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Listed Small, Playing Big

Andy Lyons / Getty Images

D.J. Moore has heard the scouting reports on him for the NFL draft. Generously listed at 5-10, he’s supposedly too small to play cornerback at the next level. His legs are too skinny and he doesn’t have elite-level speed.

Moore heard those same scouting reports three years ago as a senior at Broome (S.C.) High. In-state powers Clemson and South Carolina, the school he followed growing up, showed little interest. Smaller schools such as Furman and Wofford dangled football or basketball scholarships. Only Vanderbilt offered a Division I-A football scholarship.

“People say a lot of things,” says Moore, who has been training at the Athletes’ Performance facility in Gulf Breeze, Fla., since early January. “I was told I was too little or I wouldn’t make it. I’m guessing some of those schools from my state probably think differently now.”

No doubt. Moore was a big reason for Vanderbilt’s emergence as a force in the ultra-competitive SEC. The Commodores won their first bowl game in 55 years and now the cornerback could become the team’s third first-round pick in four years, following quarterback Jay Cutler (2006) and offensive tackle Chris Williams last season.

One of the faster players training at Athletes’ Performance, Moore says he’s surprised by how little he knew about proper running mechanics. He quickly learned that his big toes should be dorsiflexed (cocked towards your shins) and that he should pump his arms more.

“College coaches may have brought it up, but not to the extent we do here,” he says. “It’s the little stuff that really makes a difference.”

Though soft spoken, Moore is not lacking in confidence. He’s a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys and models his game after that of Deion Sanders. Unlike many underclassmen considering the NFL draft, Moore did not keep teammates and fans waiting until mid-January. Instead, the consensus all-SEC and second-team AP All American announced his plans to go pro right after the Music City Bowl.

At Vanderbilt, Moore made contributions all over the field. Like Sanders, he plays cornerback, wide receiver and returns kicks, showing a tendency to take over a game at times.

In 2007, his sophomore season, he led the Commodores to a win at No.6 South Carolina, showing his hometown team what they missed. He recorded eight tackles and two interceptions and was named national Defensive Player of the Week.

Last season, he caught two touchdowns and made two interceptions against Kentucky, clinching the Commodores sixth win and bowl eligibility while again earning National Defensive Player of the Week honors.

In high school, football might have been Moore’s third-best sport. He was an all-state high jumper and a three-time all-state selection in basketball, leading his team to the state title as a junior. He could dunk as far back as seventh grade—not bad for a player who, contrary to media guide information, stands just 5-foot-9.

“Basketball was always my sport,” he says. “I still feel like I could have been a good player, at least on the college level. I was just too short.”

Aside from height, Moore possesses all of the tools that woo scouts at the Combine and at pro days. He has both a powerfully-built upper body and his leaping ability suggests that he does not lack explosion, even with skinny legs.

His work at wide receiver makes him especially valuable at cornerback as he tends to know routes as well as the men he’s covering. Though he figures to play primarily defensive back in the NFL, teams seem open to the idea of using him in the slot and as a return man.

Either way, he hopes to be proving doubters wrong again.

“It seems like my height is less of an issue now but that’s not the way I’m looking at it,” Moore says. “This is the next level and that means I have to prove myself even more.”

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Success Story, Football, Attitude