PROVO — When Moa Peaua joined the BYU football program way back in 1998, LaVell Edwards was the coach and Peaua planned on becoming a mainstay on the Cougar defense.
Six years later, after redshirting, serving an LDS Church mission, battling a knee injury and, finally, switching positions, Peaua (pronounced "pay-OW-uh") has finally found a place where he could contribute.
That place is at fullback.
Peaua made his presence felt — just ask Wyoming's defenders — Saturday during the Cougars' 24-13 win over the Cowboys. He brought a defensive mentality to BYU's offensive backfield and his crushing blocks helped open gaping holes for running backs Curtis Brown and Fahu Tahi, who combined to rush for 229 yards and two touchdowns.
It's not a position the 6-foot, 265-pound senior thought he would ever play in college. But last spring, the coaches asked him to throw his weight behind the offense.
"When they said they wanted me at fullback, I thought it was a good switch," Peaua said. "I do basically the same thing as a defensive player — just go out and hit people. It's what I like to do. I love hitting, anything that has to do with hitting."
"Very physical wouldn't begin to describe Moa," said running backs coach Lance Reynolds. "We moved him over and thought this was a good role for him, to be a power fullback."
But he was a seldom-used weapon until Saturday.
"We were waiting until we had a full week where he could be more part of the (game) plan," Reynolds said. "He was an effective part of the plan. You should see some of the blocks on film. He was tenacious. There were some huge collisions in there that allowed us to push that hole open. He carried a critical role in that game."
Peaua enjoyed a stellar prep career at McQueen High School in Reno, Nev. He led his team to a state championship, was a two-time defensive player of the year and was named the Nevada Gatorade MVP. Peaua attracted recruiters from Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Hawaii, Tennessee, UNLV, Nevada, Southern California and Fresno State.
After settling on BYU, he redshirted the 1998 campaign before leaving for a mission to New York City. By the time he had returned, coach Gary Crowton had taken over for Edwards. As a freshman in 2001, Peaua was a member of the practice squad.
In 2002, BYU coaches had high expectations for him as a member of the defensive line, but in the season-opener against Syracuse, Peaua suffered a season-ending knee injury. That was two weeks before he was to return to his hometown and play against Nevada.
Last season, the only action Peaua saw was in two junior varsity games. Then last spring, he became a fullback. Now, everyone knows he can block. Question is, will he ever carry the ball?
"That's up to the coaches. Hopefully soon," Peaua said with a laugh. "It doesn't matter. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'll do it. I'd rather be out on the field than on the sidelines."
Opposing defensive players would prefer he remain on the sidelines. Despite Peaua's affinity for hitting, he's a gentle guy when he's not playing.
"Off the field, I try to be nice to everybody," he said.
And after delivering a punishing block, he doesn't talk any smack. "I just look at them and see how they are doing," Peaua said. "I want to make sure they're all right."