After throwing an amazing — if unplanned — touchdown pass in last Friday’s home opener, senior wideout Tom Moak has set a high bar for the Tigers’ receiving core. The ‘Prince’ talked to the Atlanta native about how he got his start in football, his career highlight and some lighter parts of being part of the team.
Q: When did you start playing football?
A: I started playing football when I was about 10 years old. My dad said that my mom wasn’t allowed to come home if she didn’t sign me up to play football, so that eventually got done.
Q: So your mom signed you up for football?
A: Well, my dad pushed it too, but she was the one who actually did it. Begrudgingly.
Q: Does she regret it now?
A: She has a hard time watching the games. She doesn’t like watching me get hit.
Q: She doesn’t mind you hitting people though?
A: No, she likes that.
Q: Did you ever play any other sports?
A: Yeah, I grew up playing baseball. I was an outfielder, but I just wasn’t good enough. So now I just live with baseball players so I can live through them.
Q: That touchdown the other night, was it planned or spur of the moment?
A: It was actually a Plan B of sorts. Basically, when there is a bad snap on a field goal, our Plan B is to yell “abort” and we run that play ... Drawn up on the board, it looks really nice and clean, but in the game it rarely works. The only reason we were able to score there is because our field goal unit showed a ton of poise. Our kicker, [freshman] Nolan Bieck, threw a great block, the line protected well, and [senior tight end] Mark Hayes made a great catch on a mid-play adjustment that not a lot of teams can handle, so it was a really great moment for that unit to execute so well.
Q: Highlight of your career?
A: I was joking around with some of the guys before the game and said that if I ever got to throw a touchdown, I would probably just quit on the spot because it couldn’t really get better than that.
Q: So are you quitting?
A: No, I’m actually on borrowed time right now.
Q: Have you ever played quarterback before?
A: I actually did in high school, so it wasn’t that foreign for me. I wanted to play in college, but the coaches didn’t want me to. They said I was too short, so I had to settle for receiver.
Q: What made you come to Princeton?
A: This was probably the best — well, definitely the best — school that gave me the opportunity to play, and I knew that I wanted to play football. I was lucky enough to have good enough grades to get in here, so it was really an easy decision as soon as Princeton comes knocking on your door. I looked at some smaller [Division III] schools. A lot of people didn’t think I was good enough to play at a school like Princeton, so I’m glad they took a chance.
Q: And yet, you have a touchdown.
A: Yeah, just one.
Q: What are you studying?
A: I’m a history major.
Q: What’s your focus?
A: I have no idea what my thesis is going to be; the only thing I know is I’m going to write about college football because it’s about the only thing I actually know anything about. I like to read about it, so it seems like something really smart to do. Might as well enjoy it.
Q: What’s the best part about playing here?
A: The best part about playing here is definitely the team. I came here as a freshman thinking, “Oh, well, I’ll be friends with my high school friends forever and nobody else will be my friend.” And now, I’ll leave here having made some of the best friends of my life, so that’s definitely the best.
Q: What’s the worst?
A: Waking up early in the morning. I’m sure that’s a common theme from this type of stuff, but it’s just the worst.
Q: Who would you say is your idol, either in the sport or outside?
A: I would have to say my mom. I know that’s not such a common thing, but she’s just an amazing person. She’s sacrificed a lot for me and my family, and she’s somebody I could hope to live up to and emulate.
Q: Who’s the funniest guy on the team?
A: Well, [senior receiver] Shane Wilkinson is going to get mad if I don’t say him, so I’ll say that he thinks he is the funniest.
Q: So who’s actually the funniest guy on the team?
A: The funniest guy on the team, I’m going to go with [senior running back] Akil Sharp, but not because he means to be. He’s not always trying to be funny, he just always cracks me up, everything he does . . .
Q: What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen him do?
A: Oh god, probably just watching him dance. Every time he dances I just lose it. He’s good; he’s really good at dancing. It’s just funny to me.
Q: What’s the weirdest thing people don’t know about you?
A: I’m going to have to go with my music choices. People somehow think I always just listen to country, but I like to listen to a lot of smooth jazz.
Q: Would you call yourself a southern gentleman then?
A: I like to think I am; I don’t know if everybody would agree. I try to be. I guess it’s just the way I was raised. People think it’s funny when I say sir and ma’am. I get laughed at a lot.
Q: Any good nicknames for you?
A: I go by Mot nowadays, which is Tom spelled backwards, because apparently over the past six months I’ve become a different person.
Q: How have you become a different person?
A: I got a girlfriend. And somehow, that changed who I am? I don’t know. I’m not worried about it.