FRESNO, Calif. » Starting quarterback for the University of Hawaii. The nation’s passing and total offense leader. Remarkable success story.
Nobody around Fresno City College is surprised by the accomplishments of the quarterback they proudly hail as "our" Bryant Moniz.
In fact, as Moniz returns to lead the Warriors against Fresno State on Saturday, they’ll tell you it was in the cards.
"From the time he got here (at FCC) he’d watch film and write down the plays and notes on these index cards," recalls Tony Caviglia, the Rams’ head coach. "He watched a bunch of film — our games, our opponents games, past years’ games, everything. And he’d write it all down on the cards and study it. We’d come to work in the morning and he’d be waiting at the coaches’ door to watch film."
Pretty soon, Caviglia said, "He had a stack of those cards that must have been six inches thick."
And, Moniz had the starting quarterback job.
"It was amazing, really," Caviglia said, chuckling at the memory. "He got here in July and by the start of August he’d learned our offense and was our team leader and team captain. The players really took to him and he emerged as a leader."
Actually, "amazing" might be an understatement because when Moniz arrived, as an unrecruited 6-foot, 180-pound graduate of Leilehua High, he looked to be in a long wait for playing time.
Despite having led the Mules to the state Division I championship game as a sophomore, Moniz was a walk-on who followed Bronson Tiwanak to the San Joaquin Valley and the Rams’ much-decorated program. He was the small fish in a big pond, a school with a 23,000 enrollment and a history of attracting talent (33 graduates have played in the NFL).
What Moniz found when he got there was 6-foot-4, 205-pound Derek Shaw of Oceanside, Calif., a five-star recruit who had committed to Miami and eventually signed a national letter of intent to Arizona State but was initially unable to gain entry. Shaw was the can’t-miss prospect on the Rams’ campus. Moniz? He was the unknown from Hawaii.
But by dint of his painstaking preparation and diesel-like inner drive, Moniz emerged as the freshman starter. "After that first month, watching him pick up the offense and win over the team, I said, ‘We’ve got something here,’ " Caviglia recalled.
And Moniz made the most of it, passing for 2,268 yards and 18 touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 7-4 record and the Silicon Valley Bowl.
At FCC, that success meant something. "He had a hard, tough road to get to where he wanted to go," Caviglia said. "But Mo was a survivor who refused to give up his dream."
The Rams won’t be able to watch Moniz continue to pursue it against the backyard Bulldogs on Saturday night because they have a game at the same time. "We’d like to see him and see him do well because he carries our name," Caviglia said.
But the Rams’ players, most of whom have never met him, know Moniz and his story well. "We’re proud of him and where he’s at," Caviglia said. "We tape his games and show them to the team. What he’s done is what lessons are made of and our players have adopted him as their own, even though they don’t know him (personally)."
When Moniz wanted to transfer home to UH after a year at FCC, the Warriors called Caviglia for an evaluation. "I told (associate head coach) Rich Miano: ‘He’s going to be the best quarterback to have,’ " Caviglia said.
Like they say here, it was in the cards.