When we decided to dig into the personality of freshly minted Boise State starting quarterback Kellen Moore, we began with the man who put his offense, his program and arguably his future in Moore's left hand — Broncos football coach Chris Petersen. Coach, we asked, do you have any tidbits that would give us some insight into Moore's personality?
"I don't,” he said. "And I think that's one of the things we like about him.”
A lack of personality?
"No, he's like Ronald Reagan — the Teflon Man,” Petersen said. "He just goes about his business and nothing sticks to him and he just moves on.”
Moore, a redshirt freshman, will make his college debut Saturday evening at Bronco Stadium against Idaho State and become the first freshman quarterback to start the season opener in school history.
Here are 11 things — soon to be the most popular jersey number in Boise State football — we learned about Moore through about 20 interviews with coaches, teammates, friends, journalists and even the mayor of his hometown of Prosser, Wash.
1. He will operate the entire playbook
BSU has not dumbed-down the offense, which is the usual response to a freshman quarterback."Probably normally yes, but not with Kellen,” Petersen said. "He's been on it from the start. That's one of the things that helped us make that decision.”
Said Moore: "We've got four running backs, a gazillion wideouts. It's pretty simple. I need to get them the ball.”
2. There are coach's sons — and then there's Kellen Moore
Moore's father, Tom, has been the head coach at Prosser High since 1986. Kellen was born in 1988."I've always been around the high school team, really since I could walk,'' Kellen, 20, said.
He was the tee boy and a ball boy. He worked at practices — spotting the ball between plays, for example — and spent a year as the backup quarterback. And for the last three years of high school, he was his dad's starting quarterback.
Moore wasn't just learning. He was interacting. As young as 8, he was doling out advice to his father, a former junior college quarterback and also a coach's son.
Tom also took Kellen to hundreds of college practices around the country during their offseasons."Kellen has been tutored and raised by as good of a high school coach as you could find,” said Craig Beverlin, a family friend and the head coach at Kamiakin High in Kennewick, Wash. " Kellen has grown up in an atmosphere that was filled with football.”
3. His brother is an elite wide receiver
Kirby Moore, Kellen's younger brother, is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior receiver at Prosser. He helped the Washington team of high school stars win a national 7-on-7 tournament staged by the NFL this summer.
Kirby might end up in the Pac-10 instead of in the Broncos' huddle. Kellen apparently has decided to let Kirby make his decision with no brotherly pressure.
"He would be a heck of a weapon for Kellen,” Beverlin said. "But Kellen told me ‘I'm not going to recruit him.' ”
4. He's been running a college-style offense since elementary school
The Prosser Lions "Grid Kids” team has dominated opponents by running a simplified version of the high school offense. Rene Ferran, the high school sports coordinator for the Tri-City Herald in Kennewick, officiated Lions games when Moore was in fifth grade.
"He was throwing the ball and just turning heads even then,” he said. "There was no way to stop them.”
Tom Moore and Beverlin sat in their lawn chairs and watched — staying out of the way, but also videotaping all the action in a scene that would fit well in "Friday Night Lights.”
"They probably took the film home and studied it,” Ferran said.
5. "A gift — that left arm”
Moore's effortless throwing motion and uncanny accuracy applied elsewhere, too. He was a point guard on the Prosser basketball team — his precision passes made him difficult to defend — and a pitcher in youth baseball. He started playing football in second grade.
"He flicks the ball and you swear to God his arm is no bigger than a piano player's, but the ball comes out like he could bench 500 pounds,” Beverlin said. " He has a gift — that left arm.”
6. "He was a semi-god there”
Prosser is a town of about 5,000 people between the Tri-Cities and Yakima in eastern Washington. It's known for two things: It is the birthplace of Washington's wine industry and it is the home of the Prosser Mustangs.
"I think the correct term is football crazy,” mayor Paul Warden said. " I don't want to say we live and die with our high school football team, but it's pretty darn close.”
Prosser has won four state titles since Moore took over in 1986. He is 221-37 in 22 seasons, running a no-huddle, spread passing attack that is introduced to the Grid Kids and honed in high school.
"The amazing thing about Tom and his kids' success at Prosser is that's the only sport they win in,” Beverlin said. "They lose in every other sport.”
The pride the town feels for the football program is even more intense with Moore, the kid residents watched grow up on the sidelines and who is known as a good student and classy citizen.
When he was named the starter last week, news spread rapidly in Prosser.
"As soon as you saw someone else who lives in town, they said, ‘Did you hear about Kellen Moore?' ” Warden said. " It's a really close-knit kind of community. When you go grocery shopping, you need to allocate an extra half-hour to visit.”
For the next four months, many of those conversations will include talk about the Broncos. "(Kellen) was a semi-god there,” Ferran said. "They just loved him. And rightfully so.”
7. He called "Statue”
Moore attended a couple of BSU practices in Arizona before the Fiesta Bowl and went to the game with his dad. They were sitting in the stands when the Broncos decided to go for the game-winning two-point conversion in OT.
"Kellen turned to Tom and said ‘They're going to run the Statue of Liberty,' ” Beverlin said. "He called it before they called it. Now how's that possible? He knew from watching their practices for a couple days down there.”
Moore dreams of someday being an offensive coordinator. A Pac-10 coach once told Beverlin that he'd like to have Moore on his team just so he could hire him as a graduate assistant.
"I would match Kellen's brain on X's and O's with any coach in America,” Beverlin said. "Anybody. He's just got it. He's got a passion about it.”
That football computer in his head was the deciding factor in giving Moore the starting nod over Bush Hamdan — a player with three more years of experience.
"He knows where to beat coverages, and that's really been a big difference in our offense,” sophomore wide receiver Titus Young said. "That really separated him from the rest of the quarterbacks.”
8. Football and little else
Moore already has Petersen saying he might be the most voracious video studier he has seen at Boise State.
Moore fills his DVR with football games — at least until his roommates start deleting them. He fills his computer with game footage, too. He even put Prosser's plays into a video game when he was in high school.
"He's always recording NFL games and writing up plays from those,” said freshman running back Matt Kaiserman, who is one of Moore's roommates. "The kid's just kind of a football machine. It's funny to watch how into it he really is. Football is his life.”
9. A cool cat
Moore's mother, an elementary school principal, used to send Beverlin to deliver messages to her son at halftime of his youth football games.
Sometimes she didn't like the way he was managing the game. Other times she didn't like his body language. Those pointers show in his demeanor today — almost always smiling, never rattled.
"His understanding and ability to mange the game and always, always have his emotions under control has always been startling,” Beverlin said. "This is my 40th year in coaching and I've never seen anybody like him.”
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox says "he's got ice in his veins.”
10. He's not all serious
Moore is similarly even-keeled off the field, but friends say he does have a lighter side that he unleashes only around those who know him well.
"You've got to really get to know him,” said Cody Bruns, one of Moore's receivers at Prosser who now plays for Washington. "He's kind of quiet when you don't know him, but once you get to know him he's pretty spontaneous.”
11. He rewrote the record books, but never won state
Moore was an All-American and several organizations' state player of the year as a senior. He was his league's player of the year for three straight seasons. He set state records for career completions (787), career touchdown passes (173), completions in a season (317), passing yards in a season (4,600) and touchdown passes in a season (67).
As a senior, he completed a ridiculous 71.9 percent of his passes with 67 TDs and just seven interceptions.
Still, he ran into a string of disappointments in the playoffs.
In 2004, the Mustangs lost in the first round to a team led by NFL first-round pick Johnathan Stewart.
In 2005, they lost to a team led by Washington quarterback Jake Locker.
And in 2006, the Mustangs wasted five Moore touchdown passes in the state semifinals with an assortment of turnovers and penalties. They lost 37-35 — a stunning upset.
Moore, who completed just one of his last nine passes, walked off the field wiping his eyes."He was crushed,” Beverlin said. "It took him a few days to recover.”
The Moores and Beverlin have a saying that Kellen has adopted: "Setback, comeback.”
That last game, 21 months ago, was the setback. Saturday's debut is the beginning of his comeback.
"I know Kellen is itching to get on the field and start his career,” Bruns said. "Now he has a new chance, and0 I'm sure he'll make the best of it.”