Ogden • Arriving at the Weber State campus for his freshman year of college, Haini Moimoi believed he would someday be one of the Wildcats' primary running backs when his collegiate career came to an end.
Well, sure enough, that's what happened — although Moimoi's trek to get to this point is far from a straight line.
Moimoi, from Maplewood, Minnesota, led Weber State with 57 yards on a dozen carries in the Wildcats' 22-15 victory over Cal Poly last Saturday. He also led the team in rushing yardage in a mid-October victory over Montana State, gaining 85 in a 45-27 win.
But prior to that? Moimoi had a total of eight career carries and it was a career that began when he came to Ogden in 2010.
"Pretty old," said Moimoi when revealing his current age of 24. "It was a hard journey and a long one, definitely."
His path through college, like many in Utah, involved an LDS Church mission.
That's not all though.
A recruit of former coach Ron McBride, Moimoi was redshirted his first year at Weber State. And it was a year where he admits he didn't do what was necessary to stay in school.
"I took a break from football and worked. I don't know, I thought that's what I needed at the time," said Moimoi, who struggled with grades his first year. "I needed to think about what I'm really doing out here. I think that happens to a lot of people."
In fact, by the fall of 2011, Moimoi was beginning a whole year of not being in school at all, and after that came the two-year mission that sent him to Oakland.
Coming back to Utah in 2014, Moimoi was attending Salt Lake Community College when McBride — the former University of Utah coach who then led Weber State from 2005 to 2011 — recommended him to new coach Jay Hill.
"It was Coach McBride who brought him to my attention," Hill said. "He told me that this kid's got a lot of ability and to take a look at him."
Finally in 2015, five years after his introduction to the Weber State program, Moimoi has able to actually put on a Wildcats' football uniform.
This year, Weber State started the season with four running backs on the roster who had gained a hundred yards in a game at one point or another. Moimoi was not part of that list. However, a quick succession of injuries, including ones to Treshawn Garrett and Emmanuel Pooler, paved the way for him to finally to get his shot.
"For me, the deal was that I was going to work hard and play my role," said Moimoi, who did lose a year of eligibility between his freshman and junior years. "There's a lot of different roles we can play on this team. I knew that, if I worked hard, there would be a role that would come up eventually that I would be asked to play."
"Haini's done a tremendous job of seizing an opportunity. He came in when a few guys were banged up," said Weber State quarterback Jadrian Clark. "He's just done an unbelievable job. I just can't say how proud I am of him.
"As a teammate and a brother, he's just stepped up to the plate."
Prior to moving to Utah, Moimoi's life wasn't exactly confined to the state of Minnesota. His family made annual long-distance summer excursions to perform a family act that included "fire knife" dancing — a specialty listed on Moimoi's Weber State bio.
"At luaus, you'll see people spinning the fire. It's a Samoan thing," Moimoi said. "You have this thing that you fish with and you just light both ends on fire, do some tricks and try not to burn yourself.
"Growing up, I did that a lot. My family would do those luaus, shows for weddings, receptions," he added. "We traveled to the east coast, we came to the west coast — just anywhere we could get a job."
It's fair to say that this family act has now relocated on, at least a semi-permanent basis, to Utah. Haini's younger brother, Gordon, who went to Timpview High, is also on the Weber State roster.
The Wildcats have only one game left on their regular season schedule. If Weber wins at Idaho State this Saturday, the 'Cats will have their first seven-victory season since 2009 — back when Moimoi once rushed for over 300 yards in a Minnesota high school game.
That kind of success wasn't in store at Weber for Moimoi, but he says he's happy with the way everything worked out.
"I can definitely say that this has been a great experience for me, coming back from my mission and playing for this coaching staff," Moimoi said. "There's a big difference, but I like the outcome this year."