Starting over at CU suits former Rifle High School football star Ryan Moeller just fine
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
Ryan Moeller isn’t the big fish in the small pond anymore. And he knows it.
“It’s kind of like being a freshman in high school all over again,” said Moeller, a 2013 Rifle High School graduate who is now a walk-on, redshirt freshman football player at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “I’m playing with a lot of people who were all at the top when they were in high school, so I’m basically starting at the bottom again, trying to prove myself.”
Moeller was one of the state’s most recognizable players during his senior season as a running back and safety for the Bears. Regardless, he received minimal attention from Division I college suitors, with many of his scholarship offers coming from Division II schools.
In the end, though, he decided to go to Colorado as a preferred walk-on, gravitating toward the school he had hoped to attend all along.
“I’ve always loved CU,” Moeller said by phone from Boulder. “I got some offers, but I always wanted to keep my options open. Now I just want to prove myself, work hard and show to the team and the coaches what I can do to contribute.”
Dominant high school career
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Moeller did more than contribute during his junior and senior seasons at Rifle. His most recognized accomplishments came as a running back, as he rushed for 5,471 yards and 65 touchdowns in his last two seasons. During his senior year, when the Bears won their second consecutive Class 3A Western Slope League title and went to the state title game in Aurora, his 3,002 rushing yards made him one of two players in Colorado and one of 16 in the nation to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a season, according to maxpreps.com.
College coaches, however, looked more at what Moeller could do defensively. He showed plenty there as well, recording 96 tackles and 10 interceptions in two seasons as a full-time starter at free safety. His most memorable interception came in the 2012 Class 3A quarterfinals against Roosevelt, as his pick of Rough Riders quarterback Spencer Urban at the Rifle 9-yard-line, followed by his 91-yard return for a touchdown as time expired, sealed the Bears’ 48-34 victory.
Those abilities on defense have placed Moeller on CU’s defensive look, or “scout,” team. So instead of suiting up with the first team during practice, like he did his final two seasons in Rifle, he’s spending much of his practice time going up against CU’s first-team offense in an effort to make them better for the upcoming opponent.
But that, plus the added speed of the Division I college game, doesn’t bother Moeller. He got to CU’s campus at the beginning of June to take part in summer workouts with the team, which gave him some extra time to adjust to the faster pace which comes in college.
“I had a couple of months to get used to it,” Moeller said. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
The Buffaloes have a recent history of turning top high school running backs into solid collegiate defensive backs. Parker Orms, a senior who is first on CU’s depth chart at strong safety, led Wheat Ridge to a Class 4A state championship in 2008 after rushing for a state-best 2,813 yards. His 56-yard TD run on a fourth-and-2 with 19 seconds left in the game sealed the win against Greeley West.
getting used to college, dealing with flood
Moeller, however, isn’t looking ahead that far. He’s looking more at the day-to-day aspects of being a collegiate student athlete and everything that goes with it. He hasn’t decided on a major yet, and his initial general-education course load of 12 credit hours suits him fine for now. Moeller is not listed on CU’s depth chart and, barring a mass of injuries to active players, won’t be until next season. Still, he got to be on the sideline for CU’s 41-27 triumph over Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver on Sept. 1.
There’s been some distractions from football, however. Due to the massive flooding in the Boulder area last week, many dorm-bound students on the CU campus experienced flooding in their residence halls. Moeller’s dorm room, which is a garden-level room in Hallett Hall, was unaffected.
He was affected in other ways, though. Colorado postponed its non-conference game against Fresno State this past Saturday. In the meantime, many members of CU’s football team reached out to members of the community impacted by the floods, serving meals and providing helping hands to those who had lost their homes.
“It was a bummer we weren’t able to play,” Moeller said. “But at least today (Sept. 14) we got to focus on helping others.”
Moeller wouldn’t be helping others had he taken an offer from another college. Coaches from Colorado State did visit Moeller at RHS before Rifle’s state title game against Silver Creek, and he got serious looks from Division II schools Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction and CSU-Pueblo. Mesa made the biggest sales pitch to him, offering a full-ride scholarship.
Moeller, however, wanted to keep his options open at the time. And in hindsight, he would make the same decision again given the chance.
“[The coaches] have given me feedback to just keep doing what I’m doing,” Moeller said. “I like where I’m at and I like the progress I’m making. If this keeps up, I’ll be in good shape for when spring ball starts and the four-year clock on my eligibility starts ticking. I can’t wait.”
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