Oct. 15, 2016

By Lauren Moses

Football is more than just a game for UVA fifth-year offensive lineman Michael Mooney. It is all in the family.

“It is a dream come true,” he said. “It was always one of my hopes to play in college, but it was not always what I was best at.”

Mooney comes from a family of athletes. His father, Chuck, attended and played on the offensive line at Franklin Marshall, a Division III school in Lancaster, Pa. His oldest brother, CJ, played both football as (a defensive end) and lacrosse at Pennsylvania, while his other brother, Sean, who is just a year older than Michael, played tight end at Towson University.

“We used to just [play] us three, do one-on-ones and switch off at quarterback,” Mooney said. “Looking back on backyard family games, Sean and I were always on the same team for organized football.”

Mooney has always looked up to his brothers and admired their hard work and all the support and guidance they provided while growing up. Although he may not have wanted to go to all their practices as a kid, he appreciates it now.

“Both of my older brothers would always drag me along to all of their workouts. My oldest brother was kind of hard on me,” he said. “He would always keep pushing me. He would drag me along to workouts when I was in seventh or eighth grade. He would make me go work out with him and the older guys on the football team. Looking back, that was awesome. It taught me the work ethic I needed.”

It was not until his junior year of high school that Mooney began to see his improvement with football.

“Freshman year of high school, I was like third or fourth-string wide receiver or tight end,” Mooney said. “Sophomore year, I played junior varsity and was rotating in, but I did not play offensive line until junior year. That is when things started to click for me.”

And ever since then, he has been intrigued by the game.

It may come as a surprise that a player who once played wide receiver and tight end, two of the most visible positions on the field, would end up playing one of the least talked-about positions.

Although Mooney’s position on the offensive line gets overlooked, he loves it because, to him, he does not care if no one is watching except for the coaches and parents.

“It’s a pride thing,” he said.

Mooney, a self-described book junkie, compares playing one of the most physical positions on the field to a constant battle, much like his favorite book, Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly. The 6-6, 295-pound offensive lineman says when he is not reading for classes, he said he is always reading a book for pleasure. His love for reading did not just magically begin once he entered college. Education has always been huge for him and his family.

“I started reading for fun around the sixth or seventh grade,” Mooney said. “My mom (Diane) was a big reader, so she always pushed it on me. I really like all six of O’Reilly’s books in that series. There are not pure history books, but are more like historical thrillers. It is not opinionated, but he gives a lot of facts about things you would not know about. He writes it in a very exciting way, so with every page, you want to turn it to the next one.”

Mooney, who comes from a big family, really appreciates all the love and support they give him, especially during his college career. In his final season, he has high hopes of getting to a bowl game. He says he is more confident in himself and his teammates this year behind the first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

“Coach Mendenhall and (offensive line) Coach (Garett) Tujague always teach that if you outwork someone, that beats talent,” Mooney said. “They have redefined hard work for me. They keep pushing you to limits you did not know you had.”

He also credits his family, which has pushed him to best the best version of himself, day in and day out.

“I want to thank my parents, who gave me every opportunity there was while growing up, and for supporting me and believing in me since day one,” Mooney said. “Both of my brothers have always been there to push me and I appreciate everything they have done for me. It is always great to have two brothers that you can be so close with, along with my sister, Katie, who has always been a great friend to me.”