Ohio State football fans, players and coaches are eagerly awaiting the Sept. 2 opener at Ohio Stadium against Marshall, but senior Tyler Moeller may be the most eager of them all.
Moeller is set to return to the field for the first time since the end of the 2008 season after missing all of last season while recovering from a serious head injury suffered in June 2009 when he was attacked by a man in a Florida bar. The man, Ralph Gray Decker, punched Moeller, who hit his head on the ground and suffered bleeding on the brain that required surgery.
Now after a long rehab that included limited participation in the Buckeyes’ spring practices, Moeller is full go and finally hitting again. His first big hit came on Monday when he collided with DeVier Posey when the receiver came over the middle.
“He actually caught me right here where I had surgery,” Moeller said, pointing to the left side of the top of his head. “So that was my first big hit of the camp. It felt good.”
Well, maybe not that good. Moeller said he had two stints in the cold tub after practice and felt sore.
“Nothing out of the ordinary, just tired and sore,” he said
The Buckeyes were in full pads on Tuesday, and Moeller’s hard-hitting instincts remained in full effect.
“We started out with goal line (drills), and I remember when (fullback) Zach Boren came to hit me, I just wanted to hit him just to hit him, but I knew I had to slide,” Moeller said. “I wanted to give a big hit, but I knew I had to make a play and get in my gap so I slid away from it.”
Just being on the field itself is quite the success for Moeller, who a year ago was home with his mother doting on him. Moeller’s mother, Amy, was not only a good caretaker for her son, but also represented Tyler during Decker’s court appearances in Florida.
“I’m so blessed to have a mom like her,” he said.
Decker pled guilty in June to felony battery and was sentenced to two years’ probation on the same day Moeller reported for preseason camp in August. Before pleading guilty, Decker’s defense was that Decker was talking to Moeller about being an Ohio State football player, but Moeller gave Decker a different player’s name. Decker then used his phone to search the given name and exchanged words with Moeller when learning Moeller gave him a different name. According to Decker’s attorney, Decker said Moeller came at him, backed him up eight-to-10 feet while threatening him.
Witnesses did not back up the self-defense story.
“I really think people would truly believe that I did that if it wasn’t for my mom and if it wasn’t for how consistent and great a mother she is to do that for me,” Moeller said.
Moeller said he has not heard from his attacker, but Decker did contact his mother prior to pleading guilty. Moeller is not quite ready to forgive Decker, either.
“I met with (former Ohio State quarterback) Greg Frey … and he’s talked about forgiveness and how you really need to forgive someone to get past it,” Moeller said. “I’m trying, but it’s really hard when a person does that, then tries to get out of it and then comes after your character in court, on the Bible, and says these things about you and everyone believes that about me while I’m hurt.
“I’m really blessed to be here right now. There was, what, a 50 percent chance that I should have survived? For him to do that and say those things, it’s tough to forgive someone like that.
“I really truly believe he’s only sorry he got caught.”
No matter whether Moeller ever forgives Decker remains to be seen, but Moeller is just excited to be back on the field. The senior has been the No. 1 nickel back, also known as the Star position in Ohio State’s defense, during early preseason practices.
“Just like everyone else, I’m excited for this first game,” Moeller said. “I want to come out and play the way I know I can play and contribute to the team.”
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