LAS VEGAS >> These days, even the skies are friendly to Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz.
During Thursday’s Western Athletic Conference football media preview, reporters voted Moniz the league’s preseason offensive player of the year.
“Easy choice,” Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes said of Moniz, who led the nation in passing yards and touchdown throws as a junior in 2010.
Although he is the WAC’s only returning full-time starting quarterback, Moniz was surprised by the honor.
“I didn’t even know they had this (media event) until a month ago,” Moniz said. “I asked Derek (Inouchi, UH’s media relations director): ‘When are we going to Vegas?’ I was referring to our game against UNLV. He said, ‘Oh, we have to go to Vegas for media day.’ I was like, ‘What’s that? I never heard of that.’ This is awesome.”
Then Moniz learned that his uncle, Rick White, would be the pilot on his flight from Honolulu to Las Vegas.
“It was cool,” Moniz said. “I wish I could have gone into the cockpit, but he said they don’t allow (passengers to do) that anymore. I had some other relatives on the flight.”
Moniz was at ease in the meet-the-press setting Thursday, answering questions from print and broadcast reporters, and posing for pictures that media outlets will store for later stories.
“I like him,” Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. “I think he’s a heck of a player. I thought we went hard after him last year, and he kept getting away and making plays. He’s very talented.”
Dykes added: “The thing I like best about him is his story. When a quarterback does what he does — walking onto a program, delivering pizzas to pay for school — that’s a guy I want to play with. And he’s a heck of a player. He’s a good player in the pocket. He’s a good player out of the pocket. He has an incredibly quick release. He’s accurate. He does a great job of boosting his team. He has tremendous confidence, and that carries over to those other guys.”
Moniz was not always embraced. After a successful career at Leilehua High, he received no Division I scholarship offers. “My mom still loved me,” he mused.
But he said he began to have self-doubt.
“Maybe I’m not that good,” he recalled thinking. “Maybe I’m just a high school player.”
Instead, his mother encouraged him to play at Fresno City College. She even worked extra jobs to subsidize his school and living expenses.
“She found a way to get it done,” he said. “She did a lot for me. I didn’t want to let her down.”
After enrolling at UH in January 2009, he worked to pay for his expenses.
“When I first came in, I just wanted to play in a game,” Moniz recalled. “I didn’t think about awards or any of that stuff. I just wanted to play.”