Top special-teamer steps into larger LB role
Brian Hartnett | Thursday, November 21, 2013
As Notre Dame junior linebacker Jarrett Grace laid on the turf at AT&T Stadium with a fractured fibula in the first half of his team’s 37-34 win over Arizona State on Oct. 5, senior linebacker Kendall Moore knew it was his turn to embrace the team’s philosophy of “next man in.”
“You never know when [an opportunity] is going to come, and when Jarrett went down, it was so big for the team because he’s a big leader,” Moore said. “Everyone was kind of in shock, so I wanted to be that guy who would come in and ease the transition from having him out there to having me out there and not having it be any let-off.”
Grace’s injury has given Moore increased reps at one of Notre Dame’s two inside linebacker slots, and the 6-foot-1, 251-pounder has responded by putting up some of the best numbers in his college career. In the four games since Grace’s injury, Moore has recorded 10 tackles, including a career-high five stops against Air Force and three versus Navy.
“It’s been an opportunity for me to really showcase what I can do and show everybody around that I can play,” Moore said. “It’s been good that I’ve gotten a chance to wet my mouth a little bit and kind of show a little bit of what I can do.”
Throughout his career, the former O’Neill Hall resident has showcased his talents, albeit in a different role than he expected when he enrolled at Notre Dame in 2010. Moore has been a mainstay on Notre Dame’s kickoff unit the past three years and was third on the team with seven special-teams tackles last season.
“It took a while because in high school, I didn’t play much special teams, so [I had to learn to] get acquainted to learning how to move my feet and play in that space,” Moore said. “I feel like it makes you more versatile, even as a linebacker.”
A native of Raleigh, N.C., Moore garnered attention from several ACC programs, including Florida State, North Carolina State and Duke. But he found that Notre Dame offered some unique characteristics he felt the other programs couldn’t match.
“There was definitely pressure to stay pretty close [to home], but I liked Notre Dame and everything it offered that all the schools by me didn’t,” he said. “Academically and football-wise, they had the best combo, along with the fan base too. Around me, it’s pretty much a basketball area, so that was big.”
Although Moore entered Notre Dame as a four-star prospect, his only playing time during his freshman year came on the scout team, for which he was named Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year.
“Just going from being a top recruit and an impact player on my high school team to just sitting around and watching is always tough,” he said. “But I think it actually helped me in the long term, just learning the game behind such great players like [former Irish inside linebacker] Manti [Te’o].”
Moore also used his freshman year to strike up a friendship with classmate defensive tackle Louis Nix, who also did not play that season.
“Lou and I, when we redshirted together, that was actually a tough year for the both of us,” Moore said. “The both of us were related in so many ways, and we got a chance to be with each other through the hard times when the whole team was gone on away games, and everybody else was gone on fall break.”
Moore and Nix have since teamed up to entertain Irish fans through the short “Chocolate News” segments on Nix’s YouTube channel. The two also spread Christmas cheer when Nix donned a Santa suit and Moore dressed as his helper elf for a charity event last November.
“[Dressing up] with [Nix] was good because it was for charity, and I saw a lot of other people smiling and laughing,” Moore said. “I would like to hear a little more Santa language from Louis, but I think he’s a pretty solid Santa.”
Although Moore appeared in several of Nix’s YouTube videos, the film, television and theatre major is a little more comfortable behind the camera, as he served as a videographer for the South Bend Silver Hawks minor league baseball team this past summer.
With one year of eligibility remaining, Moore said he would strongly consider staying at Notre Dame if he receives an offer to return for a fifth year.
“I think that if [a fifth year] was offered, I would definitely look into it, really give it a hard thought,” he said. “Notre Dame is a great place, and I’ve had an amazing four years here, and all the teammates I’ve had will be my brothers for life. Stuff like that has been great for me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]