Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Tyler Moeller still remembers No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan’s 2006 battle in Ohio Stadium. He said he never imagined his college memories would be the last of his football career.
“I just can’t forget my freshman year – the excitement of winning the game and everyone storming the field and taking the grass of the field because we were going to turf the next year,” Moeller said. “Thousands of people holding up big chunks of grass over their head like they just conquered the world.”
The possibility of an NFL career for the former OSU safety and linebacker was taken from him after he was allegedly attacked at a bar while with his family in St. Petersburg, Fla., on July 26, 2009. He suffered a fractured skull and a serious brain injury.
“It was hard for Tyler. He is so high-strung, so if he wasn’t out there playing, he didn’t feel like he was a part of the team. So really it was as much as us trying to get Tyler back just to be around his friends,” OSU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell told The Lantern. “By nature, if he’s not playing, he doesn’t feel comfortable. I think that was most difficult.”
Moeller returned for the 2010 season, but his troubles did not end there.
Moeller suffered a pectoral injury five games into the 2010 season after already missing nearly two seasons. Fickell said Moeller was physically behind but mentally ready to start playing again.
“I think that was the biggest thing, to see if he really, truly was back, because sometimes when you’re not being yourself, coming off of injuries of different sorts, you’re vulnerable to more injuries because you’re not playing like you normally do, puts you in almost more harm,” Fickell said.
Moeller came back during the 2011 season for the Buckeyes and accumulated a total of 44 tackles and one interception.
After the season, Moeller began training for the NFL Draft, but he ultimately accepted a medical sales position with VWR International, a chemical and laboratory supplier headquartered in Radnor, Pa., four weeks into the process.
“It was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make because one, so many injuries, first with the head injury then the chest, my body physically was just a wreck. It’s still a wreck now,” Moeller said. “I feel fine now, but I don’t want that to affect me in 10 or 20 years and have it come back to haunt me.”
Dr. Paul Gubanich is a team physician for OSU Sports Medicine and an assistant clinical professor of internal medicine at OSU. Gubanich previously worked with professional football players as a member of the Cleveland Browns’ medical staff from 2004-2010. Gubanich cited head injuries that players receive during their careers as a continuing issue throughout their retirement.
“Right now, people are having issues down the road, consequences decades later,” Gubanich said. “There is evidence with athletes who have three or more concussions are likely to become depressed or suffer other cognitive problems. And there are retired NFL players that are looking at mental health diseases after playing.”
Moeller said many wanted him to continue playing, but he knew it wasn’t what was best for his body.
“It was junior year of high school, I knew I wanted to play for a big-time college, ” Moeller said. “In college, I wanted to do whatever I could do to get to the next level.”
Moeller said that he is enjoying his life after OSU football.
“Everything’s so convenient out here,” Moeller said. “I have a Whole Foods about 200 feet away from me, so everything is just so close.”
Fickell said one of the hardest things for players is realizing when it’s time to move on, but seeing Moeller develop other interests while finishing his OSU career was the transformation he needed.
“That’s the one thing you miss when you see guys transition from football to whatever you want to call the real world – moving on and changing what they have a passion for,” Fickell said. “Sometimes, guys are still holding on to the game of football – you saw Tyler transform and hopefully he’ll be successful because he is such a passionate person.”