Moses Alipate's father, Tuineau, was a linebacker for the Jets and Vikings in the mid-1990s. His uncle Jed Hansen was a second baseman for the Royals a few years later. His cousin Naufahu Tahi scored two touchdowns in a four-year career as a Vikings fullback.
But coming out of Bloomington Jefferson High School three years ago, Moses, a quarterback with his father's size, his uncle's rocket arm and his cousin's nimble feet, looked like he would accomplish more memorable feats than all of them.
And maybe he will.
Alipate, a quarterback-turned-tight end, is a year away from graduating from the University of Minnesota with a double major, a business marketing and youth studies degree that he intends to put to use helping others. He has worked with a group that distributes food to the hungry, and one that sends medical supplies to Africa, and if you ask him his goals, he isn't thinking about pro sports. "I'd like to start a nonprofit organization," said Alipate, who has two years of eligibility remaining on the football field. "Taking care of people."
That's a dream he would like to pursue someday soon, an ambition that has already replaced the dream he had when he enrolled at Minnesota -- of quarterbacking the Gophers to victories, bowl games and championships. The past two springs, it appeared that Alipate was a serious candidate to take snaps in TCF Bank Stadium, that his chance could come at any moment.
But it never happened. Adam Weber held the job for Alipate's first two seasons on campus; MarQueis Gray inherited the gig once Weber graduated to the NFL; and now four young quarterbacks are jockeying for first-team status once Gray departs. Alipate's weight, a workable 230 pounds when he enrolled just after his 19th birthday, now tops 290 pounds, a body type unsuited for the position even at 6-foot-5.
"What we do at quarterback, mobility-wise, it's tough for him," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. "But I want to give him an opportunity to get on the field."
Kill began asking Alipate to consider a new position last spring, but it took another training camp, another season practicing but never playing, for Alipate to give up on the hope that his cannon of a right arm -- he occasionally gets to show off his arm strength by throwing faux kickoffs during special-teams drills, in order to keep from wearing out kickers -- might propel him to the front of the depth chart.
Once the season ended, Kill said, "Moses came to me and said, 'Coach, I want to give it a shot.' "
He's getting one now. Alipate is the biggest tight end the Gophers have considered in quite awhile. Kill would like him to lose 25-30 pounds, but already Alipate has impressed his coaches with his athletic ability. He played baseball and basketball long before he took up football, and "he's caught the ball well," Kill said. "He's learning the position. It's only fair for us to evaluate him a lot more [this fall], because right now, his wheels are spinning."
His attitude hasn't changed, however. Alipate enjoys football, he says -- even the practices. Learning a new position is tough, but he remains the cheerful, buoyant personality he's always been.
"Whenever a quarterback gets recruited out of high school, you want to be the guy," Alipate said. "But at the same time, if that person loves football, he'll do whatever he can to help his team." The new position suits him, he added, even blocking linebackers.
"Sometimes it's fun to be a little bit aggressive ... to get down in the trenches and block, and also get out on the routes and catch, too. I've had a great time learning."
Learning isn't playing, however, and there are no guarantees he will ever set foot on the field, something unthinkable when he was a highly touted recruit. Does he wish, in retrospect, that he had chosen some other school?
"No. The great thing about the University of Minnesota [is] it's one of the top academic colleges," Alipate said. "At worst, I'll leave here with my degree. I have great memories here, and I got a chance to get a free degree."