COLUMBIA — There is no question De’Vion Moore is an adult.
Glancing at him, he doesn’t look like a junior in college, but it’s hard to pinpoint why. He dresses like his teammates in baggy sweatpants, black T-shirt and earrings that match those of several players around him. Maybe it’s his beard, perfectly shaved into a thin line across his cheeks, chin and upper lip. It’s not quite that tangible, though. There’s something about the inquisitive look on his face, the way he quietly carries himself, that marks Moore as different.
No. 15 Missouri Tigers (8-2, 4-2)
at Iowa State Cyclones (5-6, 3-4)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, KCMQ/96.7 FM
TV: Fox Spots Net
SERIES: Missouri has won its past three games against Iowa State and six of the past seven. MU coach Gary Pinkel is 6-3 vs. Iowa State and 1-0 vs. Paul Rhoads.
Moore, a junior tailback for the Tigers, has come into his own this season, both on the field and off. The leader of a young group of running backs that includes sophomore Kendial Lawrence and freshmen Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy, Moore has worked hard to refine the mental aspect of the Tigers’ game plan.
When asked to describe Moore, the first thing Missouri coach Gary Pinkel mentions is his maturity. He said that Moore is the ultimate team player and that his intelligence and discipline guide everything he does. Pinkel called him the “grandpa of the running backs,” and though his physical skills would seem to contradict that statement, Moore has the mindset of a much older man.
“He’s the old guy,” quarterback Blaine Gabbert said.
Josey said Moore has been helping him since Josey arrived at Missouri and that he truly believes Moore cares about his future and his performance.
“He’s helped me more with just focusing and getting ready to play every week, making sure my mind is right,” Josey said.
Moore is also a positive role model for the freshmen. Running backs coach Brian Jones said Moore not only helps the younger players with drills and techniques, he also mentors them academically.
“He’s real mature,” Josey said. “He knows what he wants in life. I look up to him a lot, on the field and off the field. It’s like he knows everything. He’s real smart, not just with his books, but with life.”
Moore is also close to his coaches, and he works hard with them and his teammates to make sure he has a complete understanding of the game plan. Lawrence said Moore often has a better idea of the coaches’ expectations than the other running backs, and he does a good job of letting them know exactly what is expected.
Jones said that Moore is more than just a player. He’s like an extra coach helping the running backs improve. Jones added that Moore also spends extra time with the offensive line, working on blocking schemes and making sure he knows the linemen’s game plan.
Much of this extra planning comes as a result of Moore’s cerebral approach to the game. He’s adamant that physical skills, though important, are not the key to his team’s success.
“Playing at a Division I level, physically we have the form,” Moore said. “I feel like the edge is going to be the mental aspect of the game, and that’s just what I try and focus more on, knowing my opponent and being able to know my assignment.”
Moore is in tune with his emotions when he’s playing, and he’s convinced that a good mindset is key to winning. Lawrence said Moore has taught him that emotions and football are linked, and that he has to be mentally prepared for the challenges he will face on the field.
“You know, I just like to think,” Moore said. “I like to think about what’s going on before I go out and do things. The whole mental aspect, it just comes to me.”
That’s not to say that Moore’s mental abilities are the only thing he brings to the team. He leads the Tigers in rushing yards with 415 and has scored a career-high five touchdowns this season. Although the team relies on a rotation of running backs, Moore has risen to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. He says he thinks he has put in the hard work necessary to deserve the increased playing time, but that he is not concerned about who is starting or how many snaps he is seeing each game.
“The fact that the leader of the running backs, when there’s a lot of competition there, says that — that’s just … a great form of leadership,” Pinkel said.
Jones said Moore is an indispensible part of the Tigers' offense. Not only does he have the speed and the intelligence, he also has been incredibly consistent throughout the season. All of that has helped him to gain his coaches’ trust.
“He’s been very successful,” Jones said. “We’re going to trust him in certain situations, in terms of protection and knowing the play. Whenever there’s a critical time in the game, we want to have De’Vion in the game.”
Moore said that to him this season has been a highlight reel. Not because of his own performance, but because of everything his teammates have done. He wants to see his younger teammates do well, and he said every big play they make is like an extra boost for him.
Player, coach, grandpa — Moore somehow manages to fill all these roles. When asked how Moore has matured over the years, Jones laughed. Being an adult is just the way Moore is.