Monday, July 5, 2010

TBT EXCLUSIVE Q&A: TYLER MOELLER

(Photo of Tyler Moeller by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior safety Tyler Moeller is known in Columbus as a player who can deliver a crushing hit.

Going into the 2009 season, many felt that the Cincinnati-native was poised for greatness, a shoe-in to start at either linebacker or safety for the Buckeyes. Yes, he's that multi-talented.

But just weeks before he was to make his first start for the Buckeyes, Moeller found himself on the wrong end of a vicious hit. The only difference was, this blow didn't happen on the gridiron — it happened in a Florida bar.

While patronizing the pub with his family on their vacation, a local man — Ralph Gray Decker — who heard that Moeller was a football player at Ohio State, began harassing him feverishly according to reports. Moeller, who decided to ignore the belligerent man, was then punched in the head from behind. The sucker shot caused him to fall hard to the ground where he would suffer another huge blow to the head when he hit the bar floor.

(Decker pleaded guilty last month to felony battery and will be sentenced in August.)

Moeller would have to spend a few days in a Florida hospital with head trauma before returning home to Columbus. However, once he made it back to Ohio he suffered another setback and had to be rushed into surgery to relieve the bleeding on his brain.

The player who was about to enter the biggest season of his life on the football field, was instead fighting for it on his back in a hospital bed. Moeller would eventually pull through, but the thought of him ever putting on a football uniform again seemed extremely unlikely.

Of course, Moeller — while sitting in his hospital bed following surgery — was already thinking about playing again.

This past April Moeller took a huge step toward making that comeback a reality, as he was able to participate in drills during OSU spring camp, albeit in a blue (non-contact) jersey.

Last month — less than a year removed from the injury — Moeller received the best news yet ... he has been fully cleared to play again for the Buckeyes this fall.

Moeller will surely play a major role for the Ohio State defense in 2010, a season that many feel could result in a crystal football coming back to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. He has the cover skills to play safety and the pass-rushing ability to do the trick at outside linebacker.

So can you say 'star' position? For those of you who are unfamiliar, the 'star' position at Ohio State is in essence a combination of linebacker and safety. Just think Troy Polamalu.

Moeller took some time on Monday to talk with me about the upcoming season, as well as what position he expects to be playing, his possible medical red-shirt, and how his perspective on life and football has changed since the assault at the Florida pub last July.

(Below is the complete transcript from the Moeller interview)

The Buckeye Times: After suffering the head injury less than a year ago many people thought that your playing career was over. Now you have been fully cleared for action. You must really feel like you have a new lease on life?
Tyler Moeller: I think everything that has happened has given me a new perspective on life. I didn't need someone "clearing" me to give me that. Having the final OK is really nice, but camp is going to determine if I am going to be able to play again.

The Buckeye Times: Was there ever a time where you thought, 'man, my career may be over?'
Moeller: (laughing) Yes, the first time the doctor said "you'll never play again." And then the second time the doctor in Columbus said "your playing career is over."

Personally, there was never really a time where I thought to myself that I wasn't going to play again. Even when I just got done with surgery, I was imagining coming back and being able to
play again.

The Buckeye Times: How much has your appreciation for the game of football changed in these past 11 months?
Moeller: Everything that has happened has made me realize a little bit more just how important the game is to me. But it's also showed me how important everything else other than football is to me, too.

The Buckeye Times: How was your support system throughout the entire comeback? Any one person stand out who was extra supportive?
Moeller: The support from my family and my team has meant everything to me and really showed how much they mean to me. The one person who stands out is my mother (Amy Moeller). She took care of me after surgery and is always there for me ... even when I don't want her there (laughing).

Also, she was so supportive during the trial, I really believe that without her, I would be going to trial and everyone would still think I was belligerent at a bar and started a fight with someone.

(left, photo of Moeller by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

The Buckeye Times: During spring camp, I thought you looked really quick and decisive during drills. But unfortunately you had a blue jersey on the entire time. Knowing that you're such a competitor, how badly was that killing you? Did you feel like hitting someone out there?
Moeller: I love hitting. That is what makes me the player that I am. But I wasn't really worried about actually going out and hitting someone, but more so on how not being able to hit takes away that edge I have against my opponents.

The Buckeye Times: Well, I'm sure you want to look ahead now so let's talk about this season ... what are your expectations for the Buckeyes in 2010?
Moeller: I expect really big things from this team this year. I have been on some good teams in my career and this one is one of the best.

The Buckeye Times: What are your individual goals for this season? And where do you see yourself playing ... safety, linebacker, star?
Moeller: My individual goals I will keep to myself, but I see myself being at the safety position, most likely playing 'Star.'

The Buckeye Times: Give me a scouting report on Tyler Moeller?
Moeller: (laughing) I don't like to talk about myself, but I would say I'm fast, a play-maker and I try to knock someone out on every play.

The Buckeye Times: What are you planning to do with your degree once you graduate from OSU?
Moeller: Well I am a Consumer Affairs major with a minor in business. I would like to do something in sales, maybe pharmaceutical.

The Buckeye Times: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Moeller: Just hang out ... enjoy life!

The Buckeye Times: Tell me something about yourself that people may not know? And don't say that you're afraid of frogs like Brian Rolle did (laughing).
Moeller: Um, well ... I'm not afraid of frogs (laughing). I don't really have anything for you on this one.

The Buckeye Times: What will you remember most about playing at Ohio State when your college career is over?
Moeller: The friends that I have met and the opportunities that I have had. That is what I will remember the most.

The Buckeye Times: Final question ... Could you give me any info on your medical red-shirt? I know this is supposed to be your senior year, but what have you heard about possibly getting another year of eligibility?
Moeller: You probably know just as much a I do. I am going to petition for one after this year and hopefully they will give me another year. I think it would be wrong for them not to give me another year, being that I lost more than a year because someone hit me unprovoked because I am a football player.

It's frustrating to have to wait until then to find out, but hopefully everything will work out.

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