Dec. 15, 2011
BOISE, Idaho -
By Megan Allen/USU Athletic Media Relations
To put it simply, Eric Moats, a senior wide receiver and holder from Highlands Ranch, Colo., is the ideal definition of a student-athlete. While football is an important part of his life, he makes sure to find the balance between his sport and his school work, all while constantly giving back to the community.
That dedication to community service has earned Moats the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Idaho Sports Medicine Institute Humanitarian Award as the USU's recipient for the honor, presented to the senior Thursday night at the Humanitarian Awards Banquet, one of the many activities during bowl week. After a short video on Moats and his service, USU head coach Gary Andersen introduced Moats and then Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Executive Director Kevin McDonald presented Moats with the award. Moats then gave a short acceptance speech. Ohio tight end Jordan Thompson was the award honoree for the Bobcats.
"Eric's motivation, determination and integrity will allow him continued success in whatever he chooses to pursue in life," said Jason Thomas, assistant director of Student-Athlete Services at Utah State. "Eric's success at our institution stems from his exceptional ability to juggle the rigors of academics and athletics, while still maintaining balance as an individual."
As a part of that balance, Moats is always anxious to get out into the community and help others in any way he can. He strives to reciprocate the support others offer to him and the university.
"In Cache Valley, everything is based around the university. Athletes are getting a lot of scholarships and food and everything, so to be able to give back to the community is something that we kind of owe them. They come to the games and support us," Moats said. "I think it's really nice to be able to give back to the community and see their smiles outside of athletic endeavours."
Amber Rae Childers works in the Athletic Department as the Academic and Life Skills Coordinator. She oversees the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the Student-Athlete Mentor program (SAMs). Part of her job includes providing student-athletes with opportunities to get involved in the community.
"Eric displays his leadership and desire to help others within both the Utah State and Cache Valley communities," she said. "He gives back to the local community through his involvement in events to provide service to those within Cache Valley that are less fortunate."
"Eric has an inner drive that has brought him success not only as an athlete, but more importantly as a student," Thomas said. "He is a spiritual, dedicated and selfless individual who seeks to make others around him better and whose character is admired amongst his peers and adults alike."
Moats came to Utah State as a walk-on prior to the 2008 season. By the 2010 season, he had a scholarship and has started several games. He is constantly giving the game his best effort and putting everything he can into practice and performance. His hard work does not go unnoticed, especially by head coach Gary Andersen.
"The way he plays the game is with his toughness and the way he prepares every single week, from January all the way through December. When he's out there, he competes; he makes plays," Andersen said. "He's kind of the guy who gets in there and does the grunt work of a wide receiver. On the field he's an upbeat kid. He carries himself in a winning way at practice and at games."
No matter how much time football takes from his day-to-day life, Moats will always make time to help others, even if it means putting off homework until later.
"You're pretty busy with football and school and everything, as well as trying to find free time. They work it out pretty well and put the community service opportunities at times that we can go out and do it, whether it's after practice or just between classes," he said. "We're always willing to sacrifice a little bit of school work to go read to kids or help with a canned food drive or whatever it may be. It does put a strain on you sometimes, but the reward of doing it is a lot better than just saying `No, I've got too much homework to do instead.'"
In his time at Utah State, Moats has been involved in a number of different community service events. He is one of 18 student-athletes who serve on SAAC, who work to enhance the student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting welfare and fostering a positive image of student-athletes.
As a two-year member of the SAMs program, he has proved himself to be an excellent role model for younger student-athlete. SAMs are nominated by their coaches and go through a rigorous interview and training process. The primary function of the SAMs program is in offering experiences and knowledge to new student-athletes.
Outside of the Athletic Department, Moats also gets involved in service opportunities on the USU campus. He has participated in the campus-wide event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Male students don high-heeled shoes and march around campus, raising awareness of sexual assault, and sexual violence against women.
"Heels are not easy. I have a lot of respect for women wearing them," he said. "It was a great thing, not only for the athletes but for the entire campus."
Moats has put on the heels and been a part of the tradition event two times, and even though it was difficult and painful, it was a learning experience and was for a great cause.
"The entire team participated the two times I did it, so you have all these football players who aren't exactly the smallest people, walking around campus in high heels, raising awareness for sexual harassment," he said. "Those heels did not feel good, I don't walk in them very well. It was a really good experience and did a good job of getting the message out."
Moats' favorite service event was called "Dads & Donuts." The team took a 30-minute bus ride to an elementary school to spend time with students and their dads and read books to the kids.
"The kids didn't really know who we were individually, but they knew we were athletes," he said. "A lot of them were kind of nervous and shy, but when you started reading, they beamed up with big smiles on their faces."
Moats said some of the kids really got into it and had their day made getting to spend time with the football team.
"I remember the kid that read with Diondre (former quarterback Diondre Borel). As soon as they got done, he grabbed the book and sprinted over to his dad, grinning. It really made his day," Moats said. "It was a long bus ride and some of the guys were kind of second-guessing going. But as soon as we got done with it, it was really gratifying."
Moats cites his passion for the Harry Potter series as a way to connect to the kids he works with.
"If these kids know anything about it, if they aren't your typical muggles, we'll be able to chat about it. That's definitely a positive," he said. "We grew up with Harry Potter. We were the same age as the characters when the books came out. My friends and I kind of grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan; that's an understatement."
His teammates, coaches and advisers will all be quick to say that Moats is one who goes above and beyond the call of duty. His dedication to the team, the university and the community are a huge part of the man he is today.
"His expectations of himself and of his team are very high. He holds himself at a high level of accountability," Andersen said. "He's always the guy who wants to be involved. He's always the young man who goes out of his way to help out, not just the community, but the university in general. He's one that we would all be very proud to call our son."
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