Welcome Back, Tony

Oct. 15, 2009

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Official Sports Report, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free. To receive the UI’s OSR or to learn more, click HERE.

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Iowa Hawkeyes welcomed back one of its go-to players Saturday night, tight end Tony Moeaki. The senior made his presence felt making big play after big play in helping lift the Hawkeyes to bowl eligibility and their 10th consecutive win, a streak of success that is Iowa’s longest streak since winning 20 in a row from 1920-23.

After missing the last three games with a tweaked ankle, Moeaki amassed six catches for 105 yards, seven yards matching a career high, and two touchdowns in the 30-28 triumph over Michigan. The two scores were big plays, coming from 34 and 42 yards. Five of Moeaki’s six catches moved the chains, with two coming on third down.

Moeaki’s performance garnered the 6-4, 250-pound tight end numerous accolades. He was tabbed the John Mackey Tight End of the Week by the Nassau County Sports Commission, national Tight End of the Week by the College Football Performance Award committee, the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week and espn.com Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week laurels. Moeaki earned his first Big Ten weekly honor and became the first tight end to earn the award since Iowa’s Dallas Clark on Oct. 7, 2002.

Speaking of Clark, Big Ten Network college football analyst Chris Martin compared Moeaki to the former Hawkeye all-American on Sunday’s night’s Big Ten Tonight.

“He (Moeaki) certainly has the same understanding of the game and how to attack defenses as Dallas Clark,” said Martin.

The senior from Wheaton, Ill., didn’t practice much last week leading up to the Michigan contest, but was hopeful he would be ready for the primetime showdown.

“I just wanted to be out there and help the team as much as possible,” said Moeaki. “I’m just happy that we won. I didn’t practice much so I didn’t know how I was going to come out and how my ankle would feel.”

No one was happier to get one of his favorite offensive targets back onto the field than quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

“He (Moeaki) has a knack for finding the end zone,” said Stanzi. “He brings a lot of energy to our team. Everybody loves the kid. He’s a great football player and a hard worker. His character is really what this team is looking for and he’s obviously one of our leaders.”

Head Coach Kirk Ferentz was all smiles when talking about Moeaki after the game.

“It was good to see Tony back for a lot of reasons,” said Ferentz. “He blocks well and he’s a guy that has emerged as a strong leader. He’s always been a quiet guy but he’s clearly a guy that everybody on our football team looks up to because of his toughness and commitment. Having him in the lineup was a big boost and seeing him running down the middle with that ball under his arms was a pretty good sight.”

Moeaki, who is on the John Mackey Award Watch List, has only played in three games this season. He is tied for the team lead in receptions (17) and touchdown receptions (3), and ranks second in receiving yards (192).

Ferentz believes Moeaki is one of the best athletes on the team and hopes his tight end can remain healthy.

“Tony is a phenomenal athlete, but more importantly he’s got the attitude you’re looking for,” said Ferentz. “I don’t know anybody that has a better attitude than him. He’s been through an awful lot, so I’m just hopeful he can sneak out the next seven games and play every snap.”

Moeaki, who has had an injury-plagued collegiate career, returns to Madison, Wis., Saturday where he suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth game of the 2007 campaign. The date with the Badgers is just another test for the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes after disposing of fourth-ranked Penn State (21-10) and Michigan (30-28) the first two weeks of league play.