As Tony Moeaki was shredding up the Syracuse defense on Saturday night, we started to laugh in the press box. No, we weren't making fun of the Orangemen, which certainly would have been fair game. We knew that this performance meant Tony would be surrounded by the media in the post game.
Moeaki is the anti-Brian Ferentz, who elegantly handled questions and filled notebooks. Tony probably would rather see a 260-pound linebacker bearing down on him than one of us out-of-shape slugs strolling towards him with a recorder.
In fact, when I joked with Tony on Saturday night about really not enjoying the experience of conversing with us, he smiled…and was speechless. After a few uncomfortable seconds, Andy Hamilton of the Iowa City Press-Citizen stopped laughing long enough to lighten things up by asking the tight end if he'd rather be taking a final exam.
"I'd take this," Tony chuckled.
I think Moeaki is going to get better at this media thing. It usually comes with practice. And he's going to be experiencing this drill a lot more.
After two years of doing the dirty work, Moeaki broke out with a game like many expected he would enjoy when he arrived at Iowa following a super prep career in suburban Chicago. The true junior hauled in eight passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-0 win. He was, in a word, unstoppable. He looked like a man amongst boys.
Moeaki's first score was a 52-yarder down the middle seam of the defense where he barreled over a few helpless Syracuse defenders. He added a five-yard scoring reception where quarterback Jake Christensen scrambled and found his tight end wide open across the field. The final connection went for six yards with him surrounded by defenders.
Then, he entered the gauntlet that is the media room. He was asked about how he was able to have a career night. Here are a few responses:
- "All the credit should go to the O-line and Jake."
- "There were certain spots (on the field) open and our coaches did a great job of calling the plays."
-"I was just trying to help the team win. We were just trying to win our second game. That was my mindset. I was just trying to help us win. That's all it was."
A week removed from dropping passes in the season opener against Northern Illinois, Moeaki was asked why things were different Saturday night.
"I just tied to work on it in practice. Last week wasn't really me. I knew I just had to come out and play."
As you can see, we weren't getting a lot out of Tony. In this case, the journalist moves on to a teammate to find out what's going on. Christensen and center Rafael Eubanks are tight with Moeaki as the threesome came in as the most heralded recruiting classes in Hawkeye history.
Eubanks starts cracking up when he asked if Tony is a quiet guy.
"He's kind of a quiet guy, kind of to himself," Eubanks said. "But he's a great guy. That's funny."
Eubanks said that the touchdown plays excited Moeaki, but other than that, the tight end was pretty mellow.
"I think he might have come out today with something to prove," Eubanks said. "There were a lot of expectations for him coming out of high school. He knows he's a good player and he showcased that tonight."
In a brief moment of opening up, Moeaki admitted that Christensen rode him a bit in practice this week after the tight end dropped some balls against Northern Illinois.
"I kind of got on him a little bit because he can take it," Christensen said. "I told him. "You're a lot better player than dropping the football." I don't get on him because he's tough enough on himself, but I just said, "It's time for you to step up and be the player we know you can be."
"That's the play we expect out of him. He's obviously got a wealth of talent. The sky is the limit for him."
On the 52-yard scoring play, Christensen told himself that the play was going to be there. He wanted to make sure he didn't overthrow Moeaki.
"He was wide open. He's a big target and hard to miss," Christensen said. "He made a great run afterwards. It was a great play. It got the momentum going for us."
On the second touchdown, Christensen ran around until he saw Moeaki break open across the field.
"I was close to throwing it away," the quarterback said. "I was just about to throw it out of the end zone. He slipped behind them. I just threw it where only he could get it. Thank god he caught it."
Christensen showed his confidence in his tight end despite the drops in Week 1. The quarterback never doubted his teammate.
"He just laughed every time I said something (in practice this week) because he knows. He's one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten. He's going to have to do that a lot for us this season."
Moeaki believed that he also enjoyed one three-touchdown game while at Warrenville High in Wheaton, Ill. But this display occurred in front of 70,000 plus at Kinnick.
"It was exciting," he said.
And that's about as animated as we saw Tony in the interview.
I can relate to Tony. No, I am void of his talent and never was engulfed by drooling media types. I always have struggled to speak in groups and was a pretty soft-spoken high school athlete (and also a pretty average one).
Tony really doesn't need to supply great sound bites. He earns the respect of his teammates and is in his second season on the leadership council. I do find it funny that he's a communications studies major, but so was I.
"He talks to me," Christensen said. "He's got to get to know you guys a little better."
Tony, you will. You're just too talented not to.