Hard work big part of receiver's success for Missouri football

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | 8:23 p.m. CDT; updated 8:43 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 16, 2010
Missouri wide receiver T. J. Moe hauls in a pass in Missouri's victory over Illinois in the Tigers' season-opener in St. Louis.

COLUMBIA — T.J. Moe has a short memory.

Moe, a sophomore wide receiver on the Missouri football team, says he measures his performance by how he played in his most recent game. Moe says for him, success is the result of one thing: continued hard work.

"I don't worry about the past," Moe said. "You're only as good as your most recent performance, and for me this last week, McNeese State, is it. I'm just going to try to keep that going, prepare the same way I have, and I'll be fine with that. It worked the last two weeks."

At times, Moe seems almost overwhelmed by the attention directed toward him in the weeks since he had 13 receptions for 101 yards and one touchdown against Illinois. Another 10 receptions for 79 yards against an overmatched McNeese State tied him with Bowling Green's Kamar Jorden for the most receptions in the nation.

The scars of that first game are healed — the five stitches in Moe's chin, the result of a hard hit and an Illini helmet slicing his skin, are gone, the cut a distant memory. But the reporters who cluster around Moe, their microphones and recorders crowded in his face, remain.

There are new questions now, too. How does he feel about leading the nation in receptions? How is he going to maintain his performance? Moe isn't concerned with finding the answers or even with analyzing statistics. He's more focused on the expectations he has for himself.

"You always expect more out of yourself than anyone else," Moe said. "You know, I came in this year with a goal of just leading my team in receptions."

For now, Moe is sticking to that simple goal, but he said that he will be much more excited if he is still on the receptions leader board at the end of the season. Moe is hesitant to make comparisons or predictions, and his experience at Missouri has showed him that his dogged performance at practice is the best way to gain playing time and respect.

"I haven't been told anything here that hasn't been true," Moe said. "If you do well and you do the things we ask you to do, you'll be on the field. We don't know if you're going to start, we don't know how much you're going to contribute, but you're definitely going to make your way onto the field if you do the things we ask you to do."

He also knows the graduation of former Tigers standout Danario Alexander has a lot to do with the playing time he is getting. Moe seems awed by Alexander's records, and he says he is driven to work harder by his successful predecessor.

Teammate and fellow wide receiver Wes Kemp said Moe has been doing a great job of getting open and finding holes in the defense. He also said that Moe's timing with quarterback Blaine Gabbert might be the key to his success.

"I know where he's going to be, and he knows where I'm going to throw the football, so it's worked out pretty good all year," Gabbert said.

Moe agreed that he has a better concept of where he is on the field this year.

“When you’re a quarterback, you stand and look at everybody," Moe said. "You’ve got 21 players in front of you, and nobody’s back behind you. You can kind of sit there and diagnose everything that’s going on. As a wide receiver, you’ve got to make plays a lot of times standing backwards. You go and run 10 yards and turn around, and all the sudden everybody’s behind you.”

Gabbert added that Moe's physical appearance can sometimes be deceiving. A former quarterback, Moe is shorter than most of Missouri's wide receivers. He is far from imposing, even in his pads, but Gabbert says that Moe is stronger than he looks.

"He's our strongest wide receiver," Gabbert said. "You wouldn't expect it, but I think he benches 225 pounds 24 times. He's a ball of muscle out there."

Kemp thinks Moe's skills go beyond physical ones, though.

"Every week, you've just got to humble yourself," Kemp said. "You've just got to take the same attitude of working hard. He's that type of young man. He makes you want to work harder because you see him dedicated to what he does."

On Tuesday, Moe sent out a tweet that read: "My plan for the rest of my football career: upend conventional wisdom, surprise critics and make the improbable seem like no big deal."

Lofty goals, but his teammates say Moe is the type of person who can make it happen.

"He's tireless," Kemp said.

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