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NFL: A taste of the future

Hart High graduate Matt Moore has gained confidence after a strong finish to last season

Posted: July 23, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 23, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Miami Dolphins quarterback and Hart High graduate Matt Moore finished his best professional season yet last year, starting 12 games and throwing 16 touchdowns to go with nine interceptions. He'll go into this season battling with two others for the starting job under center.

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Sitting down at TPC Valencia golf course on Friday, it didn’t take long to recognize that Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore is a man comfortable with where he is in life.

The veteran NFL quarterback is coming off a season during which he saw the most playing time of his career, starting the final 12 games of the season in his first year in Miami — throwing 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

But something else is equally recognizable in the 27-year-old former Hart High graduate.

He may be comfortable, but he is far from content.

Entering his sixth season in the NFL, Moore is in a battle for the starting quarterback position with newly signed veteran David Garrard, and newly drafted rookie Ryan Tannehill.

“Going into my sixth year, I think there’s still a label or a question out there, ‘Can I still play?’ or ‘Can this guy still play in the league?’” Moore says. “I just want to prove to everybody that, yeah, I can. I can hang with the best of them. I put up some good numbers last year that didn’t translate into the win column, but personally I want to prove not only to myself, but to a lot of people, that I can play and ultimately win a ton of ball games. And if I can leave a mark as being a winner and a guy of high character, I’ll be extremely satisfied when I’m done.”

Things began to come together for Moore last season, as he led the Dolphins to three straight wins over the Chiefs, Redskins and Bills in November, and threw 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions over Miami’s final nine games.

With the consistent playing time he lacked over the course of his time with the Carolina Panthers, Moore settled comfortably into his new role.

“I was young and I was never the guy (in Carolina),” says Moore, who played for the Panthers from 2007-2010. “I had Jake Delhomme there and I was kind of wide-eyed. ‘Hey, I’m in the NFL and oh, if I’ve got to play, I’ve got to play.’ I was always prepared to play, but never as prepared as I have been last year, or even now. And I think that just comes from maturity and being around and you hit that point where it changes. And I think that happened to me last year naturally, because I had to play so much.”

But with new head coach Joe Philbin taking over in Miami during the offseason, and the additions of Garrard and Tannehill, his status as an NFL starting quarterback is once again up in the air.

Did Moore feel that he deserved to be the starting quarterback heading into next season?

“I felt maybe a little bit, yeah,” Moore says. “But I think I understand there’s always going to be competition.

Nothing’s going to be given, and I think at the end of the day, all you can ask for is an opportunity to get that job.

With the new staff, I completely get that they’re going to survey every guy and observe and watch, so I wasn’t disappointed at all. But as a player, the way we finished last year, heck yeah I go in thinking I’m the starting quarterback. And I think that’s how you have to approach it.”

Despite the competition, Moore says he feels good about his chances going forward.

The team just finished Organized Team Activities, and he will head back to Miami this week for training camp, ready to continue fighting for the starting job.

“It’s probably open,” says Moore of the competition for quarterback. “I would like to think with the way OTAs went, I feel very comfortable. Whether that makes me think I’m a frontrunner or not, I don’t know.”

No matter who is ultimately named the Dolphins’ starting quarterback though, Moore believes the team, after starting last season 0-7, is poised for a more successful future.

“The whole style of the team changed when coach Philbin took over, which was a good thing,” he says. “I think we needed it. With the fresh start, guys are reenergized and it’s a brand new start. We’re definitely set up to win ball games. You’ve got to go out and execute.”

One potential distraction though, is the fact that Miami will be shown on television for the world to see. The Dolphins are set to appear on this year’s edition of the HBO show “Hard Knocks,” which chronicles the training camp of one NFL team each year.

Much was made about the lack of interest in appearing on the show by many teams around the league, but Moore says the presence of camera crews around the complex hasn’t had much of an effect on him.

“They were there for minicamp and you really didn’t know they were there. I’m sure training camp will be a little more intense, but other than the fact that it will be on TV and everyone’s going to get a chance to see you screw up — but at the same time, they’ll get to see the good things too, so I think it will be fun to be a part of.”  

Another thing the cameras are sure to catch is how well Moore is adjusting to a new offensive scheme.

Miami’s new West Coast Offense requires different types of throws and has been an adjustment for Moore.

“There are a lot of short, quick throws which I’ve had to get used to because we haven’t done that a lot. But it’s a lot of the same play-action, deeper throws down field, which I like. (Offensive Coordinator) Mike Sherman’s not afraid to throw the ball down field, which is one of my strengths, so I think it fits well.”

In the midst of a quarterback battle, it’s clear the label of, “Can this guy still play in the league?” is still there.
But if it’s having any effect on his ability, it’s not very easy to see.

“All I can do is keep grinding and keep getting better and everyone’s going to have their own opinions, but for whatever reason, I’ve always had to climb the hump every year,” Moore says. “It’s not easy for anybody … It’s the guys that persevere that don’t listen to the talk.”

That determination is clear in the way he handles himself during his interview with The Signal, periodically pausing to give advice to another quarterback in a battle of his own.

Moore was at the local golf course Friday to play with current Indians quarterback Brady White, who won a round of golf with Moore at an auction to benefit the Hart Booster Club.

Six years into his NFL career, Moore continues to be a presence around the Hart High School campus.

“Any chance that I can, I try to do my best (to be involved at Hart) because playing there really gave me a great foundation for a decent career,” he says. “I’ve still got a good relationship with (Hart football head coach) Mike Herrington and I’m building my relationship with the new kids coming in.

“I’ve run into these guys just working out at Hart a bunch of times. To see the same traditions forming or the same football style is good to see.”

Now, it’s time for him to bring those traditions back to Miami — where he appears to be as comfortable as he’s ever been in the NFL.

“To be honest with you, right now I’m right where I want to be,” he says. “I think mentally, I’ve learned so much the past year and a half. Just as far as competing day in and day out playing. And physically, I feel great.”

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