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Opportunity Knocked

Posted: March 4, 2008 1:17 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Hart High graduate Matt Moore is coming off a rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in which he started three games and earned NFL Offensive Player of the Month honors in December.

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David Carr was the top overall pick in an NFL Draft once. Matt Moore apparently wasn't even worth a seventh-rounder.

Both are proof that professional football scouting is imperfect.

It was Carr, not Moore getting the nudge-to-the-curb treatment from the Carolina Panthers this offseason as Moore, the undrafted rookie waiver-wire pickup out of Oregon State out-played the former can't-miss prospect from Fresno State University.

And many, many others just like him.

Former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn?

Threw eight passes while stuck behind Derek Anderson.

Raiders No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell?

Started only the final game of the year for Oakland.

Then there's Moore, a 2002 Hart High graduate. Snubbed by every NFL team during the draft process and released by the Dallas Cowboys on the final day of preseason cuts, he started his final three games as a rookie.

Now, with all the momentum that comes with closing the season with an Offensive Rookie of the Month performance and going from unknown to a team's No. 2 quarterback, the Oregon State alum, back in the valley for the offseason, is in the clouds.

"I couldn't imagine this in a million years," says the former All-CIF Indians quarterback, who went from UCLA to Oregon State to the NFL. "I didn't get drafted at all. I just wanted to make a team. And then I end up starting three games for them."

Eleven quarterbacks were taken in the 2007 draft.

Only one - Buffalo's Trent Edwards - had more starts.

With the way the year began, that seemed beyond unlikely.

Going undrafted hurt.

"It was a lifelong dream," he says.

But he kept after his bigger dream - making a team.

Moore signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, just looking to catch onto the team. He knew he wouldn't beat out Pro Bowl starter Tony Romo, but after No. 2 quarterback Brad Johnson, Dallas had no other experience on its roster.

He made it to the final round of cuts.

But Moore couldn't quite survive the final cutdown day.

Dallas went with two kickers instead of three quarterbacks.

"They sat eight of us down in a room and Coach (Wade) Phillips told us they wanted us to be on the practice squad," Moore says. "That was fine with me. It was the Cowboys."

First he needed to survive the 24-hour waiver window.

The Panthers called 30 minutes before the deadline to inform him he had been scooped up and just like that, he made the step from practice squad to a third-string NFL signal caller.

He didn't expect to play at all.

Then the Panthers' run of injuries started.

Starter Jake Delhomme went down with a season-ending shoulder injury after the third week of the year. Carr and Vinny Testaverde, who was signed to provide depth, suffered through a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness replacing him.

After seeing Moore throw 33 passes in five relief appearances, the Panthers, out of options, turned the offense over to him.

Moore got the news on a Thursday prior to the team's Dec. 16 showdown against the Seattle Seahawks that he, the guy nobody wanted, would be the one lining up under center, not Carr, the guy everybody wanted back in the 2002 NFL Draft.

"(John) Fox) said he had decided on Wednesday but didn't want to tell me before practice because he was afraid I was gonna freak out," Moore says. "It's a very exciting thing to hear."

By Sunday evening, excitement wasn't strong enough of a word.

Moore completed 19-of-27 passes for 208 yards with zero interceptions. More importantly, he led his team to a victory.

"My family was there for the game which was great," Moore says. "We went back to the house and watched it over again on TV. Watching myself play out there, it's a dream come true."

Moore followed it up with a Saturday night NFL Network primetime game against the Cowboys, completing 15-of-28 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a loss and a 15-of-24 effort for 174 yards, two touchdowns and a pick against Tampa Bay in a season-ending Panthers victory.

Then came the Offensive Rookie of the Month award.

Since has come a vote of confidence from the Panthers, who have booted Carr and let Testaverde walk and currently plan to have him as the No. 2 quarterback to the returning Delhomme.

"He has put himself into the circle of quarterbacks," says Joe Aloisi, Moore's agent advisor. "That's what he did by getting that opportunity this year. He proved himself to everyone as a legit NFL quarterback and he has a chance to be here to stay."

There's a lot of drafted guys out there who can't say the same.


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