Former Rocket ready for Super Bowl showdownWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | email@example.com
Lance Moore is used to being underestimated. It is something the New Orleans Saints wide receiver has been dealing with since he first set foot on a football field.
“It has been the story of my career ever since I was younger,” Moore said. “People told me I was too small and that I couldn’t do this or I couldn’t do that.”
The Columbus, Ohio native never let the detractors get the best of him. The 5 foot-9 inch, 190 pound receiver turned the negativity into a positive.
“I just used all of that doubt as motivation,” Moore said. “I kept working as hard as I could to try and achieve all of those things that people told me that I would never be able to do.”
Moore has made a habit of proving people wrong, but his biggest statement looms; on Feb. 7, he will hit the field in Miami to take part in Super Bowl XLIV.
A day after New Orleans’ thrilling 31-28 overtime victory against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game, Moore said the
magnitude of it all still has not set in.
“It is still a little surreal, and it hasn’t really hit me all the way yet,” he said. “But as the game approaches and we go through some of the practices, I think it will start to sink in. Once we hit the ground in South Florida, I think it will hit me then that I am getting ready to play in the Super Bowl.”
Rocketing to the top
By football standards, Moore is not the prototypical wide receiver. Compared to his counterparts, Moore is small to play the position in college, let alone the pros. But that did not stop former UT head coach Tom Amstutz from recruiting him out of Westerville South High School.
“He is a player that jumped out at you when you looked at the film,” Amstutz said. “You don’t make plays because of how big or small you are. You make plays on the football field because you work hard, and that is what Lance does.”
Amstutz said he and his staff realized in 2001, after Moore accepted a scholarship to play for the Rockets, that they had found a “diamond in the rough.”
“He was definitely a guy that we had to have on our football team,” Amstutz said.
Moore did not disappoint. Moore left UT as its all-time leading receiver in yards and catches. The records stood until this year when Stephen Williams broke them both.
Amstutz said that while Moore was a star on the field for the Rockets, he was just as much of one off it.
“I have never coached a more respected player than Lance Moore,” he said. “Lance inspired our guys to play harder and to give their all for us. He did everything he could to help our teams out, and he was determined that he was not going to be outworked by anyone else,” Amstutz said.
Moore is just as grateful for the opportunity the Rockets gave him.
“My time in Toledo was just unbelievable,” he said. “I won three conference championships while I was there, and the things that I learned on and off the football field have prepared me for who I am today.”
While the Mid-American Conference does not get as much attention as some of the other football conferences, Moore is a staunch defender of the competition it presents.
“We always faced good, tough teams” he said. “From an offensive standpoint, I felt that it made me appreciate how sharp you have to be to compete. I feel that has definitely given me a leg up so far in the NFL.”
“I think the style of football we play in the MAC is a very exciting style of football,” Amstutz said. “You look at guys like Lance and Ben Roethlisberger and they both played in our conference. That shows that our brand of football in the conference prepares guys for that next level.”
The NFC championship game between the Saints and the Vikings meant that two of coach Amstutz’s former players would face off against each other for the right to play in Miami. Chester Taylor, a former running back for the Rockets, played for the Vikings. After the Saints won the game, one of the first people to call Moore to congratulate him was his old coach.
“I just told him to enjoy himself and to soak in the moments that the next couple of weeks would present to him,” Amstutz said. “I am excited for him because this is a chance of a lifetime for him. I couldn’t be more proud and happy for him.”
Moore said he is thankful for the unique relationship he shares with Amstutz. The two still talk often.
“Coach was always there for me, and I wish I could talk to him more,” he said. “I am glad we are still so close.”
The 2009-10 season was supposed to be the one in which Moore took the next step. After a breakout year during the 2008-09 campaign, Moore was expected be a crucial piece in the Saints’ pass-happy offense.
Unfortunately for Moore, ankle and hamstring injuries sidelined him for much of this season.
“I had never missed a game, let alone nine games like I did this year,” he said. “But I didn’t have much of a choice.”
Moore said the mental anguish was just as difficult to deal with as the physical injuries.
“I had to work through many of the mind games. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I played again, and I just had to keep working hard to get back out there.”
Despite Moore’s injury, the Saints won their first 13 games in a row, en route to a record of 13-3. Even though New Orleans was the top seed in the NFC, they were still not a favorite to reach the Super Bowl.
“We knew many of the analysts were not giving us a chance to get to Miami,” Moore said. “I think that we kind of surprised many people, but we were confident all along that we were going to get there.”
The Saints will face the Indianapolis Colts, the champions of the AFC, in the Super Bowl. The Colts are led by Peyton Manning, who was named the NFL’s most valuable player for the fourth time. Moore and the Saints know they are going to be in for a test come Feb. 7.
“Any time you have to face a guy like Peyton Manning, you know you are going to be in for a fight,” he said. “Their defense has been playing extremely well as of late, too. We are definitely going to need to show up ready to play.”
As if facing the Colts was not enough of a challenge, Moore and the Saints will face all of the extra events and hoopla that come with being a participant on Super Bowl Sunday. However, the fifth year receiver is confident that New Orleans will be ready to deal with the added distractions.
“Luckily, Coach (Sean) Payton has been to a Super Bowl before when he was an assistant with the New York Giants,” Moore said. “So he knows what it is like, and I am sure he will have a great plan to handle all the extra things that go with playing in a Super Bowl.”
Moore has not allowed his mind to wander too far ahead, but he and the Saints have one goal in mind come kickoff of Super Bowl XLIV: “We just want to win it all,” he said.
When asked if he had dreamt of catching the winning touchdown pass to win the big game, Moore’s answer, as always, embodied the spirit of being a team leader.
“I just want to win,” he said. “It does not matter if I catch four touchdowns or if I stay on the sidelines most of the time. I just am going to go out and do whatever I can to help my team bring home a championship and hoist the Lombardi Trophy.”
EXTRA: Win one for the Bayou
When Lance Moore signed with New Orleans in the fall of 2005, the Saints were a team without a home. The city was still reeling from the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, and the Saints’ home stadium, the Superdome, was still in ruins after the storm.
“When I signed with the team, it was a couple of weeks after the storm, and they were stationed in San Antonio at the time,” he said.
Even though the Saints were in another state, Moore said many of his teammates’ minds were still with the people of New Orleans during their hour of need.
“I felt the effects, and in listening to the guys, everyone was going through some tough times,” he said.
As the city struggles to continue to resurrect the Big Easy, Moore said the Saints have become a rallying point for the citizens of New Orleans. That was never more evident than in the NFC Championship win.
“Our fans are so loyal and so great. They made the conference championship game atmosphere so unbelievable, and it is all due to the fans and their loyalty to us. They give us a big advantage when we play at home, and when you come out on the field the Superdome is always rocking.”
The Saints feel that a winning pedigree is one way the team can have a hand in helping New Orleans reclaim some of its former glory.
“It’s amazing what we can do for this community just by winning football games,” Moore said. “It was the one thing we could do to maybe ease some of that burden.”
For a city that has not had much to cheer about as of late, the Saints’ Super Bowl berth has become a source of pride for the still-recovering city.
“This team had never won anything before and has never been to a Super Bowl before. The possibility of giving these fans and this city something that they have never had is something we want to do.”
Moore said he could not help but think what a championship would mean to this city that has suffered so much hardship in the last five years.
“We want the fans to be able to say that they witnessed and were a part of history. This city has struggled since I have gotten here, and to be able to give a championship to these people is a great opportunity and I am excited to be a part of the effort.”