Hometown Report: Moala keeps his good humor after a bad season at Cal

Joe Davidson
Joe Davidson

V ei Moala approached, all grins and walking thunder.

This was a lot of man bounding across the asphalt, footsteps reverberating off cars.

And Moala doesn’t go for handshakes. He’s a hugger, and you feel the strength of this 6-foot-3, 330-pound Cal defensive tackle out of Grant High School. He is back home in Sacramento for the holiday break, to detox from a nightmarish 1-11 Bears season in Berkeley.

Moala watched his younger brother, Moses, a Grant senior defensive end, practice for the North team in preparation for today’s 57th Optimist All-Star Football Game in Folsom. Football for the Moalas is a family affair.

And when the Moala clan – including its equally stout father, Nauela, – climbs into the family truck, the rig slumps a bit.

“We’re heavy,” Vei Moala said, laughing. “The truck feels it.”

Moala maintained his good spirits during a trying junior season. He said he never considered transferring like others from Cal in the wake of a one-win season. He said he enjoys the student life, his studies, and he insists the Bears’ football fortunes will improve. And he said his family taught him to remain loyal to commitment, that quitting is never an option.

“It wasn’t as fun of a season as we had hoped, but we’ll get better,” Moala said. “I still had fun.”

Moala said fun includes basking in his private living space. He had a dorm room to himself. Maybe that’s because there wouldn’t be enough room to pack in another body in the closet-size space on campus.

“Even when it’s just me in there,” Moala said, “it always feels like the heater is on.”

Moala is excited for his brothers. At 6-1, 230 pounds, Moses dreams of playing in college, hopeful of garnering more interest in the coming weeks.The smallest brother, David, is a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore linebacker at Grant with a mop of hair that makes him look 6-5.

“That’s the best athlete in the family,” Vei Moala said.

Moala said he is inspired by the path of his cousin, Christian Tupou, who was The Bee’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 for Grant (Moala earned the same honor in 2010). Tupou was a USC standout defensive tackle who earned a master’s degree.

“I’ll be a senior (next) fall, and I will graduate,” Moala said. “I want to get into education, maybe teach and coach at Grant someday. That’s a dream.”

Aliotti bows out

Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, whose coaching career started at his alma mater, UC Davis, announced Friday he will coach his final game Monday in the Alamo Bowl against Texas.

Aliotti, 59, has coached 38 years, including 24 total with the Ducks, 17 as defensive coordinator. He was paramount in Oregon reaching six BCS bowl games. He was hired at Oregon in 1978 by then-Ducks coach Rich Brooks, a Grass Valley native.

Aliotti looked into the Sacramento State job seven years ago, a gig that went to Marshall Sperbeck. Aliotti was never that serious about the Hornets job, in part because it would have been a major cut in salary.

“I’m not resigning,” Aliotti told reporters, adding, “I’m not going somewhere else. I’m a Duck.”