The team was always on his mind but this award goes to offensive lineman Ryan Moles. The four-year starter and highly decorated right tackle is Chapman University's Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
"We thought Ryan would be a special football player. "We thought when he walked in the door that he would be a starting tackle for us," head coach Bob Owens recalled. "Of all of the challenges that we put in front of Ryan, none of those things were things he couldn't do."
On of Chapman Athletics' most prestigious awards adds to a long list of awards that the Panthers' right tackle has collected over four year. He is a three-time All-SCIAC selection and 2019 All-Region selection. He secured the right tackle position as a freshman and helped clear the path for two SCIAC championship teams, including the 2019 team that finished No. 10 in the nation.
Moles has come a long way since helping his high school team to a State title game. In fact, if he hadn't gotten that championship experience as a senior, he might never have put on a helmet again.
"Before that, I wasn't even planning on continuing my football career," Moles admitted. "Because it was such a positive senior year and positive experience, I decided that I needed to play college football and that led me to Chapman."
A decision he would not regret as he seemed to accomplish it all in his four years. He maintained a 3.3 GPA, took a spring to study abroad in Italy and is pondering multiple job offers as graduation approaches.
"Ryan came out of high school as a star football player," Owens added. "He has great mental toughness and great physical toughness. He prepares himself well in the classroom, obviously, as well as on the field."
Moles maintained a serious drive to maintain a high level in all aspects of his college experience from the classroom to the field with the team always remaining his motivating factor.
He spent the summer before coming to Chapman training with a power lifter to prepare for the next step in his football career. This work set the base for his successful career on the field.
After two All-SCIAC seasons, he decided to take advantage of an opportunity to study abroad and complete an internship in Italy. His drive to succeed on the field remained as he continued a strict training regiment. He found a set of stairs near the Vatican to run every morning between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. before hitting an Italian gym. A bus ride to his internship followed and he repeated everything the next day.
"It was a mindset," Moles said of his Italian routine. "I wasn't going to let my teammates down and I wasn't going to let my myself down. I had goals and ambitions for myself. It wasn't a time to look away from my personal goals and team goals."
That mindset was something that defined his career on and off the field. As hard as he pushed himself on the field, he was equal to push himself off the field. Coming into Chapman, he knew he wanted to pursue a Business degree and settled on an emphasis on Finance – a major he shared with many of his teammates.
"We compete on the football field but, also, it seems to me that we competed even more in the classroom. I'd take classes with some of the football guys and there would be five of us in there and we are pushing each other to be the top performer constantly. Just like you don't want to get beat on the field, you don't want to get beat in the classroom. As cliché as it sounds, my teammates are the ones that pushed me to really thrive in the classroom."
The comradery – and the competition – on and off the field led to unprecedented success in 2019 for Chapman football. The Panthers hosted and won an NCAA postseason game for the first time in program history, won 10 games (the most in Chapman history) and had one of the best rushing attacks in the country.
The 2017 Panthers had one of the best passing attacks in the country giving Moles two different roads to a SCIAC title. So, which is more fun for an offensive lineman competing in the trenches every down?
"It's hard to say which one was more fun. I love all my teammates from both teams. I would have to say that this past year was probably a bit more rewarding. Coming into a team where no one thought we would be anything with so many unanswered questions, and then seeing how comradery and coming together as a team could really excel performance. That kind of gave the edge to this year."
One thing is certain. A three-time All-SCIAC and two-time SCIAC champion with a mindset to succeed is leaving behind a legacy for a program on the rise.
"Hopefully it gives other guys that come in motivation. I hope it sends a message that whatever you put your mind to, you can do. If you really put in the hard work, then results are guaranteed. You have such a great coaching staff and teammates to help you propel your career at Chapman that it really makes it easy."
By Steven Olveda.
Sports Information Director