Follow the Leader
Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, November 8, 2012
Kapron Lewis-Moore is all about having a good time. From his trademark smile to his booming laugh and his goofy faces, the graduate student defensive end loves to have fun.
So when last year’s basketball season rolled around, the decision was simple for the Weatherford, Texas, native – wear a floppy Safari hat to the games and stand in the front row of the student section.
“It’s just something I like to wear,” Lewis-Moore said. “At that point in time in basketball season, I kind of wore it everywhere. I think that’s how I got noticed for it.”
In his five years at Notre Dame, though, Lewis-Moore has been noticed for more than his headgear. The 6-foot-4, 306-pound lineman has been a stalwart for the Irish defensive line, racking up 140 tackles and six sacks in his three seasons before 2012.
After graduating in May with a marketing degree, Lewis-Moore returned for his fifth season with the Irish.
Captaining a team
Before the season, Irish coach Brian Kelly named Lewis-Moore one of Notre Dame’s four captains, along with seniors Manti Te’o, Tyler Eifert and Zack Martin.
“It’s been awesome,” Lewis-Moore said. “I’m very honored and fortunate to be in this leadership position and it’s pretty exciting. I just want to keep my energy, keep my effort and enthusiasm, try to keep that contagious to the team.”
During a team meeting in August, Kelly announced the four captains for the first time, before he told the captains.
“He called my name last and I wasn’t really expecting it because we have a lot of guys on the team that are worthy of being captains,” Lewis-Moore said. “To hear my name called was really something special.
“It was kind of like ‘Whoa’ and I got a little teary-eyed. I knew this season was going to be special but to be captain is just something I can’t really explain. It’s speechless.”
During games, Lewis-Moore has given pep talks to younger players on the sideline after a mistake or will congratulate them after a big play – offense or defense, it doesn’t matter.
“If they make a mistake or if they don’t make a mistake, you have to have fun, you have to go on to the next play,” Lewis-Moore said. “You can’t let one bad play hurt you all game because your mistakes will build up. If you make a good play, we’re going to be there to celebrate with you.”
Lewis-Moore said the support goes both ways on sidelines.
“We feed off of each other, offense and defense,” he said. “Sometimes in the heat of the battle or the moment of the game, you might go up to a guy and go ‘Hey, keep it up’ or ‘Guys, don’t worry about it, we have your back.’ If the defense makes a mistake, you’ll have [junior quarterback Tommy Rees] or Eifert or Martin come up and say ‘Don’t worry D, we’re going to put it in the end zone.'”
Kelly said Lewis-Moore’s impact on the team extends past the box score.
“It’s night and day in my eyes outside of the statistics as to his impact last year as to this year,” Kelly said. “Now he was a junior last year and he’s a senior this year, too. But he’s one of the reasons why we’re 9-0.”
Mentoring the line
On the defensive line, Lewis-Moore is the elder statesman of a rotation that features two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman who all contribute significantly.
Entering this season, Lewis-Moore had almost three times as many starts as juniors Louis Nix and Kona Schwenke, sophomores Stephon Tuitt and Tony Springmann and freshman Sheldon Day combined.
“It’s fun watching them grow,” Lewis-Moore said. “I’ve seen Tuitt grow. I’ve seen Lou grow. I’ve seen Sheldon grow every day. It’s really awesome and it’s something I take pride in. I’m kind of like the old man of the team. It’s different to have that close relationship with your defensive linemen.”
Lewis-Moore, who is affectionately known as ‘Old Man Kap,’ said despite the development of the younger players, there are always opportunities for instruction.
“There’s always room for teaching,” he said. “[Defensive line coach Mike Elston] is teaching us all really well and we all feed off each other. When one of us makes a big play, we all get excited. We have great communication between the defensive line, coach Elston and the coaching staff. It works really good.”
The Irish defensive line has accounted for 19 of Notre Dame’s 26 sacks this season but also does the little things. Lewis-Moore said such is the life of a defensive lineman.
“It’s a mentality,” he said. “I really don’t care about personal stats. As long as we’re wining games, that’s what’s really important. I don’t care who makes the sack. With the whole defense, you really don’t care who makes the play, as long as we’re getting three-and-outs and forcing turnovers and playing 100 percent. If we’re playing fast and physical, it really doesn’t matter who gets the praise.”
After a quiet first five games, Lewis-Moore has come on strong recently, registering three sacks in the last four games.
“He’s been a better football player for us this year,” Kelly said. “He is an extremely productive player, is playing with a lot energy, and has been a great leader for us.”
Returning from injury
During last season’s 31-17 loss to USC, Lewis-Moore detached his medial collateral ligament and required season-ending surgery five days later.
“It was awful,” Lewis-Moore said. “True senior year and not being able to play is one of the worst feelings in the world. Not being able to do anything about it was really tough. Luckily, I leaned on my close friends and my family and my teammates to help me get through it. I worked hard in rehab and I was able to come back full strength.”
Lewis-Moore rehabbed his knee during the offseason and returned for the season-opener against Navy. He said the rehab process was difficult.
“It wasn’t really physically tough but mentally, it takes a toll on you,” Lewis-Moore said. “You kind of want to rush it to come back but you’re not supposed to. Sometimes during rehab, you just want to get out there and run again or lift weights again.”
With his reconstructed knee, Lewis-Moore is having arguably his best season to date. He has already registered a career-high in sacks for a season and has also tallied 29 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries.
“Obviously, I wanted to have a good year but I think we’re having a tremendous year,” Lewis-Moore said. “I can’t really explain it. I’m just happy to be back. Being fortunate enough to be back for a fifth year, be with my teammates and fight on.”
Lewis-Moore has had to fight his knee injury but there is one thing he has no problem doing – having fun.
Contact Matthew DeFranks at firstname.lastname@example.org