Jim Mora peered over a crowd of reporters in 2014 and saw Fabian Moreau walking off Spaulding Field after practice. He looked at the rising junior, mentioned Moreau’s long arms, slightly bow-legged stance and thick stature. With a firm point of his right index finger, Mora nailed down Moreau’s future.
“That’s an NFL corner right there,” Mora said.
In a few days, that three-year-old statement will come true.
Moreau is poised to be an early-round pick in this week’s NFL draft, which starts Thursday at 5 p.m. in Philadelphia. The 6-foot, 206-pound Florida native was projected to go as high as the late first round, but a Pro Day chest injury may have bumped him down to the second day of the three-day draft.
Just five years after taking his first backpedals as a cornerback, Moreau, who in his past football life was an under-recruited running back, is taking the next step in a “wild ride” that even his old high school coach couldn’t have predicted.
“Such a small percentage of guys make it,” said Rashad West, who coached Moreau at Davie Western High in Florida. “To switch positions in college, it’s unheard of a lot of times for a guy to have that (NFL) opportunity. It’s just crazy, but it’s been great for him.”
Moreau was reborn as a cornerback on the field at Cal State San Bernardino in 2012. Moreau, then a freshman running back buried in a depth chart that included Johnathan Franklin and Paul Perkins, hung around after practice. He and some teammates were just horsing around, jawing back and forth the way competitive college athletes do.
Defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin watched as the freshman lined up on defense against wide receiver Shaq Evans, then a redshirt junior on his way to 126 career catches in 32 starts. Moreau stayed in front of Evans, jammed him up and stayed in coverage even when the receiver tried to muscle his way free.
Martin’s eyes got wide.
“I was like, whoa, this guy might be natural,” said Martin, the only defensive backs coach Moreau has ever known.
The coach took to molding Moreau’s natural talent into a lockdown corner. Let go of your previous football self, Martin said. You’re a cornerback now.
Moreau, modest and reserved, accepted the change, understanding that it was his clearest path onto the field. He turned into an honorable mention All-Pac-12 talent by his sophomore year, starting all 12 games. He finally came to terms with the fact that his life as a running back was over. His life as a cornerback could then truly begin.
After earning second-team all-conference honors as a junior and redshirting his true senior year due to a Lisfranc injury suffered against BYU, Moreau led a UCLA secondary that allowed a Pac-12-low 12 touchdown passes in 2016. He had a team-high 10 passes defended. Besides his production on the field, Moreau was a respected figure in the locker room among players and coaches.
“He was a guy that was never rattled by things,” Martin said. “He always had a calm presence about himself. When I got a little riled up sometimes, he put a calming effect on me.”
Moreau has been like that since high school, West said. Always a bit of an old soul, Moreau was a quiet hard worker obsessed with working on his craft. Even as he prepares to enter the NFL, Moreau still tells anyone who will listen that he’s a work in progress, West said.
For how far he came in his five years at the position, Moreau still had only three interceptions during his UCLA career. He got in a bad habit of drawing pass interference and defensive holding penalties. His pectoral injury, suffered when bench pressing at UCLA’s Pro Day, required surgery, but he is still on target for recovery for training camp, according to West.
Yet the measurables are still there. He had a standing broad jump (11 feet, 4 inches) that was second among all players at the NFL combine. His blazing 4.35-second 40-yard dash was second among defensive backs. That’s the running back that never fully died. West still wishes he could have seen Moreau take just one collegiate carry, whether on offense or in the return game.
“I think his long-term prospects for success are undoubted,” Mora said last month.
After the combine, Mora’s phone lit up with calls. NFL teams needed to know about more about this converted cornerback. The UCLA coach who spent the majority of his NFL coaching career coaching defensive backs was thrilled. Others are finally seeing what he saw so many years ago.
Thursday, April 27: First round, 5 p.m.
Friday, April 28: Second and third rounds, 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 29: Fourth-seventh rounds, 9 a.m.
All rounds on ESPN and NFL Network
UCLA prospects: DE Takkarist McKinley, CB Fabian Moreau, DL Eddie Vanderdoes, OL Conor McDermott, LB Jayon Brown
Read more about UCLA’s Fabian Moreau lives up to NFL draft prediction This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Irvine Shredding Service
Powered by WPeMatico