By ANDY WOLF
Jason Moore had something about him the first time he met Rob Keys.
A certain quality that the University of Findlay football coach said doesn’t show up on tape.
“When he walked in the door he had that personality,” said Keys, who is entering his seventh season as coach. “He brightened the room up as soon as he walked in.”
Moore’s 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame at the time also meant he had all the physical tools to succeed as a wide receiver.
He wasn’t highly recruited out of Oberlin High School.
Yet Keys sold him on starting something new and starting something at UF.
“I just got that different feeling when I got here. I was just inspired by his mission,” Moore said. “They showed a lot of interest in me and gave me an opportunity.”
He’s certainly seized it.
Now a junior, Moore is on plenty Division II preseason All-American watch lists — most notably being Lindy’s Sports which regularly publishes a college football preview magazine. Moore is listed with fellow junior and offensive lineman Andrew Alten.
Moore was one of only eight Division II receivers to top 1,000 yards (1,115) and reach 15 touchdowns a year ago, both UF single-season records. Five of those players were seniors.
He not only dominated but did it with consistency.
Only three teams kept him out of the end zone and only one under 60 yards. To no fault of Moore, he had 38 yards with two scores in the season finale when UF ran 58 times for 435 yards against Michigan Tech in a 59-21 statement win.
The outing, to no dismay of Moore, put an end to seven straight 100-yard games.
His most explosive stretch saw him total 471 yards and 10 touchdowns in a four-game span with at least two scores in each of those games.
As much as a sure thing as Moore felt to Keys, he nearly didn’t get his chance after facing physical and mental obstacles in his first two collegiate years.
He had to play quarterback from the second half of his junior year on at Oberlin.
Because of it, Keys said Moore was raw and “didn’t understand route definition and concepts of offense.”
He redshirted his first season (2013) and flourished the following spring into fall camp.
Keys could already see the special player he had.
But Moore suffered a broken leg during a Saturday night scrimmage in preseason camp, sidelining him for another full season (2014).
The wait to get on the field took a mental toll on him.
“I kind of battled through some ups and down emotionally, just wanted to be out there,” Moore said.
“Just working for something and not knowing it was going to be taken from you and being able to see the aspect of you can’t take any plays for granted. You have to cherish the moment while you can. Having to wait two years to get on the field was kind of tough at times. Things got hard. I just had to focus and realize I’ll be on the field. I’ll be out there with the boys.”
Little to the surprise of Keys, Moore hit the ground running and debuted in 2015 with three consecutive 100-yard receiving games and three touchdowns, all in wins.
“I knew I was going to make an impact,” Moore said. “I could help my team with my ability out there. I was really happy to be out there.”
He did battle hamstring and ankle issues, which limited him to one 10-yard catch over five games. But he finished the year strong to rank third on the team with 38 catches, 627 yards and seven TDs.
Moore wanted more.
“I had an OK first season but I was hungry to have a better one next year,” Moore said. “I took everything I learned from the games and the technique that coaches were teaching and I applied that at practice.”
But a great statistical season, like the one Moore followed with in 2016, doesn’t come without talent around him.
Classmate and quarterback Rhys Gervais owns nearly every UF passing record, tailback Chauncey Bridges pumped in a 1,200-yard junior season behind a rapidly progressing offensive line and then senior Dylan Blunk, a Findlay High grad, caught 60 balls opposite of Moore.
“We have a productive offense,” Moore said. “It just seemed like more opportunities opened up this year.”
Plenty of those opportunities came in the red zone.
Nine of his touchdowns were of that nature, with a good number of those by winning one-on-one jump balls.
“You’ve got a one-on-one matchup with a kid who’s 6-2,” Gervais said. “I’m not downgrading anyone who’s playing Division II because I’m a Division II player but obviously (the defender’s) not playing at Ohio State. So if you’re going against Jason Moore, he’s going to say the same thing, we’re going to take the matchup every single time.”
It’s a secret to no one that Moore is a big-play guy, even for those that haven’t seen him play.
“I’m dependable is what I’d say,” Moore said. “I might not be the fastest or the strongest or the biggest but I’m dependable.”
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