DAVIE -- The Dolphins agreed to terms with 14 undrafted free agents on Monday, but none could possibly understand the life and times of Ben Moa.
Moa is listed as a tight end/halfback/fullback and the Dolphins want him to report to camp Friday as a fullback, ready to take out defensive linemen much the same way he once took out noted University of Oregon muscleman Igor Olshansky.
"Igor doesn't like me very much," Moa, 23, said Monday evening by phone from California. "I knocked him out. I had to do what I had to do."
And that is part of the trouble.
Miami won't release the names of the signees until Thursday, but officials at their schools confirmed the names of seven: Moa, fullback Doug Easlick (Virginia Tech), cornerback Melvin Millhouse (Hawaii), running back Fred Russell (Iowa), linebacker Winston Taylor (Illinois), tight end Hart Turner (South Carolina) and tackle Andy Wagstrom (South Dakota State.)
Not one has a story to tell quite like Moa's.
Moa, 6-feet-1, 252 pounds, would like to tell you about the three touchdowns he ran for and one he passed for in a victory at Air Force last season, and how he was a semifinalist for the Mackey Award, and leave it at that.
But he knows why he wasn't drafted.
"They didn't draft me because of my background," Moa said. "I was once a gang-banger. But people change. If you make a mistake you can come back from it."
Moa's troubles began early and are far-reaching. Raised in Southern California, he was involved in fighting, stealing cars and selling drugs by the age of 10. At 12, Moa stole a car and fired six shots at a gang member in another car, connecting with one. A police chase ensued, as did seven months in juvenile detention and two years in a correctional facility. After a stellar prep career and a redshirt season at Utah, there were great expectations for Moa.
But then it all came apart at a summer wedding. A few of Moa's cousins came inside to report that something was going down outside with a rival gang.
Moa told his new wife, Christina, to go home. Soon thereafter, outside, Moa took a bullet to the right side of his chest. After a two-week hospital stay, Moa returned to Utes camp where he would make one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
"Those things he did when he was little," Christina said. "They haunted him."
Alone in the Utah locker room, Moa stole the wallet of a former teammate. He said his head wasn't clear. He said he saw the wallet and reverted back to a mind-set he thought he had left behind.
"Growing up, you don't choose your environment," Moa said. "Until you get older, you don't get to make these choices. As a kid, I thought gang-banging was normal. Then I got a taste of the real life and should have ran with it. Instead, I stepped back."
Caught, Moa was suspended for a season and quit football. But an impressive showing at a junior college convinced Utah to take him back.
"I could have gone somewhere else, but had to go back to clear my name and my family's name," Moa said.
As a senior, Moa had 26 catches for 366 yards and ran 31 times for 151 yards with three touchdowns. Scouts loved Moa's outstanding hands, body control and athleticism.
They didn't like his past. They didn't like that when he lifted up his shirt, scar after scar was evident on his torso. And a story for each one.
"I had heard a lot of stories about Ben," Utah offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said Monday. "But he was great. We gave him a clean slate and he didn't let us down at all."
With two boys, 3-year-old Sione and 3-month old Aisea, Moa has never needed to concentrate more than he will this weekend. Late Monday night, he was out on a football field, running routes, catching passes, dreaming dreams.
"My scars will never heal on the outside, but in order for me to change I needed to forgive all people who hurt me and forgive myself for the people I hurt," Moa said. "I'm done with all that now. I want to be portrayed as a changed man, doing what he has to do, trying to support my family, willing to do anything to make it."