Moeller Easing Back Into Action

Tyler Moeller missed all of the 2009 season after suffering a head injury that required life-saving surgery during the summer. Now back on a restricted basis, Moeller talked about his hopes for the fall, his recovery and what he will do the first time he is allowed to hit another player on the football field.

The first time Tyler Moeller is allowed to hit somebody, he will not be worried about how his surgically repaired head will stand up to the force of impact.

He is worried about the other guy.

"I'm just going to come out the first day I can hit again and just hit someone as hard as I can, and if I'm good to go after that I'm not going to worry about it again," he said Wednesday. "You can't play football worrying about injuries."

Moeller could be forgiven for doing so. He can not say much about the situation until the trial is complete, but the Buckeye safety missed the entire 2009 season after being assaulted at a bar while in Florida during the summer.

The confrontation with Ralph Gray Decker ended with Moeller receiving a punch that knocked him unconscious. On his way down, Moeller hit his head. He was taken to a Florida hospital and released a few days later, but he had suffered a subdural hemotoma – bleeding on the brain – that required two holes to be drilled into his head and the insertion of a titanium plate.

"I really wish I could talk about that but I don't know what I'm allowed to talk about and what I'm not allowed to talk about," he said of the incident. "I remember parts of it. I remember maybe 15 minutes before it happened. I remember talking to Ross Homan that night."

Now seated in the team meeting room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center along with the rest of the team's seniors, Moeller sounded like any other player itching for the season to start.

"I feel really good," he said. "I feel like I'm getting back to where I was physically a year ago, getting all the kinks and the rustiness out. My head feels great. I can do anything now except hit, so my progress is going well and I feel very good physically."

The injury Moeller suffered can be fatal. His prognosis as to when he could resume his football career ranged from two weeks to never – the latter a thought that clearly bothered him.

"It was definitely a scary moment," he said. "Football is my life. I've been playing it so long it's hard to imagine my life without it. Being at the peak of your career and having someone tell you that you cant play football again and everything you did has worked up to this, it's definitely hard hearing that."

This spring, Moeller has gone through practices with his teammates but has been held out of contact drills. A former linebacker who figures to factor in at either safety or the "star" position at OSU that is a hybrid between the two spots, Moeller said he expects to be full-go when fall camp begins.

Mentally, he said he does not quite consider himself a full-blooded defensive back just yet.

"Do I feel like a defensive back? Do I have the mentality of a defensive back? I would say I'm a hybrid," he said. "That's the best way to say it. I think like a linebacker. I think like someone who wants to be on the line but I can run with them all. The best of both worlds, I guess you could say."

Head coach Jim Tressel said at the start of spring practices that the plan was to let Moeller go through the usual bumps and bruises that come with drills but to wait until the fall to start hitting. During one drill, Moeller said he was clipped on his helmet right where he had his surgery but suffered no ill effects.

Along those lines, Moeller said he has had no short-term memory loss – "That I know of," he joked – and no headaches or other major side effects from the surgery. The only reminder is the stinging feeling he occasionally gets from the incisions in his skull.

"You can feel it cracking," he said. "It's hard to describe the feeling. There's two little sharp pains."

At the start of spring drills, defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said it was inspiring to see his close friend back in uniform.

"The thing that happened to him is something terrible," Larimore said. "I don't think it's right. I think that guy should go to jail for a long time or at least have to pay a lot of money or something because (Moeller) is a great kid and has a great personality and great morals. It's really nice being able to see him practice out here and hopefully get ready for next year."

Moeller redshirted as a freshman, making him a fifth-year senior this season. The plan is to petition the NCAA for a sixth year, something Moeller said is currently adding to his stress level. The trial date is set for June 2, he said.

That is, assuming he can play again at all.

"It's been hard and frustrating," he said. "It's hard to put into words but I just want to get everything that happened in the past and play next year and show people what I can do and show people what I could've done a year ago and get everything behind me."

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