Evan Moog is often asked if he prefers offense or defense. Christopher Newport's running back-turned-linebacker can speak at length about the merits and qualities of both, but his short answer goes something like this:
Whatever helps the team; whatever gets him on the field.
"I just love playing football," Moog said. "It's so much fun to be able to run with the football and have that responsibility. But on defense, there's more of an adventurous side. It's a little bit like jazz. You can improvise a little within the structure and it's more free-flowing."
Moog, a junior from Williamsburg, has developed into one of the defensive leaders as the Captains (2-2, 1-0 USA South) prepare to face Ferrum (3-1, 1-0) Saturday at 7 p.m. in a showdown between conference contenders at Pomoco Stadium.
"First-rate," CNU head coach Matt Kelchner said. "I wish we had a few more like him."
Moog is CNU's leading tackler with 34 total stops and has helped offset the effects of injuries to fellow linebackers Daniel Lewis and Derek Wright. He had 13 tackles in the Captains' win at Shenandoah and seven last week at Maryville, though he was a little down on his performance in Tennessee because he and the defense missed too many tackles.
"I was in a transition mode the first couple of games, learning the defense and my responsibilities," Moog said. "I'm getting to the point where I feel like I can just play football and not think about what I have to do."
Moog, 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, continues CNU's tradition of undersized, productive linebackers. Defensive coordinator Justin Wood, an All-American, and Adrin Diggs compensated for their lack of size with smarts, quickness and toughness.
"Too many times in football, people get caught up with how tall you are, how much you weigh, your 40(-yard dash) time," Kelchner said. "They don't look at whether or not you can play. Evan Moog is a very good football player. There are a lot of guys who are bigger, stronger, faster, who look the part, but can't play a lick. Evan is a football player who probably gets overlooked because of his size. Fine with us. We'll take those guys any day."
Moog jokes that his younger brother, Colin, got the size genes. He's a 6-3, 280-pound lineman at Jamestown High who's drawing some attention from college recruiters.
Both brothers play in memory of their father. Doug Moog died suddenly of a heart attack at age 46, while on a business trip in Japan in December 2009.
Evan said that he struggled after his dad's death, attempting to rely on his girlfriend and football to help him cope. But small group sessions at the Williamsburg Community Chapel, where the family attended church, shifted his thinking. He focused on his faith, his blessings and on service to others.
Coincidentally, that same thinking applied when CNU's coaches approached him about switching positions. He rushed for 519 yards and eight touchdowns last season as part of the Captains' deep backfield. Pressed into every-down duty against Ferrum in a key, late-season game, he rushed for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-30 win.
But the Captains had more depth at running back than at linebacker, and Kelchner and the staff thought Moog capable of making the switch and more valuable on defense than offense.
"I was thinking, 'Why me, when I've had success at the position. Why should I move?'" Moog said. "But I realized it's not about me. Nothing is based on my success. Whatever I have is based on the Lord and the gifts He's given me. I began to think, what can I do to glorify my teammates?"
Moog is as productive off the field as on. He is a leader in the campus chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He's in CNU's Canon Scholars Program and the Presidential Leadership Program, which led to a 15-day trip to London in July to study at the University of Oxford. Nothing against the Trible Library, but walking through Oxford's Bodleian Library, parts of which date back to the 14th century, was inspiring and humbling.
"It was a really great experience," Moog said. "It's hard to describe, but I just felt more academic there."
Moog also got a taste of the Summer Olympics while he was in London. He didn't score tickets to any of the events, but was able to see about 15 seconds of an outdoor cycling race. He spent time in and around Hyde Park, where throngs gathered to watch the Games on huge-screen TVs.
"It was really cool to be in the midst of that many people watching the events," he said. "A lot of energy."
Moog and the Captains set aside the disappointment of early losses to Salisbury and Hampden-Sydney that scuttled their chance to make national noise and perhaps receive at-large consideration for postseason. They are now focused on the USA South schedule.
"There was definitely some discouragement," Moog said, "but the last couple of weeks we regrouped. We have to have the mindset that every week is a playoff week. We can't think that winning a couple of big games early will be good enough to get us in the playoffs because we don't have that option. We have to play well the rest of the way."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun