Senior day for Arizona State football is typically an emotional night. When it rolls around this Thursday, don’t expect that to change.
“I’m not gonna lie to you, that’s gonna be an emotional one for me," head coach Todd Graham said. "This is the first, the group that I recruited when I came here. It’s been a special group to me.”
Six members of Graham’s first recruiting class in 2012 will be playing at Sun Devil Stadium for the final time in their career. Senior Bandit safety Laiu Moeakiola is one of them.
“I’m glad I came to Arizona State honestly," Moeakiola said. "I’ve been blessed my five years here. I’m definitely going to walk away not only as a better football player but a better man, learning the lessons of life.”
“Seems like yesterday I was visiting his mom and his dad and his family in Dallas," Graham said of Moeakiola. "He picked us over a lot schools and what he’s endured and how he’s represented this university with class and character."
Moeakiola ends his time at ASU as arguably the team’s most important defender.
Senior linebacker Carlos Mendoza, Moeakiola's freshman roommate, said it stems from study habits that developed instincts -- which are crucial, considering he’s switched positions twice from safety to Spur linebacker.
“He knows the defense so well like it’s second nature," Mendoza said. "He does not have to think about anything, he just reacts based off his instincts because of the way he’s trained and the way he’s focused and studying film and doing things like that and preparing himself mentally.”
“I enjoy learning all the positions because it makes my job easier once I learn the ins and outs of the other ten players on the field and that just elevates my play," Moeakiola said. "Any time I can get an edge whether that’s learning the playbook and knowing pre-snap what they’re trying to do, I’m all for it because it’s something I can control.”
Graham has called him the team’s most important communicator, even though, "He doesn’t say much to me. He’s very quiet, but he says everything with his actions.”
“My dad told me just be the hardest working guy in the room and just be humble, let your actions speak for themselves," Moeakiola said.
Yet throughout his ascent to becoming irreplaceable, two shoulder surgeries and a balky hamstring played a big part in what many people know of Moeakiola, the football player.
But what he said he wants people to remember him by, is that these injuries help define Moeakiola, the person.
"It's definitely helped me grow mentally, spiritually, and understanding the bigger picture, not just for me but for this team," Moeakiola said.
"He's (Moeakiola) going to be someone who is going to be remembered here for a long time just because of the examples that he set," Mendoza said. "He really shows grace to everyone and he's just such a wonderful person."
"What he's endured and how he's represented this university with class and character, and then to have a senior year, I think he has had an incredible senior year," Graham said. "Has been just an incredible Sun Devil."
"Just a person who gave it his all and maxed out every bit of his career, and gave to his players, served them and sacrificed for the greater good, but also, a winner," Moeakiola said.