Perhaps no player at SEC Media Days was more honored — or shocked to be there — than Missouri senior wide receiver J’Mon Moore.
Certainly, he’s deserving.
Moore finished second in the SEC last season with 1,012 yards on 62 catches with eight touchdowns, which was tied for fifth in the conference.
He was voted to the All-SEC first team by the conference’s coaches and earned All-SEC second-team honors from The Associated Press.
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But the ever-honest and unvarnished Moore also has found himself on press blackouts at various times in his career for being too forthcoming.
To be picked as one of three players — along with junior quarterback Drew Lock, a Lee’s Summit High graduate, and senior linebacker Eric Beisel — to carry the Tigers’ banner in suburban Birmingham meant a lot.
“It was just a good feeling in my heart that the school allowed me to come here and represent them and be the face of the school,” said Moore, a 6-foot-3 native of Missouri City, Texas. “It’s a great experience and I love the attention, so I’m glad to be here. I was surprised, but I’m just glad.”
Tigers coach Barry Odom admitted that he wouldn’t have predicted Moore would be chosen for SEC Media Days two years, when Odom returned to his alma mater after three seasons as Memphis’ defensive coordinator.
“I would have said you’re crazy,” Odom said, thinking about a still-maturing Moore in those days. “He was a kid and didn’t know what he didn’t know, but he’s figuring it out. I’m proud of him. He’s a college graduate and is going to be a really, really good player. He was last year and is going to be even better this year.”
Moore had modest success as a redshirt sophomore with 29 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns, but he emerged as Lock’s favorite target last season and put himself on the NFL’s radar with a breakout season in 2016.
He also knows he wasn’t as productive as he could be.
“The thing that I think about when I’m working out is all the opportunities that I left out there on the field last year,” Moore said. “Being a competitor, I want to get better and there are a lot of things in my game I can get better at, so I’ve been trying to perfect that.”
He knows drops were an issue last season, so he’s become very attentive to addressing his mental focus and the receiver position’s minute details while developing an abusive relationship with the Jugs machine.
“We’ve become real friends,” Moore said of his relationship with the pass-catching workout aid. “I’ve been on it a lot, trying to do different things with it … so we’ve become real close. It tries to beat my hands up sometimes, tries to make my hands sore, but I defeat it. But it’s a good relationship.”
Odom, his staff and Moore’s teammates have noticed the effort with which he’s approaching his final season at Mizzou.
“When you look at guys that have put in extra work since last year, he would be towards the top of the list,” Odom said. “I respect that. He’s grown a lot and matured a lot and he’s a dynamic playmaker. For us to be what I think we can be on offense, he needs to play really well.”
Moore will continue to be the Tigers’ most-targeted receiver, though opposing defenses may have a say in that as the season unfolds.
But Moore has shored up his pass-catching, vertical explosiveness, ball security and precision route running during the summer, according to Odom, and is ready to build off his 1,000-yard effort.
Missouri All-American Jeremy Maclin is the only player in program history with two 1,000-yard seasons, so Moore aims to join some exclusive company.
Moore’s performance last season “just raises the bar for myself, because I feel like there’s more from me,” he said. “I know there’s more from me … but all that doesn’t really matter to me, because we didn’t win that much. When we get more wins in that column, that’s when I’ll be satisfied.”