FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Wide receiver Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter show up every day at 6:30 a.m. to get in extra work before practice — an un-rookie-like routine that has impressed the New York Jets‘ coaches. In Moore’s case, the early bird catches the pass.
A lot of passes.
The former Ole Miss star has been the standout of the Jets’ offseason practices, demonstrating the skill that convinced them to draft him 34th overall. Beyond talent, Moore’s “work ethic is off the charts,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “His mindset is off the charts.”
When these tidbits were passed along to Tevin Allen, a South Florida-based “sports movement specialist” who has been training Moore for seven years, his response was matter-of-fact.
“That’s Elijah Moore,” Allen said by phone. “You’re going to get this every single year. That’s not a façade. That’s not just to get on the coach’s good side.”
Allen speaks from experience. Over the past few offseasons, he has received odd-hour texts from Moore, who has an insatiable drive to master his craft. There have been 7 a.m. training sessions at Riverland Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, adjacent to their alma mater, St. Thomas Aquinas High School. There have been 11 p.m. workouts at Central Park in nearby Plantation.
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Moore usually texts with a specific plan in mind: Want to work on option routes. … Want to work on tracking the ball over my shoulder on slot fades.
That sort of thing.
“He’s not playing for a participation trophy,” said Allen, a former Illinois State defensive back and CEO of Gold Feet Global. “He’s going to do whatever it takes to get that No. 1 spot.”
The Jets are counting on Moore to be a trend-buster. They have a sorry history when it comes to drafting wide receivers. The list of recent disappointments includes ArDarius Stewart, Devin Smith and Stephen Hill. In fact, the Jets’ last draft to produce a Pro Bowl wide receiver was 2001, when they chose Santana Moss 16th overall. He made the Pro Bowl with the Washington Football Team, not the Jets.
It’s way too soon to put Moore in that company, but he does have some Moss-like qualities in that he’s undersized at 5-foot-9, but smooth, surehanded and precise with his routes. Allen, who has worked with several NFL receiving stars, said Moore was a better route runner in high school than some NFL players.
The Jets are using Moore in a variety of roles, namely the X, F (slot) and Z positions at receiver. At times, they could use him in tandem with slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who agreed to a restructured contract on Monday. Moore and Crowder will practice together for the first time Tuesday for the start of New York’s mandatory minicamp.
Moore also is getting a chance to audition for the punt-returning job. The coaches love his versatility and ability to make yards after the catch, his calling card at Ole Miss, where he amassed 1,193 receiving yards and 86 catches in eight games last season.
“Football is football,” Moore said. “At the end of the day, I know that obviously it’s going to be played at a higher level here, but you’ve got to adjust. You know, I’m here for a reason.”
Moore displays a maturity beyond his years, which made the 2019 Egg Bowl incident such a surprise. After scoring a touchdown in the final seconds, bringing Ole Miss to within one point against Mississippi State, he got down on all fours and pretended to urinate like a dog. He cost his team the game. The 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed them back and the Ole Miss kicker missed the extra point, resulting in a 21-20 loss.
The crude celebration was an out-of-character lapse resulting in a torrent of criticism despite Moore’s apology. In an interview after the 2021 NFL draft, Moore showed accountability, saying he learned a lot from the mistake. Allen, who has known Moore since he was 14, called it a turning point.
“I believe the Egg Bowl situation put him in a different zone because that’s not the kid he is,” Allen said. “Everybody was sending him death threats and saying he needs to lose his scholarship, things like that.
“It hit him, man. It could’ve messed up a lot of people. It put him in a position where he could either use it as fuel or it could’ve buried him, but he obviously went back the next year and showed who he is.”
From the time he was 12, when he started working with wide-receiver trainer Sly Johnson, Moore has lived an “accelerated lifestyle,” according to Allen. He has trained with wide receivers such as the Cleveland Browns‘ Odell Beckham Jr., Buffalo Bills‘ Stefon Diggs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Antonio Brown, absorbing knowledge from the masters. When he got to college, he learned from teammates DK Metcalf (Seattle Seahawks) and A.J. Brown (Tennessee Titans).
Moore was on the fast track to the fast track, which has led him to the Jets.
“He can line up wherever you want, and he’s going to execute it at a very high level, even though the routes might be a little bit different, the stems might be different, the releases might be a little bit different,” Saleh said. “He’s showcasing his ability to be as versatile as possible in terms of being at different parts of the field, being at different positions, understanding what needs to get done, so when the ball gets to his hands he can still do what he does best — and that’s run after catch.”