Don’t call him ‘Mighty’ Mo, the self-described local boy and star QB Bryant Moniz says
POSTED: 01:25 a.m. HST, Sep 02, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 10:10 p.m. HST, Sep 02, 2011
Oh, the Mad Men gave it the good ol’ marketing effort.
They created a Facebook account, loaded it with videos and statistics, and cross-promoted it through other social-media networks. They turned the nickname of a retired battleship — “Mighty Mo” — into a Heisman Trophy slogan. They even elevated a backstory into The Story: Pizza deliveryman now delivers football victories!
Thing was, it was all white noise, static that did not cling, ignored like the sound of 19,000 fans at the 2004 state championship football game.
“It’s like when you’re driving,” Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz said of that game and, perhaps, the campaign, “and the radio is on, but you can’t hear the music because you’re thinking about something else.”
The Mad Men set the scene and provided the details (the former walk-on led the nation in passing in 2010), but didn’t grasp the character, didn’t answer the basic question: Who is Bryant Moniz?
The answer then is the same as it is now. Running his tattooed hand through his long hair, Moniz said: “I’m just a local boy.”
He was always Mo — never “mighty” — to his friends, teachers and coaches while growing up in Wahiawa.
“I’m never leaving there,” he said, “well, as long as I’m on this island.”
When he was young, he spent his free time playing sports and caring for his stepfather’s father, Bill Smithe, the former leader of the OIA. Near the end of his life, Smithe had lost his voice; it did not matter, Moniz did not need words to communicate.
Moniz, it seemed, did not have a need for football, either. But when Moniz was in the sixth grade, Mike Smithe “suggested” taking up the sport. “I was scared of Uncle Mike,” Moniz said, smiling.
That first year, Moniz’s youth team won the state championship.
Four years later, Leilehua High was in the state title game. The Mules lost, but Moniz played well.
In July 2006, the summer before Moniz’s senior season, a friend cobbled video from Oceanic Cable telecasts, then created a highlight DVD. Moniz passed out a few to college coaches at football camps. But he did not attract any Division I-A scholarship offers, and ended up going to Fresno City College.
At Fresno, he did not drive a car. He lived on canned food. “I ate a lot of Spam and Vienna sausage,” said Moniz, whose speciality was spaghetti with Spam.
After moving back to Wahiawa, Moniz’s girlfriend, Kiley Kealoha, gave birth to the couple’s first child. In tribute to his time in Fresno, Calif., Moniz named his daughter Cali. He was in the operating room when Kealoha underwent a C-section.
“When Cali came out,” he recalled, “that was the first time I cried in a few years. It was an awesome moment. I knew I would love being a father.”
In January 2009 Moniz joined the Warriors.
“I wasn’t on scholarship,” Moniz said, “so I worked.”
He delivered pizzas. Including tips and gas stipends, he earned about $17 an hour.
“Most college students work,” Moniz said. “It wasn’t a big deal. My family really helped. My mom did a lot for me.”
Tina Smithe often worked extra shifts to earn money to help defray Moniz’s school and living expenses.
That spring, Moniz faced crowded competition. “What was he?” UH head coach Greg McMackin said. “Seventh string?”
Moniz did not know. His name did not appear on the depth chart.
“I was last string,” Moniz said.
Thanks to a life-skills class he took at Fresno City, Moniz learned how to keep detailed notes. He filled index cards with plays. And he observed the other quarterbacks performing drills.
“When you just made the team, and you’re not getting reps, you have to do a lot of mental reps,” Moniz said. “When you get in there, you can’t mess up. I remember I got in there, and I looked the wrong way. I got one shot, one play in practice, and I went the wrong way. You learn. The next play, you don’t do that, not when you’re last string.”
That summer, he attended player-coordinated unsupervised workouts. During passing drills, he stood on the side.
“Maybe I was too shy,” he said. “I stood on the side and watched everybody else work out.”
During the 2009 training camp, he moved ahead of Shane Austin for the No. 3 quarterback’s job.
“I felt guilty,” Moniz said. “He was there longer. It’s part of the game, I guess.”
With injuries to the top quarterbacks, by midseason, Moniz was the starter.
“You have to believe in yourself,” Moniz said. “It’s like an investment. You’re investing in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, the coaches aren’t going to, either.”
During the 2009 season, Moniz suffered from arm fatigue. He spent the ensuing offseason trying to improve his strength. He took up boxing, and began an intensive weightlifting program. Moniz can bench press 345 pounds.
He played most of last season with a turf-toe injury that required daily treatment. He did not miss a game.
Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said Moniz has full understanding of the four-wide offense. Rolovich said he can describe a new play to Moniz, who then can perform it, without a glitch.
“He’s smart and tough,” Rolovich said. “It’s not easy being a quarterback in this offense. There’s a lot of scrutiny. He doesn’t let that bother him.”
“What is scrutiny?” Moniz said. “It doesn’t bother me. I’m just myself. I have this thing where I can let a lot of stuff slide. If somebody says something about me, it won’t bother me. Not everyone knows me and who I am. I know who I am. I don’t have to portray myself to be a different person for people. I’m just myself.”