Tony Moeaki was sitting on his couch, surrounded by family, when it happened. It seemed to pass in an instant. The tight end from Iowa saw on the television that a trade had been made. The Chiefs were picking now at No. 93 overall, at the end of the third round.
Then Moeaki’s phone rang. He was going to Kansas City.
“It happened within seconds,” he said Friday night. “Lightning quick.”
Things can happen that quickly during the NFL draft, and a player’s luck can change that fast, too. It has happened to Moeaki before.
Here was a promising tight end, with sure hands and strong shoulders, but his legs and feet kept failing him. He broke his left foot in 2007, missing all but four games. A season later, he made one start and had a sprained ankle to worry about, too. The promising tight end was now known as an injury risk, and who knew if he’d ever reach the potential he brought to Iowa City from Wheaton, Ill., a town west of Chicago.
“Definitely frustrating,” Moeaki said. “But that part is behind me.”
The Chiefs are confident that’s true.
Moeaki started all 10 of his games last season, his fifth at Iowa after being granted a medical redshirt year by the NCAA. He had a career-high 30 catches and four touchdowns. That was the kind of season his talent had made possible, but his legs were keeping him from.
When Kansas City made the call late Friday to trade its fourth-round pick (No. 102 overall) and the last of its three fifth-round selections (No. 144), it was ready to bet that Moeaki’s word was good. The Chiefs seem to be drafting with character in mind this year, and they’ve done their homework.
Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli is researching prospects like a president vets a Supreme Court nominee. Team captains. Players with their communities in mind. Youngsters with high football IQs and almost spotless resumes. Moeaki has all that, with the caveat that his talent hasn’t yet overshadowed the injuries.
Still, the 22-year-old Moeaki said he considers himself fully healthy. He said he’s a “complete tight end,” one who’s made his share of blocks, caught his share of passes. But those are his words.
So maybe Pioli turned to an old friend for some reassurance. Pioli and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz are longtime friends. Moeaki said Friday night that he got used to seeing Pioli hang around the Hawkeyes’ football offices.
Pioli wouldn’t say what kind of endorsement Ferentz gave Moeaki. He said he doesn’t feel comfortable speaking for others. Then again …
“I’ll say Kirk is very fond of him,” Pioli said.
Pioli said he was watching the draft, too. And as the selections kept passing, Pioli kept thinking Moeaki would be gone by the time the Chiefs’ turn came around again Saturday morning, when the fourth round started.
“He was a player that we were talking about earlier,” Pioli said. “We didn’t know what the sweet spot was going to be to try to pick him up.
I didn’t know if we had enough ammunition to make a trade and move up. … The opportunity came where we felt like giving up that late of a fifth-round pick, to be able to move up into this round and get one of the couple of guys that we would’ve been disappointed if we lost before it was our turn to pick.”
So the Chiefs came and got him.
Moeaki said he was casually watching the end of the third round when it all happened. The TV flashed. The trade happened. The phone rang. It was Pioli.
It was done.
“It all fell together,” he said. “I’m just excited that he got me.”