Moeaki returns to Iowa City

BY SETH ROBERTS | MAY 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kansas City Chief tight end Tony Moeaki didn’t wait long to make his mark on the NFL — just three weeks.

On Sept. 26, 2010, the former Hawkeye (2005-09) yanked down a diving, one-handed touchdown grab that ESPN later called the second-best play of the 2010 season.

Moeaki, who is back in Iowa City for off-season training, said his fans kept bringing up “the catch” at an autograph session on Wednesday.

“I saw a few photos — yeah, they seemed to like that one,” he said and laughed.

The 18-yard hookup with quarterback Matt Cassel helped propel the Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers, 31-10. On a larger scale, Moeaki was an important piece of the first Kansas City team to make the playoffs since 2006. He finished his rookie campaign with 47 receptions for 556 yards — more than double the league average for tight ends — and three touchdowns.

Speaking at a publicity event at Active Endeavors with former teammates Brett Morse and Jeff Tarpinian, Moeaki called his first season in the NFL “a blessing.”

“It was awesome, just being part of such a good organization,” the 23-year-old said. “I’m really glad they picked me up [in the third round of the 2010 draft]. It was a really great situation for me.”

The Wheaton, Ill., native said the offensive schemes run by Chiefs are remarkably similar to those favored by the Hawkeyes, and he said that similarity helped him adjust to the NFL game with relative ease.

Kansas City switched offensive coordinators in the off-season — Charlie Weis took the same position with the Florida Gators— and it remains to be seen what effect new coach Bill Muir will have on those plans, but Moeaki said the team’s goals haven’t changed.

“We made the playoffs, [but] we didn’t go as far as we wanted to,” he said, referring to the Chiefs’ exit in the wild-card round. “We’re not satisfied with just going to the playoffs, so hopefully, we’ll build off that and continue to get better.”

Moeaki will be joined by a familiar face next year as the team marches toward that goal. Former Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi was drafted by the Chiefs in the fifth round, and Moeaki joked that he almost drove off the road when he heard he would once again be sharing a locker room with his close friend.

While Stanzi won’t get much playing time as he learns the Chiefs’ system behind Cassel, Moeaki said he expects the young quarterback will feel right at home just a few hours away from Iowa City.

“If my eyes wander, I’ll see a sea of red, but I’ll see guys in black and gold,” the tight end said. “You see a lot of Iowa fans wearing their Iowa stuff at Kansas City games.”

Lockout group works out

The NFL lockout has thrown the off-season into confusion, but a handful of former Iowa players have found a way to stay in top condition. A group of about 20 ex-Hawkeyes, including the three who spent Wednesday afternoon at Active Endeavors, have descended upon Iowa City to work out with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

“We do speed, lifting, and conditioning,” Morse said. “We hit it all in one [sitting].”

The group is primarily made up of NFL players, such as the Vikings’ Chad Greenway and Colts’ Pat Angerer, and Moeaki said there’s a reason those individuals came back.

“[When you’re] working with Coach Doyle, you’re working with the best,” he said. “Why would you go anywhere else?”

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