Q: When you got here, and people cautioned you about being in this fishbowl, did you still have to go through it to get an understanding of what it's really like?
Tony Moeaki: Definitely. When you first come in as a freshman, you don't really understand what it's like. That's why you can't be careless. You have to be responsible because we're under the microscope more than just a regular student. We stand out. It's different, especially in downtown Iowa City. But Coach (Kirk) Ferentz does a good job of warning us and telling us what to do and what not to do. Ninety to 95 percent of the team knows what not to do. One or two guys mess up.
Q: It's a personal thing, right? The coaches can't be expected to follow you guys 24-7.
TM: Exactly, Coach Ferentz lets us know and does a good job of telling us what not to do. He can't be holding our hands walking us downtown. It's more the player than anything. They have to be held accountable for their mistakes. It's just unfortunate that stuff like that has happened.
Q: At what point did you realize that you were under the microscope?
TM: It was the first day of classes. I remember being in my first class. I remember walking to it and I had to sign a couple of autographs. Maybe it was good that it happened just because you realize right out of the gate, at like 7:30 in the morning Maybe it was good that happened because I realized that people are watching. You can't be careless.
Q: Physically, mentally, you've been through a lot the last two years. Where are you at now?
TM: I'm feeling good. I've been working out for a couple of months. I think I had a good summer. There definitely some kinks I had to work out at the beginning of the summer. But I'm doing everything. I'm feeling better each day. I'm excited for the season.
Q: Is there a sense of urgency for you?
TM: I would say so. I would just say that we have a chance to be a really good team. We have to put in our work during camp. We have to prepare right now. I think that everyone has to have that same sense of urgency that the seniors do. We might not have this opportunity and they might not have this opportunity again.
Q: Do you ever ask yourself why the injuries have happened to you?
TM: I wouldn't say that I feel sorry for myself. I definitely get frustrated at times. But it's part of the game. There are NFL players that it happens to. LaDanian Tomlinson has been hit with the injury bug. He's still out there. There are players all around college football that have done the same thing. I know Sean Lee from Penn State. He's probably getting the same question. You just have to keep working hard and you have to move past it.
Q: Did you deal with injuries in high school or is this something that popped up when you got in college?
TM: It just popped up. And it wasn't early in college. It was that Wisconsin game (in 2007). I know sophomore year I had a couple of small injuries, but I didn't miss a game. That Wisconsin game was the first game that I missed for any sport ever.
Q: Did you know something was wrong right when it happened?
TM: Yeah, I felt my elbow dislocate. I looked down and it was out of place. I knew right there that it was pretty severe. I didn't know that I broke my hand also.
Q: You and Dace are close. Have you guys supported each other through all of this?
TM: Yeah, I didn't really need anyone to lean on just because my injuries weren't crazy or anything. But I was there for him. He had knee reconstructive surgery. That's pretty serious. I just stayed positive with him. I used small talk, like, "Hey, Dace, keep working. We need you out there." Stuff like that. I really think he fed off of that. When you're going through an injury like that, it's tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was just trying to show up for him.
Q: Coach Ferentz told us last summer and fall that it didn't look good for Dace. He basically felt like his career was over. Did you get a sense from Dace that he ever gave up or said he was done?
TM: Yeah, I did get the sense of that. That's why I talked to him. I said, "Hey, I've seen you play. I know you can do it. You've got to get back out there. You can't go out like this." I wasn't saying it was a bad way to go out. I just wanted him to see it through and see what happens. If he got back and didn't like the way that it felt, yeah, stop. But at least see it through.
Q: How has his mood changed from back then when things looked bleak to now that he's back on the field?
TM: He probably doesn't know this. I never really told him. But he just didn't seem like himself when he was going through all of that. When you're going through something like that it takes a toll on your mind and body. He just wasn't the same. He didn't seem happy. It was pretty obvious. That can't be healthy. That probably does more damage than the knee. That's why I went up to him and say "Hey, man, just get back out there. You'll feel better." That's what he's done and he seems rejuvenated.
Q: When you guys get to that UNI game on Sept. 5 and you're able to look down the line and see him down there, what will that be like?
TM: We probably won't be thinking about what has happened while we're on the line of scrimmage, but after the game I hope to say, "Hey, that was pretty cool." It's been too long since we lined up together.