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College football: Oberlin High graduate Jason Moore is close to realizing NFL dream

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    Oberlin High graduate Jason Moore is lifted up by a teammate after scoring a touchdown for the University of Findlay this season. Moore has set multiple school records for the Oilers and has drawn interest from NFL teams.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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Jason Moore has learned the value of patience.

Throughout his six-year journey at the University of Findlay, the wide receiver has suffered a season-ending injury, lost more than half of his final year to a suspension and buried both of his grandparents.

The Oberlin native was not deterred. All he did was set a school record for career receiving yards (3,125), receptions (195) and receiving touchdowns (37). He’s recorded at least 100 yards receiving in 17 games, another school record.

His patience, and hard work, has been rewarded with an invite to the 2019 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 19, in Pasadena, Calif., bringing Moore’s life long dream of playing in the NFL closer to reality.

“He had NFL aspirations the day he walked in the door,” Findlay coach Rob Keys said. “That was during the recruiting process. We talked about it, he said, ‘Coach, I really want to play at the next level.’ Anybody who tells me that during recruiting, I tell them flat out ‘if you really want that, then you’re going to have to understand that you’re going to have to work on it from the day you walk into the door as opposed to waiting until junior or senior year.’

“You’re talking about separating yourself from everyone in college football. It’s such a small percentage of kids who get the opportunity. He talked about it, but not only did he talk about it, he worked at it.”

Delayed start

Moore played a variety of positions for Oberlin High School, eventually becoming the team’s quarterback and a fixture in the secondary for a team that went 6-4 in 2012, one of three winning seasons since 2000. Later in his senior year, he also helped lead the Phoenix to a Division III district championship in basketball.

When he came to Findlay, Keys knew Moore was a special talent, but also saw that he would need a year to learn how to play wide receiver at the next level. Moore redshirted, and spent his first year working on every area he needed to improve — polishing up his route running, getting off press coverage and adding strength.

That was a sign for Keys that Moore had what it took to reach his dream.

“He’s not scared to attack his flaws,” Keys said. “Some kids, you tell them what they need to be do to be great, and they listen to you, but they don’t want to work on it because they might look bad doing it. They want to work on the stuff they do well. All those things we talked about what he couldn’t do, he attacked it and that’s what really separated him from everyone else. He attacked his flaws, improved his weaknesses and got even better at some of his strengths.”

Moore said route running was the biggest emphasis for him — staying low, running crisp routes and using his hips. By spring, Keys said it was clear Moore was ready and the team was prepared for their redshirt freshman to have a breakout year. The momentum carried into fall camp, until it quite literally snapped.

Two weeks prior to the first game, Findlay holds a practice where it tries to simulate a game-like situation as close as possible. About three quarters of the way through, Moore was blocking downfield when a linebacker chasing the ball carrier rolled up the back of his leg.

Keys said with nobody in the stadium, the sound of the injury was unmistakable. Moore had suffered a broken right leg, costing him the season. Compounding the injury was his grandfather dying after battling cancer that July.

“I was really disappointed, not so much that I was hurt, but in looking back at everything that I had worked for and just knowing I wasn’t going to get to play that season,” Moore said. “I wasn’t able to put out the finished product of what I worked on all year. The following months were tough, rehabbing was tough.”

Early impact

Moore had surgery and spent another year waiting. He said he was doing little things about a week after surgery, but didn’t start walking until about three weeks after. He wasn’t able to run or participate in team activities until January. He remained locked into practice and the games while he was injured, doing whatever he could to learn the game and improve even though he was unable to participate physically during the season.

He was healthy enough to participate in spring ball, and eventually got back into the swing of things.

“We knew we had something special because when you’re a freshman, nobody knows about you,” Keys said. “We had to wait another year for him to get out there, but once he hit the field he had success early on. You could tell right away that after that full year of developing as a person and physically, he was really ready to go when his time came.”

He made his debut Sept. 5, 2015, in a 45-34 win against Hillsdale. Moore led the team with seven catches for 114 yards. He’d have to wait a week for his first collegiate touchdown, scoring twice in a 35-34 win against Tarleton State.

He finished the season with 38 catches for 627 yards and seven touchdowns.

“It was a special moment,” Moore said of his first game. “I remember it like it was yesterday. My first time going out to the field, I started this thing where I’d would stand in the corner of the end zone and say a prayer for myself and my family, just thanking God for the opportunity to be out here playing.”

That success came with a warning from Keys: It only meant his next year was going to be that much harder. Moore said it meant he needed to understand that teams were going to double-team him, and he learned how to become an asset to the team when the ball wasn’t coming his way — blocking to spring the run, forcing safeties to honor it and loosen up coverage for him.

Moore responded with school records in receiving yards (1,115) and receiving touchdowns (15) on 71 catches his sophomore year.

“It’s one thing to have big numbers your first year, but if you can do it year in and year out, knowing good people are defending you, that’s what separates you from good to great,” Keys said.

Another setback

He picked up where he left off his junior year — 65 catches for 980 yards and 14 touchdowns. The team finished 10-3, reaching the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs where Moore had six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown, also completing his only pass for 32 yards. His efforts were not enough as the team lost 45-26.

A few months after the game, Moore received some bad news — he would be suspended for failing a drug test, ultimately sitting out the first seven games of his final year. He said he received the call with the news while he was at his grandmother’s funeral, who died of a heart attack last December.

“I think God was giving me a message that things had to change for me,” Moore said. “I was at my lowest point, but I had two choices: I could let it destroy me or bounce back from it, like I’ve bounced back from adversity before. I came back from my senior year and took it head on.”

He only needed four games to lead Findlay both yards (495) and catches (30), reestablishing his presence with 10 catches for 240 yards, another school record, in his first game back. Moore said he was motivated and grateful to be back on the field after making peace with the suspension.

“He never waivered,” Keys said. “He did a great job of talking to the team and telling them about the mistake he made. He’s very remorseful about it and I think everyone respected him for doing that. He took ownership of it, which is not easy. He’s gotten better as a person and a player because of the suspension.”

Scouts started to take notice, Keys said multiple teams visited during his final four games — some teams taking multiple looks at him. Moore said most of the league has been through to see him, including Indianapolis, Washington, Baltimore and Detroit.

Moore intends to enter the NFL Draft and will hold a pro day in Toledo, scheduled for March. He is also holding out hope for an invite to the NFL Combine in February. Keys said whether or not he gets drafted, Moore will probably wind up in an NFL camp.

“I’m just ready to make the most of this opportunity,” Moore said. “I have a plan, and I’m just trying to put things in motion for the next months to come.”

Contact Chris Sweeney at (440) 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com and follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.


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