RENTON -- Seattle is a long way from the tiny college town of Ada, Oklahoma.
East Central University is a Division II program located 90 minutes to the southeast of Oklahoma City. It's the school where the Seahawks found wide receiver David Moore last year before selecting him in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Moore was a project but his athletic ability presented a tremendous upside.
In his second season with Seattle, Moore is starting to develop into a big-play threat for the Seahawks offense. Moore cracked the receiving rotation four games ago and essentially pushed Brandon Marshall off the roster due to his production ever since.
"He's just a strong-bodied guy that's able to fight for contested balls and has made some terrific catches. He's just a really good player," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.
Moore has caught 11 passes in his last four games for 221 yards and four touchdowns, which ranks second on the team behind Tyler Lockett's six. Schottenheimer said the decision was made to give Moore some more opportunities after the team's 0-2 start when they refocused their offensive strategy around running the football and looking for explosive plays downfield.
"It was one of those things where we had seen it throughout training camp, we had seen if throughout preseason... when we kind of switched the mentality a little bit, it was 'OK, run the ball well, going to mix some shots in there, get guys 1-on-1' and he just deserved those opportunities," Schottenheimer said. "We did it, he maximized those and therefore has earned more of them."
The Seahawks promoted Moore to their active roster last November after spending the first two-and-a-half months of the season on the team's practice squad. The move caught some by surprise as Seattle released veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney to create the spot on the roster for Moore's addition.
Even though he was a raw prospect, Moore had shown flashes of his ability in practice from the very start. The move to add him to the 53-man roster was a preemptive attempt to assure Moore remained in Seattle and didn't get plucked off the team's practice squad by another team.
Even now, there's more room for Moore to grow.
"He’s doing just what we’ve seen in practice, that he really owns the football when it’s up," head coach Pete Carroll said. "He’s really good at his body positioning, the strength about playing the football – you notice he’s had a number of catches when there’s been guys all over him and he’s had to go up and take the ball away. He’s really good at that. That’s coming through and there’s such a room for improvement, too. There’s so many things that he’ll get better at in time that it’s really encouraging that he can be a big factor."
Moore didn't have many options available to him coming out of high school in Gainesville, Texas. He struck up a strong relationship with the coaching staff at East Central, which is approximately 100 miles from his home town.
A former running back, Moore made the conversion to wide receiver in college. As a senior he caught 57 passes for 878 yards and 10 touchdowns. He finished his career with 35 total receiving touchdowns with 33 coming in his final three seasons.
The Seahawks were bullish on Moore's potential from the start. Scout Aaron Hineline stayed in frequent contact with Moore throughout the lead up to the draft and made it clear that Seattle was interested in him.
"He was in my ear a lot and he would text me a lot," Moore said. "The first time I met him he said I was going to be a Seahawk and I just looked at him like 'all right, dude.'"
Moore wasn't expecting to get drafted, though he knew it was a possibility. He was one of two prospects from Oklahoma to land with Seattle that night in the seventh round along with running back Chris Carson.
After being promoted from the practice squad last season, Moore only appeared in one game. But Moore began to show up this offseason and performed well in the preseason.
"He's a (expletive) beast," wide receiver Doug Baldwin said of Moore.
Moore caught six passes for 147 yards and a touchdown in the preseason. In addition to a 36-yard touchdown catch against the Minnesota Vikings, Moore returned a punt for a 75-yard touchdown only to have it negated due to a penalty. But what mattered on the play was his athleticism with the ball in the open field.
"That showed up a lot in college, so we were hoping that would translate," Carroll said last week of Moore's ability in the open field. "Because he had the ball a lot, you could see a lot of examples of his natural feel and play-making ability. Didn’t see all the schemes that we would like to see to evaluate him, but we did see that stuff and that was enough to fire us up."
Moore is now performing against top professional talent. He's caught touchdowns in three straight games and posted career highs in catches (four) and yards (97) against the Lions last Sunday.
In addition to his 15-yard touchdown catch last week, Moore made one of the biggest offensive plays of the day against Detroit. Early in the fourth quarter, Moore caught a 45-yard pass over Lions cornerback Teez Tabor that set up a 7-yard Chris Carson touchdown on the following play.
On Moore's catch, Doug Baldwin was also wide open on his route coming across the middle of the field against Darius Slay. Many times in the past, it would have been Baldwin that got that throw from Wilson. But as soon as Moore hauled in the pass downfield, Baldwin raised his right fist in the air in celebration.
"Joy," Baldwin said of his reaction to Moore's catch. "Not so much because he's scoring touchdowns or he's catching passes but because he's having fun. The world that we live in, the world that he's come from, it hasn't been easy on us. We've fought for so long to get to these points, to get to these places that we are now to have the success that we have sometimes you forget to really enjoy it. To take a moment to have gratitude and in that moment, in those situations when you see guys genuinely having fun doing something that they care about, that they love, it's a joyful moment."
Moore seconded that notion when asked to discuss his last four games.
"It's been fun. It's been a heck of a ride," Moore said. "Especially with the way that everything is going on the field, just having fun and playing with my bros. I think the main thing that I'm really excited about are the touchdown dances, man. No matter what, who scores receiving, just go out there and have fun, just play and do our thing."
It's that enthusiasm that has endeared Moore to Baldwin and makes his emergence all that much more special.
"We spend a lot of time together and getting to know him on a personal level has been really rewarding because he's one of my favorite people," Baldwin said.
Photo Credit: DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 28: David Moore #83 of the Seattle Seahawks runs for yardage against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Ford Field on October 28, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)