COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Before it became certain he would return to football, Ohio State's Tyler Moeller heard the doubters and their questions.
At times, he might have asked the same ones of himself.
"There were all these questions, 'Are you OK?'" Moeller said. "I read all the [online] forums and they're like, 'Moeller's not going to be back. He shouldn't play again.'"
The concerns from Ohio State fans were justified. Moeller suffered a head injury in July 2009 after being attacked by a man at a Florida bar. Moeller was blindsided and hit his head on the ground, suffering bleeding on his brain that required emergency surgery on Aug. 8, 2009, right around the time Ohio State opened preseason camp.
After a strong spring at the star position, a safety-linebacker hybrid, Moeller missed the entire 2009 season, and many wondered if he'd ever suit up for the Buckeyes again. But he was back Thursday night, starting on defense and recording a team-high six tackles, two for loss, with a sack and a forced fumble in Ohio State's 45-7 win against Marshall.
"I feel like I have something to prove out there," Moeller said, "and I think I proved it tonight."
Moeller played in 23 games in 2007 and 2008, but the jitters returned Thursday night as he took the field before 105,040 at Ohio Stadium. It took a series or two for Moeller to get fully comfortable.
Late in the first quarter, Moeller locked in on Marshall's Andre Booker and ran him out of bounds for a 4-yard loss.
"After that first hit, everything else felt natural," Moeller said.
His swagger also returned.
"He got a tackle and said, 'I may be white, but I'm fast!'" Buckeyes linebacker Brian Rolle recalled. "He said it out loud."
When asked if the comment was accurate, Moeller blushed a bit: "Something like that," he said.
Early in the third quarter, Moeller recorded his first career sack, dropping Marshall's Brian Anderson and jarring the ball loose. Moeller's doctors cleared him for full contact before Ohio State opened camp, but he hadn't truly played at full speed until Thursday.
"It's a completely different feeling," he said. "To make plays and contribute, I'm truly blessed. I hadn't been out there in a while.
"It has a whole new meaning now."