April 18, 2008

Redshirt season helps Moore mature

It's easy to imagine that last year wasn't a good one for Kansas State defensive back Joshua Moore. Plagued by undisclosed academic issues that forced him to watch from the sideline during each of the Wildcats' 12 regular-season games, the Florida native couldn't help but feel isolated. This season, however, things will be different. It wasn't just time that healed the wounds inflected by a rough 365 days past, as Moore's new outlook on football and life is the result of a painfully proactive approach.

Few are familiar with the full set of circumstances behind Moore's suspension, but what even more fail to realize is that being forced to sit out the entirety of his sophomore season wasn't the first or largest pill of bad news he had to choke down last year.

Weeks before the word of his suspension and the ensuing NCAA investigation reached the Wildcat cornerback, he received news that made any possible football-related problem seem peripheral. There's a difference between life and athletics, after all, and Moore was forced to face that cold reality through an avenue down which no college student should be forced to travel. Though it wasn't widely publicized, Moore's youngest sister, Shiquita Bozeman, was killed in a car accident prior to last year's spring game at the age of 27, firing the first and loudest shot of what turned into a year-long war inside the cornerback's mind and soul.

From there, as one could imagine, things began to come apart.

It's hard to imagine that the loss of a sibling had nothing to do with what he called "a lack of focus" on both football and academics in the spring and summer of last year, but the newly reinstated defensive back refuses to use it as an excuse. Instead, Moore, now recovered from the nightmare that was 2007, is refocused, and from this point forward, everything he does on the turf and in the classroom is done in honor Bozeman, to whom he was never granted the opportunity to dedicate last season.

"Knowing that I wasn't injured, but I still couldn't go out and play for (my sister) last year hurt me to the heart," Moore said. "I'm going be so excited just to get on the field this Saturday. I've been waiting a long time to just go out and play. All this made me appreciate football and everything a lot more."

Moore's first few steps on the field in front of a live crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium will be symbolic of a new beginning, and a renewed lease on both football and life. So don't try telling him Saturday's spring game is nothing more than a meaningless exhibition.

"I wasn't taking classes seriously then," Moore said of his attitude a year ago. "The situation that happened to me helped turn me into a better person though. Now, since my sister passed, I'm carrying the torch for my family. Now, I have to keep my head straight. I have to be accountable."

It takes nothing more than a short conversation with one of his teammates to discover the transformation the defensive back speaks about is more than just talk. This change, and the causes for it, both run deep and most have already taken notice. The new Josh Moore simply refuses to be bitten by the same venomous snake twice.

"He's different this year," said K-State senior wide receiver Ernie Pierce. "He's always in (the learning center). We're always studying together. Then, when he goes out on the field, he plays with a chip on his shoulder. It's like he has something to prove now."

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