Never met Kellen Moore. Never seen him play, except for recent snippets on ESPN and YouTube archives of his Boise State days.
Nonetheless, I am a fan. Why wouldn’t I root for somebody with so much poise and perseverance per square inch? Somebody who doesn’t complain publicly when things don’t go his way? Somebody who doesn’t have to lob insults or threats to get his point across that he is coming to play, and win.
I did go back and watch him sit with Super Bowl-winning NFL coach Jon Gruden in April 2012 during a segment of ESPN’s “Gruden’s QB Camp.”
This was after Moore’s Boise State career, which saw him go 50-3 as a four-year starter, the NCAA’s winningest quarterback ever.
Gruden picked his brain. He took him outside to throw some passes. He challenged him with the litany of physical shortcomings that the doubters recite every time they hear the name Kellen Moore: too short, too small, too this, too that.
He’s heard it all. In high school, early in his college career, and especially as NFL teams considered drafting him. And even now. His answer has always been about the same.
Moore knows he is not a tall, beefy specimen who is going to take off running. He’s not the guy who is going to shake linebackers off his shoulders. He’s the guy who is going to be so prepared that he’ll be anticipating threats before he encounters them.
“You have to know who you are as a quarterback,” he told Gruden, dodging all the doubters with this: “I just smile, say thank you, and remember my name.”
I took away this: Moore is a winner. Whether his career plays out on the field as a player or a coach, the opposition is going to have its hands full.
I’ve also taken away this: For people to understand the Boise fascination with Moore, they have to understand that even though Moore grew up in Washington state, he became Boise. The underestimated underdog. The hidden talent. The little quarterback that could.
It’s been four football seasons since Kellen Moore sat down with Gruden — a long, long time to have to wait until you get your first NFL start as quarterback. But that will happen at 11 a.m. Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., where the Dallas Cowboys, led by Moore, will face the Buffalo Bills.
Kellen Moore. Starter for America’s Team. Kellen Moore, all 6-foot, 200 pounds of him, taking the field with an ocean of optimism in a career that could be considered no more than a tiny island of hope.
Let’s be honest, there’s not a whole lot at stake in this game. Neither the Bills nor Cowboys have a shot at the playoffs. Both have losing records, and the Cowboys were eliminated last week when they lost 19-16 to the New York Jets — a game in which Moore relieved perennial backup Matt Cassel. Moore threw a touchdown pass and three interceptions.
But this week, he got to be in on the game plan, take first-team snaps and prepare himself.
I don’t write about football players much, but this week I could not resist. Because no matter what happens on that field, no matter how Moore’s NFL career plays out, he will always be a winner.
Enjoy this one, Boise. Beware, Buffalo. Kellen Moore will come to play.
That’s all you need to know.