• Diane Roberts

Chet Moeller, Navy's Best Defensive Player, Has Number Retired

by Diane Roberts

It was a gorgeous day in Annapolis, Md for former Navy football player Chet Moeller to bask in the glow of love and appreciation for the talent he forged on the gridiron as Navy retired Moeller's number 48 with a ceremony during the first quarter of the game against UCF.

Considered the best defensive player to ever come out of the Navy program, Moeller is only the fifth Midshipman to earn the honor.

He was selected a unanimous All-American and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

"Well, it's obviously very exciting and very rewarding," Moeller said. "I'm thankful that my teammates were out there and my family was standing beside me . . . very gratifying."

The 1976 graduate registered 275 tackles during his Navy career, including a school record 25 tackles-for-a-loss as a junior. The former safety is said to have revolutionized the position.

"Coach Belichick and Pete Carrol talked about using his [Moeller's] cut-up tape, of him coming off the edge," current Navy football Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo said of his coaching peers. "Obviously, I never saw him play live, but I got to see his video. I mean, he was amazing."

Bill Belichick is the Head Coach of the NFL's New England Patriots and has won five Super Bowls with that organization. He also was the Head Coach of the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns. Pete Carrol is the current Head Coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, and former Head Coach at the University of Southern California.

Moeller's teammate Ed Gilmore remembered how hard #42 worked when they played together: "He epitomized the phrase, 'Practice like you play.' He practiced harder than anybody and played harder than anybody.'"

Former Navy safety, #48, Chet Moeller pictured in action. Navy retired Moeller's #48 in a ceremony on October 2, 2021

Like Moeller's former teammate, Gilmore, his son Trey also beamed with pride at the recognition bestowed upon his father.

"Hearing about how well and highly they speak of him and how big of an impact he had on the team and what a good player he was . . . it just makes me feel so proud, so super happy for my Dad," Trey said.

When asked how being called the greatest defensive player in Navy history made him feel, Chet Moeller answered, "It doesn't really register. I can't imagine somebody saying that to me. But, I mean, it's very exciting.

"A lot of stories were told today about things I did that I don't remember!"

One of the stories he does remember -- and so do his teammates -- is when Navy ruined the University of Pittsburgh's Homecoming in 1975. That's the game when Chet stuffed future Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, saving a touchdown.

"Tony Dorsett had run a sweep," Gilmore remembers, "and stuck his foot in the ground at the four, or five yard line and Chet chased him down. It was unbelievable."

"Pittsburgh was driving, got down to the three," Moeller himself recalls. "We stopped 'em four times and the last time was when we pushed Tony Dorsett out of bounds, and that was so gratifying."

Players told Trey about the time his dad punished Syracuse signal callers.

"He knocked out the first quarterback," Trey said, still beaming, "and then the backup came in. He knocked out that quarterback. So they brought in the tight end to play and the tight end was having to lead Syracuse. They were playing with their string quarterback and Dad was taking all the QB's out!"

Chet Moeller, left, and his son Trey at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, MD. on the occasion of Chet Moeller's jersey #42 being retired by Navy Football. Photo courtesy of Trey Moeller .

Moeller was team co-captain his senior year, and lest you think he was just a beast on the field, he won academic honors, too as a senior. After graduation from the Naval Academy, Moeller went on to serve four years as an officer in the Marine Corps.

Chet Moeller is now a part a of a distinguished list of players who have had their numbers retired at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. The four other players so honored are:

  • 12: QB Roger Staubach

  • Class of 1964

  • 1963 Heisman Trophy winner

  • After graduation, served in the Navy including a tour of duty in Vietnam

  • Joined Dallas Cowboys in 1969. Led team to two Super Bowl victories

  • 19: QB Keenan Reynolds

  • Class of 2016

  • #1 in NCAA career rushing yards for a quarterback

  • Most passing touchdowns in Navy football history

  • Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016

  • 27: RB Joe Bellino

  • Class of 1961,

  • 1960 Heisman Trophy winner

  • Joined Boston Patriots in 1961 as a kick return specialist

  • After football, served a total of 28 years in the Navy and Naval Reserve and retired with the rank of Captain.

  • 30: RB Napoleon McCallum

  • Class of 1985

  • After graduation, played one season for the Los Angeles Raiders before completing his military service requirement.

  • He rejoined the Raiders in 1990 and scored five playoff touchdowns after the 1993 season.

edited for web by Joe Harman