‘I do belong here at Notre Dame’: Paul Moala on injuries, setbacks, and hopes for the future
Emily DeFazio | Friday, November 19, 2021
Senior Paul Moala’s Notre Dame journey has not been a conventional one. After missing the majority of last season due to a torn Achilles, the linebacker took the field against Florida State in the 2021 season opener. Moala was ready to make his mark on the game that night. However, he suffered another season-ending Achilles injury, putting him right back where he was the year before.
Being sidelined for another season, Moala’s role has shifted from an on-field presence to a behind-the-scenes force. Moala said that his injury has allowed him to emerge into two roles. He fills one as more of a coach. He says he’s also a better student of the game.
“When you’re in the game, you’re trying to figure out the cause. You’re trying to figure out where to get in line and then what to do during the game,” Moala said. “On the sideline, it honestly gives you perspective, and also a lot of time to understand and comprehend what’s going on in that film room and contribute that to the sidelines. So it’s also been a really great opportunity to help out on the sidelines a little bit.”
Moala has subsequently found his voice on the team through this experience. In taking on a more administrative role, he has also gained a leadership position. Moala said he’s not sure that he would’ve been able to hold that role had he been actively playing.
“I’d say I’ve been a lot more vocal,” Moala said. “Within the past few years, I haven’t really had the opportunity of being vocal, just because we’ve always had leaders, you know, a natural leader step into that role. And I’m not really a natural leader.”
However, his impact has not been limited to only what he says to his fellow teammates. He has also led through his actions. Moala continues to move forward after his devastating setback, never wavering. He also pushes himself to the limit in practice.
“I’ve been trying to not only be vocal but lead by example,” he said. “I’ve been trying to push myself in the weight room, and allow myself to be a role model to those guys in the weight room, and help them see that I’m actually pushing myself even though my season’s over.”
Though he may be off the field, for now, Moala has hopes of getting back out there in his blue and gold next season. This would allow him to create more impactful moments like Moala experienced earlier in his career. One that continues to stick out in his mind, and has an impact on his game, is the tackle he posted during his first play against Georgia a couple of years ago.
“Not only was it the first opportunity for me to step into a big role at a critical time. It was also what football is all about,” he said. “The pressure was on me and the defense at the moment, and being able to contribute at that moment, and prepare myself for the opportunity that I had and getting a tackle on my first play in the Georgia game, it was just a surreal moment…It allowed me to say to myself that I do belong here at Notre Dame and I can compete with these guys.”
In order to do so, Moala will focus on the aspects of college ball that make it a high-stakes game. He will use this mentality to prepare for his hopeful return to action come 2022.
“In college, it allows you to think more because football is a lot more advanced at this level,” he said. “So being out on the field not only allows you to see it in real-time but also feel the real speed of the game and just how to improve in those aspects of the game.”