, they erupted.

Not more than half an hour later, Rask received a text message from Foskey.

“We’re on our way over,” said the defensive end who finished his college career as Notre Dame’s all-time leader in sacks.

Stunned, Rask replied, “What do you mean?”

“We’re on our way over right now,” Foskey responded.

Rask met Foskey and Foskey’s parents in the hospital lobby and took them to Jon’s room.

“They got to say hi to my grandfather,” Rask said. “Honestly, me and my family were absolutely flabbergasted. Speechless. We couldn’t believe you get drafted 40th overall and the first thing he does is come over to my grandfather’s hospital room. I was absolutely stunned.

“But it’s not totally out of character for Isaiah. My family and I love Isaiah. He’s such a classy guy. Does everything right on and off the field. I wasn’t completely surprised that Isaiah would do something like this. But he went above and beyond that day. He’s a brother for life.”

Rask and Foskey were first-team all-league players as De La Salle seniors in 2018. Rask went on to play at Cal, graduating with a degree in legal studies last spring. He finished his playing career at Cal last fall while participating in a business administration certificate program.

The 2022 Cal season included a game at Notre Dame, which reunited Foskey and Rask for a final time as players on a football field.

The cleats Rask wore that day will be included in the casket Jon will be buried in next week.

“I got in on the field-goal team,” Rask said. “It would have been the one time that I got to play against Isaiah because Isaiah was going to line up across from me on the field-goal block team. But Isaiah got hurt on that drive. It was the one drive that he wasn’t in on field-goal block that game.”

Rask, who has known Foskey since the two played youth football in East Contra Costa County, shared the story about his former teammate’s hospital visit on Twitter.

De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh saw it and shared it a short time later.

“I talked to Gunnar and I talked to Isaiah,” Alumbaugh said. “I’ve gotta say, I am not surprised in the least in any way, shape, or form. He is truly one of the most genuinely great young men that I have ever coached. He’s a very thoughtful, kind, intelligent man.

“If you walk onto our campus now and you pop by his English teacher’s class or pop by his old religion teacher’s class and you just say the words, Isaiah Foskey, they light up. That’s true for all his teachers. He’s just a special man.

“It was gratifying to see him go see Gunnar in a trying moment, but I am not surprised at all. In a life-changing moment like that, a lot of people are thinking about a lot of different things than going to a hospital to check in on their friend and his grandpa. That really shows the maturity that he has and how good of a person he is.”

My grandfather was placed on life support this morning. I let my life long brother @IFoskey know I wasn’t going to make it to his #NFLDraft party. Not even 30 minutes after he was drafted 40th by the @Saints Isaiah let me know he was on his way over. Love you & Congrats! #Saints

— Gunnar Rask (@g_rask) April 29, 2023

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