In 2009, Fili Moala became the highest draft selection of a defensive tackle by the Indianapolis Colts since 2002. The team, which is generally hesitant to give up draft picks for any reason, traded pick 61 and their fifth round pick to the Miami Dolphins in order to move up five spots in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft and select Moala.
The selection signals a significant paradigm shift for the Colts. The former USC stand-out defensive tackle is listed at 6'4", 303 lbs, a much larger prospect than Indianapolis generally targets for its penetrating, cover-two defensive scheme.
After struggling in run defense last season, the Colts' draft clearly indicates their intention to utilize a larger defensive front.
With a new defensive coordinator and several new defensive players vying for spots on the roster, there are many questions about the Colts' defense this off-season. Fili Moala was kind enough to answer a few of these questions for Bleacher Report, and give some insight on his transition to the NFL.
Question: The defensive scheme at USC is quite a bit different from the Colts' Tampa-2. How do your skills translate, and how do you have to adjust to the role change?
Answer: I think my skills will translate well in the NFL. Playing at USC gives you an advantage because Coach Carroll has a pro-style scheme. It is basically the same style of defense here in Indianapolis, but there is a bigger emphasis on technique. I’m learning it is the little things that differentiate between a good and a great player in the NFL.
Question: Is it frustrating as a defensive tackle to engage and occupy blocks while linebackers get all the stats, and are you looking forward to playing in a scheme that is all about penetration and pressuring the QB?
Answer: It’s not frustrating at all for me. I’m not worried about stats, I just want to win the game. If I do my job like I am taught, I will make plays.
Question: What NFL quarterback are you most excited to try and sack, and why?
Answer: I would have to say Tom Brady because he is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Question: How often did you face double-teams at USC, and do you think you'll be able to take advantage of potentially less attention when you're on a defensive front with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis coming off the edges?
Answer: I’m super excited to play with guys like Dwight and Robert. I saw a lot of double-teams at the college level, but I’m looking forward to more one-on-ones and quietly making plays. Offensive coaches know they have to take away the most dangerous player on the other side of the ball and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are two of the best defensive linemen in the NFL—they have to be accounted for.
Question: Are you excited to see your Madden character?
Answer: I’m really excited to see myself on Madden. I’ve been playing that game since I was a little boy and it is going to be cool.
Question: What NFL team did you root for growing up, and how do you feel about coming to the Indianapolis Colts?
Answer: My dad was a huge Rams fan when he came to California from the island so I grew up rooting for them, too.
Question: Does it feel good to be traded up for and drafted by Bill Polian, who is quite possibly the best evaluator of talent in the NFL?
Answer: It felt great to know that Mr. Polian and the rest of the Colts organization thought enough about me to trade up and get me. I couldn’t be happier about being part of this team and the Indianapolis community.
Question: Whats it like working with defensive line coach John Teerlinck and new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer? Do they have any new tricks up their sleeve for next season?
Answer: Honestly, I’ve learned so much in my short time with Coach Teerlinck and Coach Coyer. They are master teachers and know how to apply what they expect to see on the field. I’ve enjoyed getting a new point of view and learning the new techniques they want to see.
Question: Have you had to change your technique much, and how?
Answer: I’ve already made some changes to my technique. I expect to have a productive season once I master the system and apply what they are teaching me.
Question: What is your highest priority career aspiration? Win a Superbowl? Hall of Fame?
Answer: I’m a team guy. I’d rather win a Super Bowl. No question about it.
The Colts are renowned for ignoring "expert opinions" and drafting intelligent, good-character players that fit the mold for their organization. When the team selected Donald Brown in the first round of the 2009 draft, ESPN's draft experts claimed that they had selected him too high.
However, after Brown's live interview, the entire studio of sportscasters gushed with praise over the selection because of the kind of person Donald Brown is.
After my interview with Fili Moala, I get the same impression of a team-oriented player and high-caliber person. Colts fans will be glad to hear that Moala wants to sack Tom Brady more than anyone.
But fans should also be ecstatic that, in a sport where fame and bling permeate every team, the Colts continue to find humble players that are both willing to learn and intent on contributing to the organization's goals rather than their own.
Fili Moala should be able to help the Colts' defense right away, but he is also the type of player that will be able to help the organization and the community for many seasons to come.
Special thanks to Fili Moala and Premier Sports Management for participating in this interview.