COLUMBUS — There are not many college athletes who can have a large muscle in their chest torn in half while in the heat of battle, fold over in pain, be told their football season is over before it reaches the halfway point, then remain philosophical and pragmatic about the whole ordeal.
Such is the unusual perspective of Tyler Moeller.
“I've been through worse,” Moeller said after learning that the injury he recently suffered against Illinois would bring down the curtain on his 2010 season.
The Ohio State defensive back missed all of the 2009 season after an assault in a sports bar in Florida put his life in jeopardy. He needed emergency surgery on his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain, and then he went through a protracted rehab process to get back on the football field by the following spring.
After working so long to recover and play again, a second major injury has repossessed his helmet and shoulder pads and sent him back to the operating room. But rather than engage in a soulful rendition of “woe is me,” Moeller comes out of all this sounding like Mahatma Gandhi.
“You can't look at life like that, with all the negative things about you, or they'll keep happening,” Moeller said before facing the surgeon's knife late last week. “I'm taking advantage of the situation and keeping my head up. Things happen, and you have to look at the bright side and just get through it.”
Moeller's coaches and teammates are having a little rougher time handling the way fate has haunted him.
“It's really disappointing, because he had a similar injury sometime before his head injury,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said, alluding to the fact that Moeller had several partial tears of the pectoral muscle in his career before the final tear at Illinois.
“He got back, and he was giving us 30 plays a game, and then he just caught a guy the wrong way. You just feel terrible about it.”
Moeller, a 6-0, 210-pound flying anvil known for his hard hits and tackling skills, redshirted his first year at OSU, was a special teams demon and backup linebacker the next two seasons, and a designated starter at linebacker in the buildup to 2009, before the serious head injury.
This season he was moved to the “star” position, which calls for the power of a linebacker and the pass coverage ability of a safety. He won the starting role, and at the time of his chest injury Moeller was fourth on the team in tackles, first in stops behind the line, and had a sack, an interception, and two forced fumbles.
“It's really sad,” senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said about Moeller being forced to miss the final seven games of 2010 and what could be a trip to the national title game that follows.
“It's something that you really cringe to see, because of what happened to him last year. To watch him recover and do all the right things and come back ... and then all of a sudden one play goes wrong, and he's out for another year. It's sad.”
Moeller won't invest much time in self-pity or sorrow. He is helping out freshman Christian Bryant, his replacement at the star position, and appealing to the NCAA for another year of eligibility so he can complete his Ohio State career on the field in 2011.
“I'm hoping there will be another year,” said Moeller, who also has aspirations of playing professionally. “With everything that's happened to me, I don't see how you could look at it all and not give me another year. But you never know what will happen.”
Moeller said he sees the most recent injury as a “blessing” since it will allow him to get the chest muscle back to full strength for the first time in several years.
“I love the game of football,” Moeller stated as his reason for facing another long rehab ordeal with such aplomb. “Hopefully I'll get another year and be back here better than ever. A lot of people have gone through worse. I'll bounce back.”
The good Lord and the NCAA willing, in that order, Moeller expects to have his Buckeyes helmet and pads back on for the start of the 2011 season.
Contact Matt Markey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6510.