Playing wide receiver requires bravado and swagger, and long before J’Mon Moore recorded consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons for Missouri, he had both.
There’s a video of Moore, just a freshman, mic’d up during his first college training camp. His face was a bit cleaner, and his voice had a higher pitch. But his confidence was already there.
Brand new to the Tigers, he asked veteran Marcus Murphy, one of the program’s most dynamic players ever, to switch numbers with him: Murphy’s No. 6 for Moore’s No. 4. Murphy said no.
“When he first got to Mizzou, you couldn’t get him to shut up about all the great things he was going to do,” said former MU wide receiver L’Damian Washington, who was Moore’s assigned mentor during that training camp.
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Moore, now a senior, admits he wasn’t a good teammate when he first came to Missouri. He used to be someone who would do his job but not worry about anyone else’s. He displayed change this season, though, especially during Missouri’s darkest moments, and that has helped his team rebound from its 1-5 start to win six straight and play in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday.
“He’s more a leader guy now,” quarterback Drew Lock said. “... When it’s time to focus, it’s time to focus. When it’s a bowl event, when it’s time to have fun, have fun. But when it’s time to play football and practice, lock in. J’Mon has been one of the best at that.”
When Mizzou’s season seemed in jeopardy, Moore encouraged wearing the right shoes to the weight room and showing up on time to meetings. He began paying more attention to details and calling out others for not doing the same.
“Everything ties into one,” Moore said. “You can’t leave one thing out, or a few little things out, and think big picture is going to work. You can’t leave out a few puzzle (pieces). The picture ain’t going to look how it’s supposed to.”
If this all sounds too mature and boring, don’t worry. The man who openly and proudly admitted after a win over Arkansas that he pushed off for a key touchdown is still there.
Here’s what Moore said about Missouri’s bowl opponent, the Texas Longhorns, who didn’t offer him a scholarship until right before national signing day:
“I’m good. Forget them. They sleep.”
Moore has never been a troublemaker, but he has always been a prankster.
After last season, Moore posted video of himself holding a new TV out of a car while ordering in a Wendy’s drive-thru on his Snapchat. He did flips off the side of his middle school building as a boy. As a high schooler, he always talked in class, which led Elkins High School coach, Dennis Brantley, to assign log rolls — literally just lying on the ground and rolling — as punishment.
Moore gave Brantley problems on the field, too. When he didn’t get the ball in high school, Moore shook his head, held his hands up or didn’t block for teammates.
“I would chew his butt out really good,” Brantley said.
That body language can become less tolerable and easier to critique when a player doesn’t succeed or becomes too outspoken. And both arguably apply to Moore, depending on your opinion.
He was one of the leaders of the football team’s 2015 boycott, which helped force out former UM system president Tim Wolfe. Safety Anthony Sherrils, one of Moore’s best friends, said it was a key moment in both men’s maturation, but some fans don’t view it as so noble.
And although Moore is fourth all-time on the program’s career receiving yards list, he has also struggled with drops and ball security, which has drawn the ire of some of the team’s supporters.
In the closing moments of a close game against Georgia last season, Moore fumbled and gave away Missouri’s chance of winning.
But afterward, he chose to talk to reporters rather than hide.
“You can pout and put your head down for the rest of the season, or you can persevere through that,” Washington said. “That’s when I knew J’Mon was not the J’Mon of old.”
When Missouri started this season 1-5, Washington texted Moore to stay the course.
The senior already knew to do that, though. He has learned from his mother, Betty Jones-Moore.
She lost track of time during the Hurricane Harvey because the rain seemed endless. Staying inside her home with J’Mon’s sister, Alexis, Jones-Moore read magazines — “Country Living,” “Essence” and “Women’s Health” — and didn’t fret, even as the ceiling of a bathroom leaked and water rose over the baseboards of her home, which soaked and ruined rugs.
When Moore called during the hurricane, his mother wanted the conversations to be brief, so that her son didn’t worry.
The hurricane caused a dent above the front driver’s side wheel of her Chevy Malibu — but so what?
“You think I’m going to trip about a car when people don’t have a home?” she said.
And do you think her son — always candid with reporters, often smiling — was going to let a 1-5 start ruin him?
He began the season carrying the Texas flag onto Faurot Field soon after Harvey hit his hometown. Now he’ll finish his collegiate career in an NFL stadium about 10 miles from where he grew up, with about 65 friends and family members in attendance.
“I never thought of a finale like this, but I’m just thankful for it,” Moore said. “You leave Houston coming here, and then I come back to Houston to finish it all off. Nobody ever thinks that’s how that story is going to be told, but that’s my story. That’s what I get to do.”