Tigers' Molesi will face former roommate
By CONOR NICHOLL
Multiple Fort Hays State University football players milled around near coach Chris Brown's office after Wednesday's practice. Some joked with Brown before heading off to film study.
A few waited for the team's weekly news conference. Junior lineman Tomasi Molesi, the Tigers' vocal leader, was all business. He had headphones on and wore a locked-in stare.
This Saturday represents FHSU's opportunity at a marquee victory when the Tigers (5-4, 3-4 MIAA) travel to perennial national power University of Central Missouri (5-4, 4-4 MIAA). Start time is 1:30 p.m. in Warrensburg, Mo.
For Molesi, a 6-foot-1, 310-pound first-year transfer from Arizona Western Community College, the contest means even more. UCM starting senior linebacker Zach Quines was Molesi's roommate at Arizona Western. Quines and Molesi are good friends and have talked throughout the year. The Mules recruited Molesi out of Arizona.
"I just plan on winning that game," Molesi said.
In a rare occurrence, Molesi will match up versus Quines as one of the Tigers' guards -- and again play on Fort Hays' defensive line.
Fort Hays has likely season-ending injuries to senior defensive lineman Basil Bandy (nerve issue) and freshman Noah Debban (shoulder) and the coaching staff doesn't want to burn the redshirt of several freshmen.
The lack of depth caused Molesi to play both ways in last week's 63-17 home win against South Dakota School of Mines.
"He will play both sides of the ball the whole game if you'll let him," third-year coach Chris Brown said.
As well, starting junior defensive lineman Jesse Trent has played offense in multiple short yardage/goal line situations in the last couple weeks.
"It is actually pretty cool to see them on both sides of the ball," senior running back Andre Smith said. "You've got to be a dog to play both sides and that just explains it all."
Molesi came to Fort Hays as a defensive lineman, but suffered a leg injury in the first couple days of fall camp and missed the first four games, all losses to top-25 teams.
"I've got to take this as like the Super Bowl," Molesi said of Central.
Because of injuries to the offensive line, Molesi moved to offense, returned in Week 5 and started four straight contests. Molesi called 2013 the most up-and-down season of his career.
"It's just been a great ride, and my parents have taught me to be patient since I was young," he said. "Not just in football, but in life. If you want something to happen, you've got to work for it. I had went to rehab, and I had prayed about it and spoke to my family about it, and they kept me up, but the people that kept me up the most were these guys, my teammates."
Last week, Brown walked into a film session and talked with Tiger offensive line coach Justin Iske about Molesi playing both ways.
Molesi wanted to do it, the first time since high school he played on both sides. He helped Fort Hays win its fifth straight game; FHSU hasn't won six straight since 1995.
Molesi played a lot of defense last week because of the margin of victory and the coaches wanted to get more reps for starting sophomore guard Jarred Stindt, who missed time earlier in the year with a knee injury. Brown said Molesi is expected to play more on offense against Central Missouri and play defense as needed.
"I don't care where you put me, I just want to play," Molesi said. "I like it. It takes a toll on my body, but I want the seniors to go out making history. I'm just glad that I got the opportunity to play with these fellas."