FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Five years ago Kenny Moore played organized football for the first time. This week? He’s making a splash with the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Moore, a Valdosta native and undrafted rookie out of Valdosta State University, made his debut with the New England Patriots as they opened up training camp on Thursday and Friday.
As Moore rotated in and out with the second and third defensive units, he flashed the quickness and ball skills that led to the Patriots taking a chance on the 5-foot-9 cornerback.
On Thursday, Moore broke up four passes in various live scenarios and added one of the day’s highlights as he intercepted a pass from reserve quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the back of the end zone.
“I’m just doing everything I’m coached to do,” said Moore after Friday’s practice. “I’m just trying to do the best I can to get where I need to be.”
Moore had another solid, albeit quiet day, during Friday’s session as the trio of Patriots quarterbacks shied away from his side of the field. Moore, sporting a blue No. 42 jersey, spent most of his second day covering the Big 10 receiver of the year and fellow rookie Austin Carr.
New England head coach Bill Belichick took notice of Moore’s performance so far prior to Friday’s practice:
“He had a good spring,” Belichick said. “Kenny was a good, solid player in college. We’ll see how it goes. He may have some versatility to play inside and outside. I don’t know, we’ll see.”
Moore will have to continue impressing his head coach if he wants to make the final 53-man roster, as the Patriots opened up camp with 18 defensive backs among the 90 invitees.
Despite the long odds, Moore might have the perfect mentor in fellow cornerback Malcolm Butler who knows a thing or two about going from Division II to the NFL.
Like Moore, Butler was an undrafted free agent in 2014 and even played against Valdosta State in the Gulf South Conference while at West Alabama.
“We’ve talked about where we came from,” Moore said when asked if Butler had given him any advice. “But as far as helping, me everyone has helped me. The coaches have done a very good job of trying to critique my mistakes and I’m just trying to limit them.”
Thanks to a consistent training camp performance in 2014, Butler was able to ride his momentum all the way to Super Bowl mythology as he picked off Seahawks Russell Wilson on the goal line to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
Despite not playing organized football until his senior year at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Moore has caught along quickly during yet another big jump in his career.
“Just how fast it is here,” he said of the biggest difference between college and the pros. “I’m learning every day to get at these guys speed.”
Moore was a productive player at Valdosta State (137 tackles, 11 interceptions, 2 TD, and 25 pass breakups), however he was not invited to the NFL combine. In fact he wasn’t even ranked among the 259 cornerbacks on NFLdraftscout.com pre draft rankings.
Moore would ultimately catch the attention of New England at Valdosta State’s pro day where he ran a 4.47 40 yard dash, and a 3-cone-shuttle time of 6.86 that would have ranked second among all safeties.
Belichick and the Patriots have long been fond of the 3-cone drill while scouting as it’s a measure of small burst quickness rather than straight- line speed. That quickness is now being put to the test as he goes from covering Division II receivers to the likes of Julian Edelman and Brandin Cooks.
Despite being overlooked at every turn of his career and now an impressive first two days of camp with the world’s best, Moore insists he won’t get ahead of himself. He’s had the same goal from Day 1:
“Do all I can to be on this team.”