LOGAN, Utah – When Travis Seefeldt went down prior to the start of the season, Utah State senior nose guard David Moala knew he had to step up his game.
Not only from a production standpoint, but in a leadership role, as well.
Seefeldt, who was slated to be the Aggies’ starting nose guard entering the 2015 campaign, was injured in a car accident on June 26 that left him hospitalized for nearly two weeks.
“I should’ve been in that car with Travis and them,” Moala said. “I should’ve been in that car, but I decided to go down to California to see my lady and my parents.”
Seefeldt, along with a few other teammates and friends, were returning to Logan from an outing at Newton Reservoir, a popular recreational area in Cache Valley, in separate vehicles. The Chevy Tahoe driven by Seefeldt was hit on the driver’s side by a semi-truck loaded with 52,000 pounds of milk. The truck pushed the Tahoe more than 75 yards before the two vehicles finally came to rest.
“I knew Travis was the guy coming into the season, but things went the other way and he went down,” Moala said. “(Head) coach (Matt) Wells and (defensive line) coach (Ikaika) Malloe do a great job of having the next man up ready and I kept working. My number was called and I’ve tried to live up to that.”
Moala hasn’t disappointed, that’s for sure.
In just the second game of the season, Moala recorded a career-high eight tackles, including 1.0 tackles for loss, against Utah on Sept. 11 in Salt Lake City. The following week, Moala scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run at Washington.
“Now that Travis is out, David had to step up not only on the field, but also off the field,” Malloe said. “He ended up taking on the leadership role that Travis initially had. He had some things that he had to work on in terms of technique, and he and Travis worked on that together. He put in a lot of work and because of it, the things that are happening for him, he’s just reaping what he sowed.”
In seven games this season – he missed two due to a knee injury suffered against Boise State – Moala has recorded 29 tackles, including 8.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, one pass breakup and a blocked extra point that led to a two-point conversion for the Aggies.
“He takes up two offensive linemen, he plays his gap, he’s twitchy and he can beat one-on-one blocks,” Utah State head coach Matt Wells said. “He’s played excellent this season. It makes a big difference having him in there. He’s a very good football player and he’s played very well.”
Moala credits Seefeldt with helping him become the player he is today.
“Last year, I came in late and it was hard trying to learn the plays and the schemes,” Moala said. “I was watching film and he came and went over the schemes and taught me how to learn them faster. He was really there for me and going into the offseason, I knew Travis was the No. 1 guy and I was going to have a back-up role, but still have more playing time than last year.”
Moala returned to the field this past Saturday at New Mexico after missing the previous two games due to his knee injury. He made his presence felt early in the second quarter as he recorded two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble on back-to-back plays. Moala finished with five total tackles, to go along with his first career pass breakup, in the 14-13 loss to the Lobos.
“David Moala is a really smart player,” said senior linebacker LT Filiaga. “He knows when to hold blocks for us linebackers and he knows when to take on an offensive lineman one-on-one. He knows how to choose his battles and when he does, he makes it happen in the backfield. I’m very grateful for him and I’m really excited that he’s back with us.”
The 6-foot-2, 300-pound native of Inglewood, Calif., began his collegiate career at Arizona State, where he redshirted in 2011. He then transferred to Cerritos College (Norwalk, Calif.), where he earned first-team all-state honors as a freshman and sophomore for the Falcons.
During his freshman campaign at Cerritos, Moala ranked third on the team with 49 tackles, which included 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. Garnering preseason All-American honors prior to his sophomore year, Moala tallied 55 tackles, including 8.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks.
Coming out of Cerritos, Moala had offers from Louisville and Oregon State, but things didn’t work out with those schools and he found a home at Utah State.
“I’m really proud of him and his growth,” Malloe said. “I’m proud of who he’s become and what he’s giving back to the program, as well as the community. I’m looking forward to seeing him not only while he’s still here playing, but when he’s done and being a father, and seeing the different values and tools he takes from us and applies them to his own life.”
Moala and his girlfriend, Saane Fonokalafi, are the proud parents of a new baby boy, Seiloni.
The son of Saipalesi Lataki and Dakipole Moala comes from a football family as his brother Fili played in the NFL, most recently with the Houston Texas. Two other brothers, Sifa and Tolu, played for UNLV and Oklahoma State, respectively. His cousin, Haloti Ngata, currently plays for the Detroit Lions.
Moala, a sociology major who earned academic all-Mountain West honors in 2014, is on track to graduate in December.
“The change from his junior year to his senior year is tremendous,” Malloe said. “Now that he’s become a father, he’s using Ricky (Ali’ifua) and myself as mentors. My advice to him was do things that eventually his son will be proud of. It’s still a learning process for him, but he’s definitely grown.”