The Money Moment

Local Sports

Once overlooked, he shined when all eyes were on him.

AUSTIN, Tx (KVEO) – What makes a single moment special?

Is it the moment itself?

The Celebration?

Or is it the journey and people that got you there?

In the second quarter of a Saturday matchup against the University of Texas at El Paso, Sam Ehlinger and the Texas Longhorn offense eyed a 2nd & Goal with just 10 seconds left on the clock.

With the eyes of over 20,000 fans watching intently, Ehlinger rolled out right and found a man wide open in the endzone.

The crowd erupted.

But not quite as loud as the Longhorn sideline.

THE JOURNEY

Phillip Money and his wife Lisa raised their son Kai in South Padre Island, Tx.

Despite an extensive football career including his his years as the quarterback at Rice University, Phillip wanted to expose Kai to all different kinds of sports.

“Not only the traditional sports,” Phillip said. “But, also the non-traditional sports that I do with my business.”

Kai excelled in basketball, track-and-field and football, but you could also find him kiteboarding, wakeboarding and surfing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Regardless of his exposure to different kinds of sports, Kai gravitated toward his dad’s first love—Football.

“I played flag football starting [when I was] five or six years old,” Kai said. “I got into tackle in fifth grade, and it was that season where I had awesome coaches and realized I really love this game.”

His love sparked a dedication to the game.

His dedication elevated Kai to historic status as a quarterback in the Rio Grande Valley.

In four years at Saint Joseph Academy, Kai accounted for 13,235 total yards and 155 touchdowns. Saint Joseph Academy Athletic Director Tino Villarreal understood just how special those four years were.

“We were just lucky to have him wear one of our jerseys and represent our community,” Coach Villarreal said. “I’ve always known that Kai Money can compete at [the division-one level].”

Coach Villarreal wasn’t the only one who expected to see the Bloodhound quarterback compete at the next level.

“Coming out of high school, I had always expected to get recruited,” Kai said of himself. “My senior year, it just didn’t happen.”

It was a tough pill to swallow, especially for one of the few people who was a part of Kai’s career in its entirety.

“I felt so bad for Kai,” Phillip said. “I’ll put it diplomatically… I was pissed.”

Thanks to a strong foundation off the football field, Kai enrolled at the University of Texas with plans to pursue a degree in Biology. Kai also planned to try out for the Texas Longhorn Football Team in the spring.

“I acted everyday like I was on the team,” Kai said. “I knew deep down that I was ready for this and I could compete at this level.”

The only problem?

Kai’s quarterback position is filled by a slue of top recruits and one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, Sam Ehlinger. Regardless, Kai set his sights on the wide receiver position, seeking out the help of a former Texas Longhorn Wide Receiver Jaxon Shipley for training.

“Anytime that I would have a free opening in any of my receiver training sessions in Austin, I would let him know and he would find a way to get there,” Shipley said. “It took him a much shorter time period to start picking up some of the techniques than a lot of guys would.”

It didn’t take long for Kai to make a believer of his new coach, either.

“It was kind of unique to see a guy that was so driven,” Shipley said. “I became a believer after about of month of him being in Austin.”

When it was time for tryouts, Kai impressed, earning a spot on one of the top teams in the country as a walk-on.

After dressing in a handful of games throughout the 2019 season, Kai was hoping for more opportunity in 2020, but concerns related to Covid-19 put the season in question. After a bit of patience, the Texas Longhorns and the Big 12 Conference announced a delayed schedule set to kick off in September.

Kai was ready to dress for a matchup against UTEP, but he also prepared for the possibility of playing time.

THE MOMENT

“I tried to stay level headed about it,” Kai said. “I just thought, ‘I’ve been practicing with the best competition.'”

The Texas Longhorns took the field for a matchup against the Miners. Despite limited-crowd attendance due to health and safety concerns, the Longhorns took the field in front of over 20,000 fans.

Soon, Kai took the field in front of over 20,000 fans.

Kai featured in the receiving crew, but didn’t see any targets early on. Nearing the end of the first half, Kai recorded his first catch as a Texas Longhorn on a quick out-route from Ehlinger.

Two plays later, Sam Ehlinger and the Texas Longhorn offense eyed a 2nd & Goal with just 10 seconds left on the clock.

“I knew if I could get my guy off his spot, I would have an opportunity to score,” Kai remembered. “Sure enough, I was open in the endzone, Sam threw it and I was like, ‘here it comes.'”

With a toe drag for certainty, Kai hauled in a 6-yard touchdown reception, sending the 20,000-person crowd into a frenzy.

Kai was met with an even bigger frenzy on his home sideline.

“What was even better than scoring was going to the sideline and seeing the support from my teammates,” Kai said. “It was super special.”

Once the hugs stalled and the attention turned to halftime, Kai looked across the field to the section of fans just behind the UTEP bench. There, Kai’s mom and dad stood in awe.

“I could see him running back with the ball,” Phillip said. “I looked up at the big screen and they replayed [the play]. It was just… super.”

Just over 350 miles south, Coach Villarreal and his staff were celebrating with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes.

A kid from Brownsville just scored a touchdown for the Texas Longhorns,” Coach Villarreal said. “That’s a big deal.”

The sentiment was reciprocated by more than just the Saint Joseph Academy community.

“I think impressive is an understatement,” Shipley said. “I mean, really, it’s unbelievable.”

Kai finished his debut game with 4 receptions, 26 receiving yards and one touchdown.

Once the game was over, Kai called his former high school coach. After an emotional moment with his bloodhound family, Kai reflected on the most special moment of the evening.

“To have [my dad] and my mom in the stands, knowing that they saw that moment, it was just unbelievable,” Kai said. “I really can’t even put it into words.”

THE NEXT JOURNEY

AUSTIN, Tx (KVEO) – What makes a single moment special?

Is it the moment itself?

The Celebration?

Or is it the journey and people that got you there?

In all reality, Kai’s moment was nothing more than an opportunity to reflect on where he’s been, celebrate where he is and look forward to what’s to come.

Now, Kai’s attention focuses to a September 26 road matchup against Texas Tech University, where he is listed on the depth chart.

“I’m just ready for it to keep going.”

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