DJ Moore's big-play ability is becoming a broken record for Maryland

Terps wide receiver D.J. Moore breaks away from Towson linebacker Diondre Wallace to score a touchdown during Maryland's first home game of the season on Sept. 9.
Terps wide receiver D.J. Moore breaks away from Towson linebacker Diondre Wallace to score a touchdown during Maryland's first home game of the season on Sept. 9. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland wide receiver DJ Moore didn't get a chance to see a replay of his 21-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep against Towson two weeks ago when it was shown to a national television audience on ESPN's "College GameDay" telecast last Saturday.

"People were telling me about it. I couldn't get to the channel fast enough to see it," Moore said Tuesday.


Moore watched the run — one of three touchdowns he scored in a 63-17 win over the Tigers on Sept. 9 at Maryland Stadium — with his teammates as they prepared for Saturday's home game against Central Florida.

On the play, Moore broke at least four tackles and eluded several others as he cut through traffic to the end zone.


Asked about his reaction, Moore smiled, with an almost embarrassing grin on his face.

"I can't use the word that I said," he recalled. "I was like, 'OK, that was kind of special.' "

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That's the way those who've been around Moore describe the 5-11, 215-pound junior.

"As you watch, you can see his talent and ability, that's pretty clear and obviously that's a big part of it," Maryland coach DJ Durkin said of Moore, who has 14 catches for 230 yards and three receiving touchdowns this season. "What makes him special to me is how [hard] he works."

Durkin pointed out at his weekly news conference Tuesday that Moore is the only player to make the team's Champions Club every semester since the new coaching staff took over. It is an honor bestowed on those who perform at a high level on the field, as well as in the classroom and weight room.

"That to me, as we define it as a program, speaks to his level of work ethic, accountability, all the things we talk about as a program," Durkin said. "He's the model guy for that. I think that's why you see it carry over [to the field] and why he's able to play at the level he plays at."

Said Moore: "All the little things, you've got to just do right. It's a sense of pride for me to do because I take time to make sure I'm doing everything right."

Albie Crosby, who coached Moore from his sophomore through senior years at Philadelphia's Imhotep Charter High School, said that his former star is "extremely humble. He's 1000 times better as a person than he is as a football player."

On a visit to Maryland last year, Crosby heard from an unusual source about Moore's humility.

"I heard all the football coaches telling me how great D.J. is and they light up when you say his name and that you coached him," Crosby said. "I was in the hallway, I ran into the janitor, and when he found out I coached him, he said, 'Oh man, D.J.'s an amazing kid.' "

Crosby didn't understand why Moore wasn't getting many offers from Football Bowl Subdivision schools despite Imhotep's reputation as one of the top teams in the city, the first private school to win a state championship when Moore was a senior.

"People recruited him, but again, he wasn't a big-time recruit," Crosby said in a telephone interview Monday. "I thought he was just as good as anybody in the country."


Crosby recalled how he took 15 of his players to a 7-on-7 summer camp, and 11 of them came away with scholarships offers from the same Power 5 school. Moore, a rising senior at the time, left empty-handed.

"The next weekend, he goes to the Rivals 5-star camp and becomes the MVP, and the next day the same university offered him a scholarship," Crosby said.

Moore, as is his nature, wasn't that upset by the initial snub.

"I just stayed level-headed," Moore said Tuesday. "I didn't really make it a bad thing, I made it a good thing. I just wanted to have fun with whatever I did."

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Nick Lincoln, who was Imhotep's offensive coordinator from Moore's freshman through junior years, said that what he sees now is a mature, polished version of the player he saw in high school.

"The kid has always been dynamic," Lincoln, who is in his first season as Imhotep's head coach, said Tuesday. "I'm not surprised at all given how hard he works. He's special, man. I don't know if I've been around too many other players like him."

The foundation of Moore's game was built with the Mount Airy Bantams, a youth football team and track club that his mother, Donna "Cookie" Ridley, still helps run.

"He's always been a very strong kid, extremely strong on his lower body," Crosby said. "His mother always instilled track-and-field in him, and he was always strong from the waist down."

Said Durkin: "He's a physical guy. He's built big for a receiver and still has the ability to run and change direction. Some guys want to catch a ball and want to get to the ground. He wants to make something happen with it."

Just as he did in high school, Moore has been making plays for Maryland nearly from the time he arrived as a three-star recruit under Randy Edsall. Moore has caught at least one pass in all but one of the 26 games he's played, including 22 straight.

As a freshman, Moore caught a 52-yard touchdown pass at No. 1 Ohio State and a 40-yard touchdown pass at Wisconsin. Last season, he took a screen pass from freshman quarterback Max Bortenschlager and turned it into a career-best 92-yard touchdown at No. 18 Nebraska.

Former college coach Glen Mason, who was the color analyst on the telecast during the game in Lincoln, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that Moore's ability to break tackles sets him apart.

Moore, who led Big Ten wide receivers last season with the most open-field broken tackles, started his junior year with career-highs for receptions and yards (seven for 133) in Maryland's 51-41 win at Texas. He followed with seven catches for 97 yards against Towson.

"I've seen a couple of highlights this year that you'd think are not just the week's highlight but a highlight tape for the entire season," Mason said. "Not only is he a very talented guy, but when you talk about a guy that can break tackles, that scares the heck out of a defense."

Moore's nine receiving touchdowns in his first two years tied Stefon Diggs, Torrey Smith and Dan Bungori, who played for the Terps in the early 1970s, for the most in school history. Moore describes his penchant for breaking tackles as more "instincts" than following a plan.

"If I catch it, the next play starts for me to just go execute and go score and not get tackled because I don't like going down," Moore said.

When he watched Moore break tackles on the touchdown run against Towson — as well as on a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown that was brought back because Moore had initially called for a fair catch — Lincoln fondly remembered their three years together at Imhotep.

"I've been seeing him do that for seven years," Lincoln said.

For Moore, it was also nothing new.


"When I was little and I got the ball, I just had fun with it and made plays out of anything," he said. "That helped me build for my vision, just how I see things and after I catch a ball, how I have an escape route to go score a touchdown."


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