Moffitt thankful he stuck around
What if Moffitt, fed up with school and exhausted after a draining 2009 season, hadn’t given the Wisconsin staff a late heads-up that he was planning to enter the 2010 National Football League draft?
What if offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and head coach Bret Bielema had pushed hard for him to stay rather than gathering the facts and allowing Moffitt to make an informed choice?
What if Moffitt had trusted his initial leaning and bolted for big bucks rather than stay and try to win a Big Ten Conference title?
Moffitt believes he would have been miserable and kicking his considerable posterior from Madison back home to Guilford, Conn.
“I just think it is amazing how much you can grow in one year,” said Moffitt, who started all 12 games at left guard this season and was a first-team pick on The Associated Press All-American team. “And I really have grown a lot. If I had left, it would have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life.”
Bielema grinned after practice Thursday when asked if Moffitt had made the right call.
“He has probably played as good as I could ever hope for him to play,” he said. “I think (he) is one of our best leaders.”
Moffitt had several reasons to leave for the NFL after the 2009 season, though none was sound.
Serious on the field but a jocular prankster off the field
and a go-to player for reporters looking for colorful quotes, Moffitt’s issues began in 2008.
UW finished 3-5 in the Big Ten and 7-6 overall. The season ended with a 42-13 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. The play was sloppy and undisciplined, and Moffitt acknowledged he wasn’t immune to lapses.
He also acknowledged his eating and drinking habits needed to change.
“I probably wasn’t treating my body the best,” he said, “which doesn’t help.”
Then at the end of summer workouts in 2009, Moffitt suffered a torn chest muscle while lifting weights
He missed the first two games, got limited work in Game 3 and then moved into the starting lineup at left guard. He stayed there for eight games and took over at center for the final two games after starter Peter Konz was sidelined because of blood clots in his lungs.
Although Moffitt played well in UW’s 20-14 upset of No. 14 Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl, his body was worn down and he was ready for a new life.
When he informed Bielema he was leaving, only a few days before the deadline for underclassmen to formally declare for the draft, UW’s head coach tried to gather as much objective information as possible so his player could make an informed rather than emotional decision.
Chryst, familiar with the NFL from his days as an assistant with the San Diego Chargers, didn’t browbeat Moffitt in an effort to keep him on the team.
“Coach Chryst said, which made a lot of sense to me, is that you want to give yourself the best shot possible because it is one shot,” Moffitt explained. “And you’re not really doing that right now.”
So Moffitt changed his mind and stayed. Later that winter he discovered he had a hernia injury that required surgery. Had that injury been discovered during a medical exam before the draft, the consequences could have been dire.
“That would have been disastrous,” Moffitt said. “I might not have been drafted. I don’t know where I would have ended up. Maybe you’re just on a practice roster.”
Instead, Moffitt stayed on UW’s roster, played his best football and helped UW win a share of the Big Ten title and return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1999 season.
“I think he knows there is a time and a place for everything and he has really approached this like a business,” offensive line coach Bob Bostad said.
Bostad, who began his coaching career as UW-Stevens Point’s offensive line coach in 1990, has no doubt Moffitt has elevated his draft stock dramatically from this time last year. He believes Moffitt has shown he can play two positions, with 26 starts at left guard and 15 at center.
“More than anything he has done it on the field and that’s really what it comes down to,” Bostad said. “People turn on the film, watch him play and they say that is what we’re looking for.”
Moffitt wasn’t sure what he was looking for after the 2009 season. He now understands he found it in the UW locker room.
When UW faces TCU in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, Moffitt should take the field knowing he made the right decision 12 months earlier, a decision that helped the team and the player.
“Thank God that coach Bielema and coach Chryst got in my ear and allowed me to see things clearly,” he said. “Now I have developed as a person and a player and I’m ready for that step.
“Last year it would have been a huge step and I don’t think I would have been ready …
“It’s amazing that one year made such a difference.”