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Notre Dame Football

Moala on the mend: Irish LB ahead of pace for return

April 1, 2021

The severity of the injury seemed obvious at once.

Paul Moala, Notre Dame's gritty linebacker with the unrelenting motor, wasn't hopping up from the ground.

It was the Fighting Irish's third game of college football's unprecedented, pandemic-addled 2020 season.

They had just returned from an extended hiatus, due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team, and were hosting Florida State.

That was Oct. 10, 2020; 168 days later, Notre Dame had started its 12th spring camp under Brian Kelly.

Moala, perhaps surprisingly so, was not among Irish players recovering from injury who would have no opportunity to factor into the 15-session spring camp.

Per a 2018 study in the medical journal Foot and Ankle International, the typical recovery period for an NFL player to return from Achilles surgery is 340 days.

Kelly, however, predicted Moala would be a factor for the rebranded Notre Dame defense under first-year coordinator Marcus Freeman.

"It's going really well,” Kelly said of the rehab of the former Penn High School (Mishawaka, Indiana) standout. “I mean, fabulous, actually. I think he's got a chance to help us here in the spring.

“Help us or help himself, I guess more than anything else. There is a chance he could be in 7-on-7 and do some things here in the latter half of spring ball.”

The chance for a meaningful spring for Moala exists only because of the 5-foot-11, 224-pounder's determined approach.

Extra therapy. Extra work. Extra early. Anything it takes.

“I ended up tearing my Achilles on a certain play where I planted my foot wrong,” Moala told reporters via Zoom. “And two days later, I got surgery, recovered quickly after that surgery, and I've just been going to rehab every day, before practice, before workouts, trying to get that extra work in to recover as quickly as possible so I can return and help the team out in any way possible.

“As of right now, I'm still limited, but I'm looking forward to helping the 'Rover' group and the linebacker group in any way that I can.”

To that end, Moala is prepared to lean on having spent the past three years as the roommate of former Irish All-American linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

“He was also my roommate, so the connection outside of football was definitely a lot stronger,” said Moala, who's amassed 14 tackles, six for losses, in his last 13 games. “So to be able to see him ball out like he did last season, it was truly inspiring and I took a lot of notes of how he played the way he played and the way he acted. Not only on the football field but outside of the field.”

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