BIRMINGHAM — Michael Moore's ascent up the UAB depth chart at outside linebacker seems surprising from the outside.
It's easy to know very little about the 6-foot-5, 235-pound redshirt senior from Houston. He was a late addition, coming to UAB in the summer of 2022, and made two tackles, both coming against Alabama A&M, in two appearances last season. He's certainly sailed under the radar since coming to UAB.
Learn a little more about his path to get here, however, and the ascension is not that surprising. The persistence to get to the top of the outside linebacker depth chart, at least for now, is the same thing that kept him going through some times when it appeared football just might be over.
"I've been playing football since I was four," Moore said. "I haven't really thought about life after football, which is crazy. I know everybody always says, 'What's your plan B?' My plan B is to try to make plan A work, and then, after that, maybe I can look into something else."
Plan A first took a hit at Pearland High in Houston. He hurt his Achilles tendon and missed the bulk of his junior season. As a senior, he received very little recruiting attention. He chose to attend Bethany College, an NAIA school in Lindsborg, Kansas.
It was an adjustment, to say the least, to go from Houston to a town with somewhere around 3,500 residents.
"It was the worst, especially where I was," Moore said. "You had to drive an hour to get to the grocery store. They had a McDonald's and Pizza Hut but didn't stay open late at night. They closed at like 8. I went from this big city to a city somewhere with no downtown, nothing but trees, grass. I was like, 'What am I doing here?' It was definitely a big culture shock."
A former high school teammate suggested he switch to a junior college after his lone season at Bethany. Moore enrolled at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa. In his first season, while playing inside and outside linebacker, he had 38 tackles, one interception, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. He got the year back because of Covid and expected big things during his second JUCO season.
Just before the 2021 season, his path was blocked once again. Moore chipped a bone and tore ligaments in his right foot. He had surgery on his foot and was done for the season.
"I had already made some noise in JUCO," Moore said. "Going into the second season, my mind was on this is it. I can start getting Power 5 and Group of 5 schools on me. Here they come. My injury happened a week before the first game. It just started rushing into my head, 'What am I going to do? Am I still going to be able to play?'"
Late in the spring, he still hadn't received any recruiting interest. With no place to play, football could very well be done. Just before the spring semester closed, Bryant Vincent, who was the UAB offensive coordinator at the time, showed up at the school to gauge Moore's interest in becoming a Blazer. Moore took a visit in July and jumped at an offer.
Moore arrived at UAB soon after and was with the team throughout the season but still didn't feel healthy.
"I was still having problems," Moore said. "My nerves were feeling bad. I couldn't really plant and move laterally, pushing off, running, basically everything."
In December, Moore had surgery on his foot again. He was able to join the team in the spring and quickly showed the new staff that he belonged in the rotation on the edge.
"I approached it as doing the same things I've been doing," Moore said. "That's just me. I come out, I compete, and do what I need to do, regardless of if it was a new coaching staff or just a couple of changes. I always come out and attack practice. It feels good to be back out here, lining up against the ones, or anybody in general, especially because I didn't get to do it the past year and a half. I'm just seeing my progress, how far I've come."
Now, it's his challenge to stay in the rotation. With spring practice coming to a close, it appears he's one of the starters on the outside, along with Tennessee State transfer Kendall Johnson. The Blazers have some depth at that spot, with returnees Nikia Eason Jr. and Jaylen Mayala also coming off solid springs. Kybo Jamerson, who missed last season, looked good in the spring game, junior college transfer Jamarcu Jones could be a factor, and UAB added more depth during the February signing period. And that doesn't include Michael Fairbanks and Drew Tuazama, who can line up inside or outside and will make a huge impact either way.
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