After a year away, Moeller back for Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tyler Moeller has always been a vicious hitter. Then he took a vicious hit in a Florida bar and his world was flipped upside down.

Now after a troubling year of doubt and questions, he’s back practicing at Ohio State, hitting others with the same passion he did before a sucker punch nearly took him out of the game. “I feel leaps and bounds better,” the senior defender said earlier this week after a practice heavy on the pad-cracking. “Those big hits aren’t so big anymore. I feel great. I feel back to myself hittingwise.”

Just over a year ago, Moeller was with his family on vacation in Florida. At some point he got into a conflict with another customer in the bar/restaurant. The other guy punched Moeller, who fell back and hit his head on the floor, suffering a fractured skull and a brain injury. The Cincinnati native was in the hospital for weeks undergoing surgery to relieve pressure on his swollen brain.

At least one doctor told him he’d never play football again. Subsequent analysis determined that he was making a good recovery. Perhaps with some time away, he might once more return to the field.

So he spent all of the 2009 season watching from the sidelines instead of starting at the star position. Moeller’s low point might have been the team’s apex. Devin Barclay’s 39-yard field goal in overtime gave the Buckeyes a stirring 27-24 win over Iowa, sending Ohio State to the Rose Bowl and initiating a wild celebration on the field-turned-mosh pit. Moeller was on the sidelines and couldn’t even join in.

Now Moeller is back to being himself, and on a typical August day of practice, Moeller certainly wasn’t standing around watching others hit as he had a year earlier. He was dealing some punishment to opposing ballcarriers who entered his zone. It was just like old times, the times before he took the hit that almost ended his career.