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July 16, 2011
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Perhaps Tyler Moeller's biggest gift is his ability to let go - to not think when he's out on the football field.
Given what Moeller has been through the last two years, that's anything but an easy feat.
Fully healthy and just weeks away from entering fall camp cleared for full contact, Moeller stood in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center without an apprehension in the world.
Thoughts of reoccurring injuries were replaced with the positives of his immensely strengthened upper body. Trepidation from a serious head injury suffered nearly two years ago - though something Ohio State has always been responsible about protecting - was almost a non-issue.
"I feel fantastic, 10 times better than I felt last year," the sixth-year safety said last week. "I've gained 15 pounds since this time last year and am actually stronger in my upper body. I'm close to 100 percent."
Despite being on the Buckeyes' roster longer than any other defensive player, Moeller missed 21 of the last 26 games for his team due to injury.
Last season Moeller tore an already vulnerable pectoral muscle in the fifth game of the year, repairable only by a surgery that kept him out the remainder of the season.
As if that injury wouldn't have been devastating enough, Moeller had missed the entire 2009 season after he was physically assaulted while on vacation in Florida with his family, leaving him with a head injury that put his football career in question.
Still, Moeller knows he'll let those injuries go. In three weeks, he'll return to the football field and do what he does best and hit people.
The most impressive feat of all is the security he's found with his body to not even allow past injuries and hardships to dawn on him while in between the white lines.
"You just don't think. You ignore it," Moeller said. "I get out there, I warm up, I hear the call, I look at the down and distance, look at the hash, and play football. See ball, get ball. It's that simple.
"I am past the point of how I thought I'd feel once the season came. I feel great. I don't really think about last year, I don't think about this year. I can't worry about my head. I can't worry about my chest. If I do, what's the point of going out there? I'm not going to play the way I should play or could play."
Though Moeller hasn't played since Ohio State's Big Ten Conference opener at Illinois last year, most have the sixth-year senior penciled in as one of the Buckeyes' starting safeties.
That's probably because Moeller's combination of speed and big hit ability made him one of the Buckeyes' most reliable playmakers in the secondary, a void that was hard to fill in the second half of last season.
Even with him on the field a year ago, Moeller admitted his partially torn pectoral muscle had his upper body weak. At the time, he couldn't bench 100 pounds because of the unbearable pain in his chest.
Since the surgery, Moeller has taken it slow by not increasing the weight on his bench routine. But for a point of reference, he has recently repped 175 pounds on the bench 30 times, an immense improvement to the upper body strength he was playing at last year.
"He was an athlete for us. He gets to the ball," fellow safety Orhian Johnson said. "He is definitely a playmaker for us. As long as we have the chance to get him on the field he's going to help us out. I can't imagine how good he'll be now that he's fully healthy."
A hybrid between linebacker and safety, Moeller brings a lot of intensity to Ohio State's defense. When linebacker Andrew Sweat was asked to describe what position Moeller should play, he just responded by saying "he is a football player."
"He makes this defense a lot better," Sweat said. "He is a great player, he flies around, and he makes plays. The 2011 defense will be a lot better with Tyler Moeller on the field."
Having had to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, Moeller was close to seeing his Ohio State career end because of injury. Now, fully healthy, stronger, and ready to contribute one last time, Moeller is ready for his encore.
"I just want to play a full season," Moeller said. "I'm healthy and I'm ready. I couldn't be more excited for one more season with this team."
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.