PROVO — Life tends to come at you fast, a fact certainly not lost on BYU’s newest offensive line addition, Simi Moala.
The former Utah Ute starter sat down with Ben Criddle on Tuesday in studio to tell of his remarkable journey to BYU, pulling no punches while citing strong connections with BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, dedication to his new family and several other reasons that led to his surprising decision.
“I will be a part of [BYU] this year,” Moala said. “I took a season off and focused on my family and myself and I was just thinking if I wanted to [play football again]. I appreciate Kalani reaching out and calling me. That meant a lot because not a lot of people get a call from the head coach. I’m going to run with it and see what happens. I’m excited to be here.”
Indeed the call changed everything for Moala, who had all but decided to put away his helmet after a very promising start for Utah back in 2019, where he started 12 games as a freshman.
The call took the 6-foot-8, 305 pound lineman by surprise, although he knew almost immediately what the call was about after answering his phone. His inclination was to protest, but like many others, Moala found Sitake relatable and tough to turn down.
“He was like, ‘No, you’re playing ball. You got one year left and we’re going to bring you in here,’” Moala said. “He was just being really encouraging and not really pushing, but just saying how this could possibly change my life and (my) family’s life.”
Indeed Moala’s new family has necessarily put in motion a journey that began at Utah, then to Jackson, Mississippi before making his final collegiate resting spot at BYU.
After completing a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Tonga, Moala soon encountered circumstances which complicated his fast rise on the gridiron considerably.
“I got married, started to have kids, and I was kind of going through (some) mental health problems,” Moala said. “I just needed time to get away. There was no beef between me and the University of Utah…I just felt I needed to step away and fix myself.”
Moala stepped away during the 2021 season with no ready plan in place to continue his football career, but due some connections with the Jackson State coaching staff, Moala found his way to Mississippi in hopes of continuing his career.
But another birth in the family put that plan on ice, with Moala ultimately deciding to return home to Utah after spending just one spring practice session at Jackson State.
This time Moala set his mind toward dedicating everything to his young family with no plans of every playing football again.
“You just hold that little girl, and she comes first,” Moala said.
But as mentioned, Sitake changed all that, drawing on strong connections he made with Moala during the initial recruiting process when he helped recruit Moala to Utah, establishing a relationship of trust that exists to this day.
“Shout out to Kalani for giving me this last opportunity — this last chance to make it right,” Moala said.
Moala will have one last year of eligibility for the Cougars and will compete for playing time against some other very promising players. He’s been at BYU for most of the summer as a graduate transfer, and has felt right at home with his new environs while getting right emotionally and spiritually.
“Overall the experience has been great,” Moala said. “…It’s been making me happier…and the mental health is great just seeing the game from a different perspective now.”
You can never have too many offensive linemen within the program, and following the transfers of both Clark and Campbell Barrington, BYU has added significantly to its overall depth along the offensive front. Moala joins other prime additions, which include former Utah Ute Paul Maile (6-2, 300), who started two seasons at Utah, former Utah State Aggie Weylin Lapuaho (6-4, 310), Missouri State transfer Ian Fitzgerald (6-5, 305), Weber State transfer Jake Eichorn (6-6, 295) and Oklahoma State transfer and former starter Caleb Etienne (6-7, 325.)
Moala’s addition means the Cougars will field as many as eight offensive linemen who have collegiate starting experience as they enter Big12 conference play where quality depth and any position will be at a premium. Along the six listed transfers, the Cougars also return starters Kingsley Suamataia (6-6, 315) and Connor Pay (6-5, 312.) How all eight former starters will work with up-and-coming players such as Brayden Keim (6-8, 310) and Lisala Tai (6-7, 330) for playing time should create some prime competition come fall practices which should benefit the critical offensive line position considerably.
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