Wyatt Moss '10 and Alex Vetras '11: Then and Now...

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Wyatt Moss '10 (left) and Alex Vetras '11 (right).
By Alex Kantor, Sports Information Director

This is not your average coming of age story. This is about two young men who have taken different paths to become leaders of the 2009 Amherst College football team. The first student-athlete was once a young player within a talented and experienced crowd, but now returns as a veteran voice for a youthful crew finding its identity. The second player came to Amherst as a passing footnote, only to climb the depth chart with a quiet confidence that earned him the respect of everyone who watched it happen. This is the story of quad-captains Wyatt Moss ’10 and Alex Vetras ’11.

In the fall of 2006, Moss arrived on campus as a rookie defensive lineman and played a majority of the season on the scout team simulating the opposition’s defense for Amherst’s starting offense. The Amherst coaching staff knew right away that Moss’s skills could be better used on the offensive line, and by his sophomore year, Moss was playing in half of the games. Last season, Moss started every game alongside a trio of seniors to form the best offensive line in the NESCAC.

In 2008, seniors Sam Rudman, Tim Rose, Justin Wiley and Jay Hebb formed the conference’s most experienced offensive line when paired with Moss. Rose and Wiley earned All-NESCAC First Team honors last year, while Rudman was selected to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District Team. Moss was a role player last year, proving to be an extremely consistent and dependable force on the left side amidst a deep pool of team leaders. Amherst head coach E.J. Mills praises Moss’s work and shares that “he did an outstanding job as a younger player on the line last year,” while Moss claims he was able to “take a back seat to those older guys.”

Amherst came into the 2009 preseason with its offensive line being the number one question mark, with the exception of Moss at left tackle. Against Hamilton in the season opener, Moss started alongside four players who were each making their first collegiate start, all of whom now look up to Moss as the experienced leader.

Moss explains that he has enjoyed this season more than he could have imagined, and that he loves that the younger guys have asked him for advice. Most of the time, Moss finds himself just trying to “calm them down so they can perform.” Moss has always known that his teammates have the physical capabilities to get the job done, but has been pleasantly surprised by how quickly the offensive line has jelled.

Last year, Moss and Mills had a number of long conversations about academics as Moss contemplated switching majors. As a first-year, Moss admits he “thought about how much money [he] could make after college with a degree in economics from Amherst.” After taking a number of courses in psychology, Moss fell in love with the material and switched fields of study. Moss calls the switch to psychology a complete 180-degree turn for the better, and finds it much easier to do homework this year, giving him more time for football.

While Moss made transitions on, and off the field, Vetras’ story is quite different. After missing a good portion of the 2007 preseason with pneumonia, Vetras found himself seven or eight players deep on the quarterbacking depth chart. His rookie season was resigned mostly to playing on the scout team, which could easily drive many players to stray in their work ethic. Vetras was not one of those players.

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Mills remembers that Vetras “just quietly kept getting better and better. Taking all the snaps for the scout team, he had this vibe about him that he just knew he was going to be the starter soon enough and that his skills would speak for themselves.” Mills explains that Vetras knew the quarterback position was going to be an open competition last season and that as a sophomore “Alex just attacked it and took the job.”

In his first collegiate start against Hamilton in the 2008 season opener, Vetras completed 25 of 34 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. In one game, it seemed that the Lord Jeffs had found their quarterback for the future.

Over the next month and a half, Vetras led Amherst to a 5-1 record heading into a pivotal game at undefeated Trinity College. Twice during the first three quarters at Trinity, Vetras led the Lord Jeffs on long scoring drives in response to Bantam touchdowns. After a missed extra point with 2:07 to play in the third frame, Amherst trailed 14-13. The Bantams ultimately scored 16 unanswered points in the final quarter to pull out a 30-13 result and clinch the NESCAC title, while Vetras went down with an ankle injury late in the game and did not return. He looked doubtful for the season finale against archrival Williams.

In the days leading up to the Williams game, Vetras explains that he always knew he would play, even as everyone outside the locker room was unsure. Moss recalls talking with other offensive linemen after the Trinity game, and tells that they all “just knew Alex would be ready for Williams.” With the aid of a cortisone shot to his ankle during warm-ups and a second shot at halftime, Vetras was able to play through the pain in one of the most memorable efforts in recent Amherst history.

“Even if I was on crutches for weeks afterwards it didn’t matter,” recalls Vetras. Senior running back Aaron Rauh explains that “Vet playing through his injury last year against Williams really showed his commitment and dedication to the team. Knowing that he will get the job done amd that he will make the right decision every play is vital to our success as a team.” Amherst came up on the wrong side of a 24-23 result against Williams that afternoon, but a star emerged in Vetras.

His gutsy performance against the Ephs last season and his everyday effort have earned Vetras a leading role for the Lord Jeffs. That was reflected when his teammates voted him a captain as a junior this fall. The tag of being a captain is not something that either Vetras or Moss takes lightly. Moss explains that “this is the best honor you can have,” because unlike conference awards, “this is what your teammates think of you, not the other coaches or the media.”

Their respect for role of captain and their work ethic are not the only things these two leaders have in common. Visiting Professor of Psychology Dr. Richard Halgin has taught both students and explains their similarities. “Both individuals represent the very best of what it means to be a student-athlete. In fact, I refer to them as scholar-athletes because they consistently demonstrate their dedication to the highest standards of academic rigor,” tells Halgin. “Their class attendance is flawless, and their participation is energized, intelligent and insightful. Each of these men is a model of dedication to disciplined scholarship, and I feel honored to have had them as my students.”

One of the mottos for this year’s football teams is “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” and no one embodies this mantra more than Moss and Vetras do. One has moved from defense to become a captain on offense, while the other has gone from a scout team player to a second-year starting quarterback and junior captain. After beginning this season with two straight victories, you can bet Moss and Vetras are more concerned with finishing the season with two straight victories.