NFL: Panthers’ Moore learning from idol Smith
SPARTANBURG, S.C. ó Steve Smith has acknowledged his recent 30th birthday led to a period of reflection.
Carolina teammate Kenny Moore provides more evidence that Smith has indeed begun the latter stages of his career.
“He’s been my favorite player growing up,” the second-year Panthers receiver and Charlotte, N.C., native said. “That’s why I want to listen to him, everything he’s got to say, and soak it all in.”
Smith has taken on Moore as one of his projects in an effort to become a team leader. They worked out together in the offseason, and Moore never seemed to stray far from the four-time Pro Bowl selection at training camp, which ended Thursday.
“We’re trying to work and he asks me a lot of questions,” Smith said. “He’s doing an exceptional job. He’s really been a pleasure to work with.”
Moore’s trying to jump-start his pro career after finishing college at Wake Forest in grand fashion. Playing at the same venue he came to while in high school to watch Smith and the Panthers, Moore caught 11 passes for 112 yards and was voted MVP of the 2007 Meineke Bowl at Bank of America Stadium.
Moore was then drafted in the fifth round by Detroit, but was let go in the final round of cuts and later signed to the Lions’ practice squad. The Panthers signed him to their active roster in October to shore up depth issues.
He didn’t appear in a game, but enters this season in a crowded race for the No. 4 receiver position, a job that will likely include some combination of kickoff and punt return duties.
After few big plays in camp, Moore made a case for himself by catching two passes for 27 yards in Monday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants.
“For me, it was the biggest game ever,” Moore said. “It was nerve-racking before the game, but afterward, when I got there, I was able to settle down, settle in and make plays. Every game you’ve got to come in like it was the Super Bowl. So you’ve got to prepare yourself mentally and physically for that.”
One of Moore’s challenges ó and why he’s latched onto Smith ó is to become more consistent in practice. It’s essential if he wants to beat out Ryne Robinson, Larry Beavers, Jason Carter and the others vying for Carolina’s final receiver spots on the 53-man roster.
“When I was at Wake, I wasn’t really a practice player,” Moore said. “I started realizing, `Kenny, if you don’t practice hard you’re not going to get on the field.’ That’s what they look for, guys who are going to come practice, make plays and transition that to the game. I learned how to be a practice player, how to work hard, so when the game comes around it’s second nature to me.”
Despite his accolades, few players work harder in practice than the 5-foot-9 Smith, who was viewed as only a kick returner out of college. Smith’s tutoring has helped the 5-11 Moore, who has also faced questions about his height.
“He’s a kid that obviously has cards stacked against him,” receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. “But he’s maintained the right attitude and right approach to how he prepares himself in practice and then he had a good game.”
Moore expects to get considerable work again in Saturday’s exhibition game at Miami. He’s already equaled the number of catches he had with the Lions in last year’s preseason, and could even get some time with Smith if he makes his debut following a right shoulder injury.
“That’s my guy. He’s been a great help to me,” Moore said. “After practice, he’s always like, ‘You need to do this, you need to do that. You need to work on this.”‘
Smith is known for a short temper, too. So should Moore be so vocal about growing up idolizing him? That sure puts an emphasis on Smith’s milestone birthday.
“I try not to say too much about it, but it is reality,” Moore said, smiling. “He’s still got a lot more years left in him.”