If you missed Part 1 of The UDFA, catch up right here.
Last month, we started our year-long series on undrafted free agent C.J. Moore. Since then, a lot has changed. When that chapter of the story ended, Moore was about to play his first ever NFL preseason game. Here we are a month later, and Moore is a full-fledged part of the Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster. But he didn’t get here without his share of high-nerved moments.
Moore had a pretty productive preseason. In the first game of the summer against the New England Patriots, Moore recorded five tackles. He also forced a fumble against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 of the preseason.
Perhaps the best preseason moment for Moore was the Lions’ trip to Houston where his brother, A.J., plays. After the game, Moore got to spend time with not only his brother, but a lot of his family in Houston.
“Things were great,” Moore said. “We used to dream about playing against each other. He didn’t actually play, but just to be out there on the same field as him was a dream come true.”
To wrap up the preseason at home, Moore recorded a tackle against the Cleveland Browns. But didn’t play as much as he did in the other three games. When the preseason ended that night, that’s when the real fun began.
The very next day, the Lions began their cuts. In fewer than 48 hours from the end of the preseason, the Lions will have made nearly 40 cuts to the roster. There are some of the most stressful hours for a young NFL player. Many spend their time just sitting around all day waiting for a phone call that could either be really good or really bad. Moore spent that time trying to keep himself occupied.
“On the second day, I was super nervous, kinda stressed out a little bit,” Moore said. “I chose not to go into the facility that day. I just wanted to stay at the hotel and keep my mind on some things and try and relax. I was praying a lot. I was just trying to have like a normal day at the hotel watching TV. I went for a walk and stuff.”
Moore woke up at 10 a.m. that morning and watched every hour tick by on the clock. The goal was to make it 4 p.m.. If he made it there, that meant he had made the cut.
As time kept going by, he still hadn’t heard anything from anyone. He began to wonder if that meant he made the team. Still, his nerves were high. Then at 3:52—just eight minutes from the cutdown deadline—he received a phone call from with a Michigan area code. He initially expected the worse.
“I was like, ‘Man, no way. No way they’re giving me the call right now.’ Like 10 minutes before the deadline.”
But his sealed fate wasn’t on the other line. It wasn’t head coach Matt Patricia or general manager Bob Quinn. It wasn’t even team president Rod Wood.
“It was the equipment manager just asking do I want to change my jersey?” Moore said. “At that point I’m like, ‘Yo, if he’s asking me to change my jersey...’ I’m asking myself, ‘Wait, did I make it?’ Then I ask him, ‘Hey man, did I make it?’ Then he’s like, ‘Yeah.’
He immediately wanted to share the moment with family.
“It was just super exciting,” Moore said. “I called my brother and told him. It was really a dream come true and a blessing from god. It’s just something I really worked hard for and god blessed me with it.”
Moore then went down to the Lions facility in Allen Park where Lions general manager Bob Quinn exchanged some words with him in the hallway. Quinn congratulated him and told him that “this is where the real work starts.”
Oftentimes, making the final 53-man roster is just the first of many hurdles, especially for an undrafted rookie. Teams makes several roster changes after the initial cutdown, so Moore’s job was anything but safe.
But over the course of the next month, Moore would not only remain on the roster, but make three game appearances as a key member of the special teams corps.
He marveled at how cool it was to play against Philip Rivers and Larry Fitzgerald. He got starstruck by Fitzgerald when the All Pro receiver talked to him during the game. These are guys he played with on Madden growing up.
Speaking of Madden, realizing he was now featured in the video game was very surreal moment for Moore.
“Man, me and my brother have been dreaming about that for life!” Moore said. “Since we were little kids. And to see that, my brother had sent to me because I’ve been like, ‘A.J., yo, am I on madden yet? Am I on Madden yet?’ Then he finally sent my name on the roster.”
He doesn’t exactly have a flattering Madden rating, but Moore doesn’t care.
“They got my overall at a 62, I think, but I don’t care what they have my overall at,” Moore said. “Man, as long as I’m on the game. Just having the opportunity to be on Madden, bruh. It’s really like a dream come true.”
Moore does like that his speed is at a 91 and his acceleration is at 93, but he thinks it should be faster.
That’s all we have for part two of C.J.’s story. Next month we’ll do a dive into what it’s like to play regular season NFL football and how big of a difference it is from the preseason.