CHARLOTTE, N.C. — T.J. Moore didn’t know yet how the recruiting process would play out or where he’d launch his college football career, but he was pretty sure it wouldn’t be at Florida.
Moore was on his way back from a camp in Gainesville, Fla., before his senior year of high school and Gators coaches had not extended him a scholarship offer before he left. He had been collecting offers from other schools and was expecting the same outcome on this trip.
Instead, the flight home with his father was a quiet one. And after returning to Charlotte, as he rode in a car with his trainer Byron Ruff, Moore cast aside the lanyard he received from the Florida camp while indicating he’d have no use for it.
“He was like, ‘Man, forgot them. We ain’t thinking about Florida no more.’ It just didn’t go as planned,” Ruff says. “You expect to make that trip down there, you think you’re going to leave with an offer. But there were still some things T.J. had to do on the back end that they wanted to see. That actually, to me, was a blessing in disguise because it put more fuel in his tank.”
Flash forward and Moore indeed looks back on that moment as a motivator. He’s spending his first week as a Florida student now, one of two Gators’ February signees who arrived early to enroll in the Summer A semester.
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Listen to Gators coach Jim McElwain talk about Moore and it’s easy to envision the 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive lineman from Mallard Creek High School making an early impact on the field as well.
“He’s a guy that when we got on him, we were really excited about this guy,” McElwain said this week. “I think the versatility, No. 1, to play both inside and outside is really (an asset). … His feet, the way he moves, really more than that the way he finishes, it’s one of those things where he definitely plays through the whistle. I am excited about that.”
Moore was a 4-star recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings who was once committed to South Carolina. He had no shortage of suitors during the recruiting process, but not initially getting a scholarship offer from Florida after that camp stuck with him. Drove him. Focused him.
He knew it was his grades that had given the Gators pause, and he was determined for that not to be an issue.
For that matter, he was determined to prove himself to the coaches in Gainesville — whether he knew it in that moment or not.
“Seeing how hard I had to work to get the offer, that’s another reason why I chose Florida,” Moore says now, looking back.
That was one driving force for him, but not necessarily the biggest one. A bond never broken Moore and his family are sitting around the table for dinner at a Wild Wing Cafe in Charlotte back in late March, reflecting […]