When rookie offensive lineman David Moore’s face appeared on the computer screen for his first Zoom call with media members Friday, he was already smiling.
He was about to begin his NFL career. The Panthers held a three-day rookie minicamp this weekend, with 34 rookies and second-year players trying make impressions on their coaches and learn the system. Moore said it hadn’t quite hit him yet that he was finally here.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Moore, who will be competing for one of the offensive guard spots. “To be here in front of you guys, it just brings a smile to my face.”
Moore was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Panthers shortly after the draft. He played three years at Grambling State, a Historically Black College and University, known for producing a few Hall of Fame football players like Doug Williams and Buck Buchanan.
But like many Football Championship Subdivision schools, Grambling’s 2020 fall season was moved to the spring of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moore opted against playing during the spring season so he could prepare for the April draft.
So it had been more than a year since he was on the field when he played under the Panthers’ staff during the Reese’s Senior Bowl. There, he got to know Panthers’ offensive line coach Pat Meyer and head coach Matt Rhule, and quickly made an impression.
Rhule first became aware of Moore before the Senior Bowl, after speaking with Panthers offensive tackle Trent Scott, also a Grambling State alum. Scott and Moore briefly played together during the 2017 season when Scott was a senior and Moore a freshman.
“He said, ‘Hey coach, keep an eye out for David Moore. I put my stamp on him, he can play,’ ” Rhule recalled Scott saying. “And we got down there (to Mobile, Alabama), and I think he was, pretty much — everyone on our team — our favorite guy.”
“He’s got a great personality, great demeanor. Everyone around him just gravitates towards him.”
Scott wasn’t surprised.
“I knew David would go down there and put on a show, and he backed me up on it,” Scott said.
‘You’re not supposed to be moving like that’
Scott described Moore as outgoing, laid-back and friendly. People gravitate toward him, Scott said.
It’s easy to see why. He’s humorous and is often seen smiling.
Moore, who is 6-foot-3, said when he got to rookie minicamp, he weighed 327 pounds.
“Dropping weight. You know. Gotta get right,” he said jokingly.
He’s also athletic for a big man. When asked the funniest story he can recall from being teammates with Moore, Scott doesn’t hesitate to answer.
“The first time I saw him do a backflip,” Scott said with a laugh. “Oh yeah, big dog can do a back flip. He probably was 340 (pounds) then.”
Scott said Moore did it one day after practice at Grambling. Moore told his teammates he could do a back flip and no one believed him. As he ran to prepare for his back flip, Scott said all of his teammates stopped to watch.
And Moore did it in one take.
“Everybody was like, ‘Whoa, what just happened,’ ” Scott said. “You’re not supposed to be moving like that big dog.”
He added that it just shows Moore’s athleticism.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which then outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The schools were initially built for Black students who otherwise were not allowed go to certain predominately white institutions.
When Grambling’s coaches began recruiting him out of high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, Moore said didn’t know much about HBCUs.
But when he took a visit to the school in Louisiana and learned about the history and alums, he said he fell in love with it. He went on to star there, following in the footsteps of his teammate, Trent Scott.
Last year, there were 29 HBCU players on NFL rosters and practice squads, according to HBCU Gameday, a website that covers HBCU sports. Two of those players — Scott and Trenton Cannon (Virginia State) — were on the Panthers’ active roster.
Moore was a projected as a fourth- or fifth round pick in some mock drafts.
His lack of film in 2020, and the fact that he played at a smaller school that doesn’t get as much exposure, likely played a factor in him not being drafted.
But Moore hopes that he can show in rookie minicamp and OTAs that he’s capable of being a productive player for the Panthers. He feels like he has an even bigger responsibility as an HBCU alum.
“It brings me great pride to represent HBCUs at this platform, just to show guys they can find you,” Moore said. “As long as you put the work in, anything can happen, so I’m blessed.”