Ryan Moeller isn't a fan of what-ifs, but visions of what he could have been as a running back at Colorado bothered him during his first season in Boulder.

After all, as a senior at Rifle High School in 2012, Moeller rushed for 3,002 yards and 43 touchdowns. It was one of the greatest single-season performances in the history of Colorado high school football.

After walking on at CU in 2013, he had ideas of flashing those running back skills with the Buffs.

CU head coach Mike MacIntyre had other ideas.

"I was watching him and I said, 'Ryan, just trust me, I think you could be an unbelievable safety,'" MacIntyre said recently. "I thought he could be a really good running back, but I thought he could be a great safety."

Moeller reluctantly put his trust in MacIntyre.

"I started playing defense and the rest is history," he said.

Moeller started as a walk-on from a small school and went on to earn a scholarship, then a starting job and then All-Pac-12 honors a year ago.

Now a fifth-year senior, Moeller is one of the most valuable players on a defense that started the season with an impressive performance in Friday's 17-3 win against Colorado State.

"I'm blessed," Moeller said recently about his journey at CU. "I have a lot of people to thank: definitely my family and friends and old coaches and supporting staff and people who have helped pushed me and not settle. It's so easy to not want to do something. Coaches, their job is to make us do things that we don't want to do so we can be better and we can be who we want to be."


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That's exactly what MacIntyre did for Moeller.

Despite his brilliant senior season at Rifle (where he also had eight interceptions on defense and returned kicks), Moeller's only scholarship offers came from CSU-Pueblo and Colorado Mesa.

Taking a scholarship would have been the easy route, and Moeller might have been a star running back at either school. But, he always would have wondered if he could have made it at the Division I level.

"When I was making my decision, the what-ifs were just driving me crazy," he said. "When the chips are on the table, why not go where I want to go? Somewhere I've liked since I was little, somewhere I know I'd be happy if football doesn't work out and somewhere I believe in what their philosophy was."

MacIntyre offered Moeller a chance to walk on, but assured him it would be a lot of hard work and a lot grinding. To the farm boy from Rifle, that was no big deal.

"Well, crap, that's what growing up on a ranch is like," he said.

The first challenge for Moeller came on that day MacIntyre moved him to defense.

"I'm not going to lie, I was pretty salty," Moeller said. "I was pretty upset about it. I was in my own little world for a while, just upset."

It wasn't until about halfway through that season, as Moeller was toiling on the scout team, that the light bulb went off.

"I'm like, 'I might as well be trying to get better over here,'" he said. "We had (Nelson) Spruce over there (on offense); Paul Richardson, Sefo (Liufau), Connor Wood, Kyle Slavin. There were so many guys I could work against to get better.

"It's probably one of the best things that's happened to me. It was a situation I didn't want to be in and I was put in, and I had to choose to fight or flight. There wasn't any way around it, and we've all seen what I chose."

Choosing to fight was really the only way for Moeller, who has made his head coach proud.

"He's a special young man," MacIntyre said. "I really have grown to love and admire Ryan Moeller for his work ethic."

Moeller's hard work has turned him into a leader for the Buffs, but he's never forgotten those who pushed him.

"On the field, what you see from me is also a product of everyone who has helped make me who I am," he said. "I wouldn't be here if they didn't believe in and have faith in me. I owe them a huge gratitude."

That includes MacIntyre, who put Moeller's career on a different path than he imagined.

While Moeller has fully embraced being a standout defender, he wouldn't mind if MacIntyre let him run the ball just once this year.

"Rudy-style it," Moeller said with a laugh. "Heck yeah, I would love to do that.

"I'd have to brush up on how to carry the ball, though.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.