LAWTON — If Michael Moana's life were a movie, this season would be the part every fan of an underdog loves.
It would be Moana, a defensive tackle for Lawton Eisenhower, and his team's “Do Better” year, where they overcome the odds of a bad previous season, perform better than people expect and win. Lawton Ike finished 2-8 last season, and was 1-6 in District 6A-3.
The Lawton Eisenhower defensive tackle sees himself as a combination of characters from “Friday Night Lights” — like middle linebacker Ivory Christian, star Boobie Miles, quarterback Mike Winchell and “the running back that couldn't hold onto the ball.”
“I'm like a big bunch of a mix of all four of them,” Moana said. “The pros and cons, just because everybody has their pros and cons. I sometimes get stuck on different things and I stay doing it. I'm a perfectionist. I have to do it until it's perfectly right. I guess it's a con too because I lose sight of other stuff sometimes.”
In real life, Moana's skills placed him at No. 26 on The Oklahoman's Super 30 list of the top recruits in the state. Pretty good for a kid who, just a few years ago, was only interested in rugby.
Moana was born in Samoa. Part of a military family, he moved from Samoa to Seattle to Hawaii and then Lawton.
Seattle is where he learned about rugby, and Hawaii is where he really learned to play the sport. He also played a little flag football. He grew up watching his father play rugby for a military team. In Hawaii, though, his 6-foot-3, 250-pound size was smaller than many of the other players. Size there is what mattered. Then he moved to Lawton.
“Here, speed kills,” Moana said. “Now, I'm bigger than everyone. I didn't want to stay that size.”
His strength and size are part of his Samoan background. That culture, and the cultures of all the places he's lived, have been more of a “laid back, go with the flow” lifestyle. That's why Lawton Ike coach Boone Copeland can place Moana at center, guard, end or tackle and watch him dominate.