Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Hazen Moss has been pretty dang successful when it comes to taking chances.
The Rifle High School graduate and former football standout for the Bears didn’t have a huge high school resume on the gridiron. He wasn’t recruited heavily. He didn’t have the size of an ideal college football player and didn’t have a great record of durability going into his senior season.
Yet, here Moss is, playing a critical role on special teams for fifth-ranked Boise State University of the Mountain West Conference.
The guy who at one time wasn’t able to walk because of identical anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries during high school, had made a stellar career out of hurdling linemen, making tackles in full sprint.
That determination and drive, along with a positive attitude and a heightened awareness on the football field, has made the reserve defensive back an indispensable entity for the Broncos.
“It takes a special guy with a special amount of courage to do what he does,” said Boise State assistant coach Jeff Choate, who coaches special teams for the Broncos. “The great thing is that younger kids see that and see how much pride players like Hazen take in their roles on the team, and it carries over to them.
“When you come to a Division I program, you have dreams of being a starting tailback or a starting something. You don’t have dreams of being the starting R5 on the kickoff team. We tell kids what their role is going to be from the start, and it’s one thing to accept and another thing to embrace it. Hazen wears it like a badge of honor.”
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Moss has shown that on the field during his three seasons as a full-time player for Boise State. He’s also shown improvement. His seven tackles – all coming on special teams – through five games for unbeaten Boise State (5-0) are three away from the career high he set as a sophomore last season.
And Moss’ efforts have garnered him plenty of recognition and rewards.
Prior to the Broncos’ home game against Tulsa on Sept. 24, Moss led the team onto the field with “The Hammer.” Coaches reward the player who they felt made the biggest hit or gave the best effort by letting them lead the team onto the field carrying a sledge hammer, which signifies the program’s philosophy to play hard no matter what the score is.
It was the second time Moss has earned the award, with the first coming his freshman season following a game against Hawaii.
“It’s just such an amazing feeling,” Moss said. “It’s pretty awesome to carry that hammer and lead the team out in front of 35,000 people, getting them pumped up and the team pumped up.”
Actually, Bronco Stadium’s official capacity is 33,500, though it’s crammed in more for each home game since its run of eight Western Athletic Conference titles in nine seasons began in 2002 prior to the school’s departure for the MWC this season.
Moss’ chances to carry that sledge hammer, or even play college football, were in doubt following his sophomore and junior seasons at Rifle.
During Rifle’s fourth game of the season in 2005, Moss suffered a torn ACL and missed the remainder of the season. Then, when Moss was slated to be the Bears’ starting quarterback and safety his junior season, he tore the same ACL just one week before the season.
That injury didn’t reoccur in his senior season, and it paid big dividends for the Bears. Moss finished with 2,018 yards of total offense and 120 tackles on defense, turning the heads of college programs at every level.
Colorado State University-Pueblo, Colorado School of Mines and the University of Northern Colorado showed interest in Moss, but the Boise State junior and four-time academic all-state award winner didn’t like the academic programs the schools offered. He had family ties in Boise, Idaho, so he sent some game film to Boise State’s coaching staff.
It wasn’t long before Boise State director of player personnel Julius Brown gave Moss a call. Moss then spoke with head coach Chris Peterson, visited the campus and, before long, was offered a spot on the team as a preferred walk-on. In short, Moss was guaranteed a spot on the team but wasn’t offered any scholarship money.
“It took me about 30 seconds after he told me that for me to say, ‘Yep!'” Moss recalled.
Moss’ contributions have gone beyond the football field.
He’s sporting a mohawk with a mustache – a stark contrast from his look in Boise State’s football media guide – as a way to lighten the mood in the locker room and grow the relationships he has with his teammates. Add in that the mechanical engineering major is one of the team’s best students, and the combination only makes his coaches like him more.
“You start off with the type of person he is and the fact he’s a great student,” Choate said. “He’s a young man you really enjoy being around who’s popular with teammates. You start with that, then add in the fact he’s a guy you want on your kickoff team but is prepared enough to know the punt team and other special teams spots. When it comes to trimming down your travel roster and you see a guy like Hazen, that’s a guy you know you can rely on.”
Moss plans on remaining that way through his football career. He’s scheduled to graduate following the 2012 football season and, though he could graduate sooner, doesn’t plan on accepting his college degree until he plays the final game of his senior year of eligibility.
Of course, he is looking to improve on the field until then. Moss is going to cherish the college football career that, in his sophomore and junior seasons, looked like it could have been in doubt.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team,” Moss said. “I’m really enjoying special teams, and I’m definitely going to enjoy the rest of my time here.”
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.