Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Catching up with former Olathe North & Sunflower League great, Dustin Moomau

Moomau prior to the start of the
2004 5A state title game against
Salina South.
With the start of the playoffs just around the corner we caught up with Olathe North and Sunflower League legend, Dustin Moomau.  Dustin started in 12 playoff games at Olathe North, including three state title games in 2002, 2003 and 2004.  Dustin was kind enough to take the time to sit down and answer a variety of interview questions for us.  Here's more from him on football, life and the coming playoffs.

Q: What are you doing now?  Can you talk about it and what you enjoy most about it?

"Right now I am currently working for a friend who owns his own lawn care business as a day job. The reason for this is because I had an opportunity to become the Defensive Backs Coach at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School.  I was already working for a company up north doing financing and making a solid income, but once my best friend and now fellow coach, Justin Gore, approached me one day with the opportunity I walked away from my financing job that following week. 

"I will say this; I am not coaching for the money. It’s all for the love of the game and the passion my heart still holds for those kids playing. Times are tough just because finances are tight, but I wouldn’t change a thing about what I do every day. 

"This team and these kids are everything to me and I hope after the days, weeks, and months we have spent together on that football field, weight room, and classroom, they know this. I want to be someone my players can come to for anything and know they will get the most honest and best advice I can possibly give to them for whatever it is they are asking about. 

"I want to show them the right way to play the game, the right way to be a student, and the right way to be a son through their high school career before reaching college. If I don’t then I am not doing my job. I am so very blessed to have such a wonderful group of coaches and an even more amazing group of kids to surround myself with every day."

Q: You have gone down in Olathe North and Sunflower League lore as one of the best players in league history.  You recorded 19 interceptions on defense and over 3,000 all-purpose yards and were in on a 35-4 record as a starter with the program.  Aside from athletic gifts, what did you do to be one of the best?

"First and foremost, I couldn’t do any of that without the coaching and guidance of the handful of coaches I had throughout my football career.  Not only in high school, but starting as young as Little Eagles! 

"Secondly, I was fortunate to have a great group of guys that I had the opportunity to grow up with and play with every year. Without those two groups of people, I wouldn’t have been near as successful as I was. 

"Aside from athletic gifts though, I would say the persistent want and need to get better each and every day while I was out on the football field or in the weight room or doing film work had a significant impact on my performance. 

"There are three things each athlete can control on a play by play basis; effort, attitude, and making sure they do their job! If one can give 110% effort every play, maintain a positive/never give up attitude, and ensure they are taking care of their responsibilities on the football field each and every down, there isn’t any reason they can’t separate themselves from the rest of the competition as they go on throughout their career. 

"That and making sure I represented the name on my chest and helmet with great pride and sportsmanship were the few things I felt helped make me the player I was."

Q: Did you have any unique rituals during the playoffs?

"My thing each and every year was my 'playoff beard/hair.' I didn’t cut it or touch it until we got knocked out the playoff, which fortunately wasn’t until the state championship game every year. Needless to say, my momma and my girlfriend at the time didn’t like it, but that wasn’t going to stop the Lion's Mane!
"There were other rituals I would do before each game as well.  I would always wear the same under shirt, get dressed and ready the same exact way every game, and be the one leading my team out to battle before each game." 

Q: What was your most fond playoff experience as a player and why? Was there a particular game that stood out the most during your playoff games and why?  

"I assume most people would put a playoff experience that would bring a smile to their face, but not me. The one game that will forever follow me is my senior year’s state championship game where I had a freakish knee injury during the 4th quarter with seven minutes left until we won our third state title. We were up 14-0 and were dominating in every aspect of the game, but once that happened, things turned for the worst and the momentum quickly shifted. 

"I had to sit on the sideline while I watched my family hit, fight, and claw Salina South for the remaining seven minutes of the game. Sadly, we ended up losing in double overtime to a very good Salina South team, but I still cannot for the life of me get the image of them rushing the field out of my head once that clock hit zero! Just sickening to still think about, especially when we had such an amazing team and year then had to watch it end like that.

"If I had to pick a positive experience though, it would be from my sophomore year during the Sub-State game against Olathe East where we broke all attendance records. I had just lost my grandfather earlier that week and really didn’t know how I was going to get through the week to the game. My grandfather was everything to me and I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him due to the cancer that took over his body and his life. So this was a very emotional game to me, my family, and my teammates. 

"This was probably the best game I had played all year while recording two interceptions this game and double digit tackles. That wasn’t the most exciting and memorable part of the game though… the last play of the game is what I will never forget! We were up 12-10 with just a few seconds left on the clock and Olathe East was down to their last play. They brought out the field goal unit and prepared to kick the game winning field goal when the snap went flying through the holder’s hands, resulting in a sack and us making our way to my first state championship! I still think my grandpa had something to do with that botched snap… call me crazy?"

Moomau making a play against Free State
during the 2003 season.  Olathe North won
the game, 28-14, and went on to go 10-3,
winning the 6A state championship.
Q: In 2003 you and your teammates entered the playoffs at 6-3. Can you talk about the magical run you guys had through the playoffs that year en route to winning the 6A state title against Hutch?  

"All this came down to was us wanting and needing to get better as a whole. We knew we had a good team and had the players to win ball games, but with the changes made the previous offseason to our coaching staff, things were a bit “Non-Eagle” like for a few weeks.

"All those losses came in the first few weeks of the season, so once we started figuring out what we needed to fix and what was/wasn’t working for us on the field, we made those changes and saw a positive outcome in the weeks to come. Granted, not all our success was due to the changes.

"Each player had to look themselves in the mirror and reach deep down inside to figure out if they were on board or not in trying to reach that state championship goal.  Now, not every week was a cake walk. We had games where they were a back and forth shoot-out, but were fortunate to come out on top. We always played four quarters of Eagle Football and I think that is what separated us from the rest of the competition at times." 

Q: You were involved in 12 playoffs games for Olathe North, all as a starter. Who was the best team you ever faced in the playoffs and why?

"Salina South, 2004: This was the best coached team I have ever played in my football career hands down. They were the hardest hitting, most disciplined, gutsy, dirty football team I have gone up against. They never slowed up. 

"They were constantly bringing heat on me and Justin Gore in the backfield and any time my receivers caught the ball, their DBs made sure we all felt their presence. That team was filled with stud athletes that I would later get to know at my junior college (Coffeyville CC) and through friends. Obviously, once they had the opportunity to talk to me, they made sure to let me know what the outcome was of that game! It was all in fun and a very hard fought football game. One for the ages for sure.

"Olathe East, 2002: What more can you say? Coach Jeff Meyers. Olathe East. Crosstown rivalry.  This was our second time playing them that year (Olathe North had won the first matchup 35-14), so they were ready for us and looking for redemption. They definitely came in prepared and were full out great football players. Many who went on to have successful college careers. Me being a scrawny little sophomore going up against guys like Todd Haselhorst wasn’t exactly my idea of a 'good time'. Both sides brought a large crowd, one in which broke an attendance record."

Q: Who was the best player you ever faced in the playoffs, and why? 

"This is a tough one.  I played against many great players throughout my playoff career, but the one that sticks out to my right off hand has to be Ryan Copp from Blue Valley West during my senior year when we dropped to 5A. He was already a D1 sized RB/WR and had all the athletic ability in the world. Fast, strong, great hands, quick feet, and just one smooth white boy! But, Ryan, who later became my roommate in college, felt the presence of that Olathe North defense throughout four quarters of football.  He and his offense put up thirty some odd points against our defense this game, the most we allowed all year."  

Q: What made Olathe North so good and so dominant, especially come playoff time, during your time with the program? 

"That’s hard to say, but I can definitely say that our methods of preparation throughout the playoffs were intense, long, and purposeful! We would sometimes practice so late that we would move our cars against the fence so that we could use the light from our headlights to stay out there later and finish the things we were working on. Say around 7:00-7:30 to be exact. Rain, snow, or sunshine, we would be outside and get the work done that we needed to, to ensure we were as prepared as possible for our upcoming opponent. Obviously the players had a lot to do with it too once game time came around, but without the days or preparation beforehand, we wouldn’t have been put in such a great position to be successful." 

Q: You were on two state championship teams in ’02 and ’03. In the ’04 5A state title game you went down with a knee injury while your team led 14-0.  Salina South eventually came back to win in overtime. Can you talk about that game, that injury and what your thoughts are on that entire situation? 

Moomau, following his knee injury in the
'04 state title game, consoles with then
head coach John McCall on the sidelines.
"Honestly, I could write a short novel on that game, but more specifically, those last several minutes of my high school career. I briefly touched based upon the game in an above question, but I will speak about it more here. 

"Those last several minutes will forever haunt me after I had my knee twisted up in the turf during a defensive stand. I ended up partially tearing my ACL and PCL and straining my MCL. At the time I didn’t know this, and figured I just hyper-extended my knee. I’m sure a lot of the pain was masked by the adrenaline that was coursing through my body at that time, so I still felt like I could play.

"Once I exited the game, I immediately was laid out on the training table to check my knee out, but all I wanted was a lineman’s knee brace and some tape to try and get back out there with my team. Wayne, my trainer kept telling me he didn’t feel it was a good idea to go back out and that my knee was way too unstable/loose, but he couldn’t tell me anything at that moment in time. I only had one thing on my mind and that was getting back out on that field and finishing this monster of a game with my brothers.

"After a few minutes of rigging up that brace, I finally hobbled my way out on the field trying to run as normal as possible so the coaches up in the press box didn’t see me as a potential weakness in our D at that time. Those next several seconds were the longest seconds of my life.  As Salina South lined up to run another play, I began to take my read steps as they snapped the ball and that was it for me. My knee buckled under the weight of myself and I fell like a sack of rocks. That was it. 

"That right there was the last time that I was going to play football as an Olathe North Eagle. That was the last play that I was going to be out on that field with my teammates, trying to finish out that last four minutes tell victory. That was the absolute hardest thing that I have ever had to endure as an athlete. Sitting on that sideline, while being held up by my head coach John McCall, immediately brought tears of pain and sorrow and disgust to my eyes. 

"I asked God, why? Why now? Why this game? Why me? To this day I will never know, but what I do know is those last few minutes of that game will forever follow me as a young man, athlete, coach, and father to be someday.  Having to watch my team fight their way through the rest of the game and come out on the losing end will leave a horrible taste in my mouth and an empty finger where I should have been able to place my third and final state championship ring.

"Maybe that day has finally brought me to where I am today as a coach for the Saints of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Maybe that day and incident happened so I could use that pain and sorrow to educate, guide and help my players become the absolute best they can be and understand they should never take the abilities they have and the luxury of being able to play this amazing game for granted. No one will ever know if that day will be the last day they ever step foot on another football field. Take each day one at a time and live it out to its fullest!"

Q: Can you talk about your experience as a Simone finalist after the season in 2004? 

"I am very blessed to have even had the opportunity to be a finalist. There were so many amazingly gifted athletes that year that I was going up against throughout the KS/MO area; Chase Coffman, Andre Jones, Ryan Copp, Ryan Highfill, Josh Freeman, etc. There are so many things that play into the choosing of the Simone Award winner and I found that out months afterwards, but that’s neither here nor there now. 

"I personally feel that if we would have walked away state champs and finished the season out undefeated, I may have had a really good shot at taking the Simone from Chase. But, that didn’t happen, things played out differently and I lost to Chase, who is now an NFL tight end and will have a terrific career. I wish him and all the other award winners that year the best of luck on their careers, no matter what it is.  Again though, I was very pleased with what I had accomplished that year and all the other awards I won, but the Simone would have been the icing on the cake! 

"It is what it is and now I can look back at it all and say I gave it my all and things just didn’t turn out the way I would have liked them to. Chase was very deserving and I tip my hat to him." 

Q: Six Sunflower League teams will soon begin their quest for a 6A state title. What advice would you give to all of them in their hunt for a state championship?  

"I will say exactly what I have preached to my players from the first day I got there as a coach… family is all you got! Your teammates are your brothers, your family. Treat them as you would treat your own family members. Come together as a unit, one group, one finely tuned machine moving together in the same direction towards one final goal, that state championship! Never give up! Play as if it were your last day getting to play this wonderful game, because you never know when it will be your last! 

"Ask Marcus Lattimore of the South Carolina Gamecocks if he thought he would have another horrific knee injury like he did recently. One which might have ended his football career.  Lastly, embrace the moment. Create a memory that you will be able to look back upon, five, ten, fifteen years from now and know you gave it your all with no regrets. 'We all we got. Family.' Good luck to you all!" 

Q: Shout outs to anybody? Anything else you would like to add? 

"Watch out for my Saint Thomas Aquinas Saints!"


jocosnob said...

Outstanding interview! Brings back memories of great individual and team performances from those ON championship years. Hard to believe it's been nearly a decade since Moomau laced 'em up.

anb9924 said...

How come he didn't play in college?

Eli Underwood said...

He went to Central Missouri to play football and baseball for a semester but ultimately he decided to go elsewhere. He went to Coffeyville CC where he played both sports, before ending up at Baker where he strictly played baseball.

Unknown said...

Actually left CCC and played a season of both football and baseball at KU. Had some life things happen and had to walk away from both to take care of responsibilities.

Unknown said...

I then transferred out of KU to be able to finish my education while still playing baseball at Baker. It would take a quite a while to explain how things went down over those few years, but needless to say, they were a true test of my character, heart, drive, and love for the game. I felt like a dark cloud was literally following me around everywhere I went for a while. It is what it is though. Not everything always turns out the way we would like them too or think they will...just got to make the best of the situation and move on to the next challenge that awaits you. Thank you all for the kind words, it means so very much to me and my family. I really enjoyed growing up and playing football in the Olathe area. I was constantly surrounded by incredible athletes and even more incredible coaches...Best of luck to those that are playing in the playoffs this year. Represent the best league in the country and bring back that state title!! Good luck and God Bless! GO SAINTS!!

TheImpaler said...

Thanks for the look back...now to look ahead. Time to lay the ghosts of 2008 to rest for the Vikes. The 9-0 Vikes entered the playoffs as the 2 seed against the 2-7 BVNW Huskies but without star running back Darren Harvey who was suspended for the game. The first half was a hard slog but the Vikes went to half with a 14-10 lead. Then Coach C did the most inexplicable thing I've even seen him do. He came out for the second half in a 5 wide spread offense, which SMW had not run all year (or ever as far as I know). it was like he panicked. The result? 2 INTs and a 27-14 embarrassment. I will never understand that decision. I mean it's not like BVNW doesn't see the spread in the EKL. If it surprised them at all it wouldn't have been for more than a play or two and we had no idead how to run it. I'd love for anyone who was on that team to explain that decision to me. Was it planned before the game? Was it a spur of the moment thing? Did we practice it that week? Did we practice it at all before that week?

Anyway, time for revenge Friday night.

Eli Underwood said...

To TheImpaler's comment:

I can ask some people on the team. I was never given a conclusive answer for why Harvey was suspended for that playoff game when the reason for his suspension had allegedly occurred during the pre-season. What's more, SM West, with Harvey, would have won the state title that year I'm convinced.

I remember watching Free State play Blue Valley in the Sub-State round... and then seeing Junction City win state the next Saturday. SM West at full strength in 2008 was better than all of those teams. Heck, Olathe East was better than all of them too (they went 9-0 and were upset by Olathe North in Regionals as well that year).

That upset for SM West (to a 2-7 BVNW team) was as bad as Olathe East's in 2003 (when the Hawks were 10-0 and lost to a 5-5 Blue Valley North).

DJ Balazs said...

As the Quarterback for that 2009 SMW team, I can answer those questions. If you can recall throughout the year we did expand our playbook to the spread because of the attention that Darren brought to our running game. Without Darren to continue the rushing attack against BVNW and their 2 quick scores to start off the second half we had to expand our playbook even more in the passing game to open up our running game. The result of the game did not merely come down to the fact that we expanded our offense to the spread but also that our defense allowed big plays to change the momentum of the game and our offense couldn't respond. As a 3 year started, I would never second judge any decision Coach Callahan makes because he knows what it takes to be successful our league and continues to prove that year in and out.

Best of luck to the Coach Callahan and the rest of Vikings this Friday and the rest of the playoffs.

Eli Underwood said...

Thanks for your input, DJ. It's nice to hear what exactly happened from a direct source.

TheImpaler said...

Thanks, DJ. Was just a tough game and situation all around. Thanks for all you did at SMW, I got to say I think you were the best "field general" we've had in my 12 years of following Viking football. The team was always so well disciplined with you at the helm. Never saw false start penalties or delay of game penalties which, given Coach's constant substitution/play calling system, is always a danger. Best of luck in all you do. Go Vikes Friday night, Beat Huskies (who, btw, also stole our band director while my kids were at SMW)!

SMS watcher said...

I suspect SMW will take care of business. Of the 5 playoff teams I saw SMS play this year, I would rank them in the following order:


I really don't think BVNW will be able to handle the more physical Vikings. As long as SMW wraps up when they tackle and keeps the BVNW receivers in front of them (and the refs call BVNW for the push offs), it will be a long night for BVNW.

Free State Fan said...

Eli - Thanks for this insiders article! I really enjoy the history that you bring to this blog and mix the past and present to see how great of a league this is. We are spoiled, let's face it. This league has great talent year in and year out and we often take it for granted. It was cool to read up on a past great and hope to see more articles like it in the future. Well done!