It was a surprising sight, Boise State defensive tackle David Moa’s mugshot following a September arrest.
An unquestioned leader on the Broncos’ defense, Moa was arrested Sept. 16 following an altercation in Downtown Boise.
It was an uncharacteristic act, one that he apologized for publicly Saturday for the first time since. Coaches and teammates have repeatedly noted how it affected him, how seriously he took his actions and how he’s changed.
Moa, for his part, even thinks it affected the team’s next game, an embarrassing 42-23 loss to Virginia at home six days later.
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“It affected my whole team, you could see what happened against Virginia — we didn’t have that (spark), that intensity we usually have, because of outside concerns that definitely involved me,” Moa said.
Though he was suspended for the first quarter against the Cavaliers, Moa was not responsible for a brutal offensive performance or special teams errors. Perhaps he was a little too hard on himself, but that’s how he internalized what happened.
“David is a guy that is very caring, in how he operates and how he handles himself,” defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “You’ll go through learning experiences that age and it’s how you move forward. We’ve been very pleased with how he’s moved forward and taken responsibility.”
Moa apologized to coaches, teammates and fans Saturday after the second practice of his final fall camp. He said being in the public eye in a place where the team is the biggest game in town was a wake-up call for him and everyone else in the locker room.
“Everyone’s looking at you to be a role model, so for that to happen ... I need to put it behind me, learn from it, knowing it can happen to anybody,” Moa said.
In accepting the repercussions of the arrest, it went beyond just missing the quarter against Virginia, though Moa didn’t say what the full punishment was. But in the months since as he’s entered his senior year, his attitude has impressed the staff.
“David, in my opinion, did it as well as anyone I’ve been around,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “You accept it, you own it, you learn from it. You help people around you not make the same mistakes. That’s being part of the team, that’s being a leader, that’s doing something bigger than yourself. He did all those things.”
Strange as it may seem to say, but a leader like Moa going through what he did, and being responsible for what happened, it served as something others can look up to, whenever future mistakes — big or small — occur.
“To me, that’s something you can build on in your program, and I think we did last year,” Harsin said. “That helped our football team learn some things … an unfortunate situation, but you’ve got to turn a negative into a positive.”
On the field, Moa was again a vital part of the defense, though his production appeared to have slipped. He had 21 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, in 13 games as a junior. He had 10.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks as a sophomore.
But working on the inside doesn’t always mean big stats, and Moa occupying blocks in the middle freed up the edges for the pass rushers. He also was a key cog for the nation’s No. 17 rush defense.
“His influence was still at a magnitude where we’re a different defense without David Moa,” Avalos said.
With his off-field incident in the rearview, Moa can look ahead a bit, to joining what should be one of the nation’s better defenses, and possibly an NFL career. But right now, he’s appreciating each of those “last” moments.
“I’ll be a Bronco forever, but this will be my last (season) on the Blue, that’s what I’m primarily focused on,” Moa said. “It’s definitely going to be something special, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Harsin said freshman linebacker Phillip Mills will not take part in fall camp after having surgery on his heel. Mills, the Broncos’ first commit of the 2018 class, enrolled in the spring. He may return to practice later this year, Harsin said. ... Two true freshmen, running back Andrew VanBuren and receiver Stefan Cobbs, practiced with the veterans Friday and Saturday. Harsin noted that “those guys have earned that.” ... The Broncos will not practice Sunday and resume the final of their split practices Monday.