Former Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki returns as America Needs Farmers honoree

Moeaki played for the Hawkeyes from 2005-09 and went on to a seven-year NFL career.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Former Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki answers questions after getting recognized as the 2022 America Needs Farmers (ANF) Wall of Honor recipient during an Iowa football weekly media availability at Hansen Football Performance Center in Iowa City, Iowa on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Former Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki returned to Iowa City this week to be added to the America Needs Farmers Wall of Honor.

Moeaki, who played for the Hawkeyes from 2005-09, is the 10th inductee since the Wall of Honor was introduced in 2012. He joins Dallas Clark, Chad Greenway, Marshal Yanda, and others on the wall.

“These former Hawkeyes exemplify the tenacity, integrity, and work ethic of Iowa’s farmers, something that coach [Hayden] Fry certainly understood,” Iowa Farm Bureau President Brent Johnson said. “And we do appreciate coach [Kirk] Ferentz carrying on the ANF legacy.”

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation officially partnered with Hawkeye football in 2011, creating an annual America Needs Farmers Game Day.

Fry started the movement during Iowa’s farm crisis in the 1980s, when the agriculture industry suffered through an economic crisis. Fry brought attention to the issue by placing a gold ANF sticker on Iowa’s helmets for the 1985 Rose Bowl game. 

Long after Fry retired, the ANF movement stuck around. This year is ANF’s 37th anniversary. 

“Tony was chosen by the ANF team because of his outstanding character and his perseverance and tenacity that is shared by Iowa farmers,” Johnson said Tuesday. “Like most Iowans today, Tony didn’t grow up on a farm, but he is passionate for agriculture.”

While Moeaki grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, his grandfather was a farmer in Tonga — a Polynesian country. His grandfather had livestock, grain, and fish, providing enough money for the Moeaki family to immigrate to the U.S.

Moeaki came to Iowa out of Wheaton Warrenville South High School in Wheaton, Illinois — about 25 miles west of Chicago. As a five-star recruit, Moeaki could’ve played for almost any school he wanted. He chose Iowa for its coaching staff and proximity to his hometown.

“Just the moment I met coach Ferentz, I think it was my freshman, sophomore year [of high school], he always stuck out to me,” Moeaki said. “He was just one of my favorite coaches to talk to. And I knew the program that he ran and it was everything I thought it was going to be. Then, coming out to Iowa a few times for visits, the people, fans are so nice.”

Moeaki’s five-year Iowa career was hampered by injuries. He medically redshirted in 2007 with a dislocated elbow and broken hand. He missed four games in 2008 with a broken left foot.

Overall, Moeaki recorded 76 receptions for 953 yards in his Iowa career.

“When you’re going through it at the time, I was just thinking, ‘I got to get back out there for my teammates, I got to contribute,” Moeaki said. “… I had a lot of great teammates. I just wanted to be out there and that’s what brought me back every time.”

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Following his Iowa career, Moeaki was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He signed a four-year contract with the Chiefs, but was released in 2013 after missing all of the 2011 season and part of Kansas City’s 2013 campaign.

Moeaki bounced around to other teams, including the Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, and Chicago Bears. His NFL career ended in 2016 after he was cut by the Bears at the end of training camp.

Six years later, Moeaki got married, had a daughter, and moved back to the suburbs of Chicago with his family. This is Moeaki’s first time coming back to Iowa City since his college days, he said. Relatives of both Moeaki and his wife will watch him be honored by the Iowa Farm Bureau during Saturday’s Iowa-Michigan game at Kinnick Stadium.

“Great to have Tony be recognized with the ANF award,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday. “It’s quite a wall there. The names on that wall are impressive, and Tony’s name certainly fits up there, as well. As you can see, starting a new family, young family, so it’s great to see the guys as they move on in life and start the next phase of their lives. Very happy for Tony.”

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