Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri Tigers have been dealt their fair share of losses at wide receiver.
The team’s three leading receivers from last year’s team — Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White — graduated, as did fellow senior receiver Gavin Otte. The Tigers had already lost three receivers to dismissal since April of last year, and one of the top freshman receivers in fall camp, Johnathon Johnson, went down with a season-ending injury in his first scrimmage.
All told, the Tigers should be thanking their stars they still have J’Mon Moore.
The sophomore wideout was on the receiving end of Missouri’s first touchdown of the season Saturday against Southeast Missouri State. A few weeks ago, he wasn’t sure he’d be playing at all this year.
Moore said Saturday he decided to forgo season-ending surgery on a separated left shoulder and play through the injury.
“I’m just blessed,” he said. “(For) a couple of days, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to play. Then I started getting in rehab, and I was able to move my arm much better, and I did a lot of rehab within those two weeks. Next thing you know, I was here.”
Moore injured his shoulder in a preseason practice Aug. 17. The AC joint is still separated, he said.
“With the seriousness of my injury, it’s a mind thing,” he said. “A lot of people play with it. Some people don’t.”
Moore said his decision was influenced by the Tigers’ desperate need for playmakers at the receiving position this year. Had his injury come with Sasser, Hunt and White in front of him, surgery might have been a more compelling option.
“With us having Bud, Jimmy and D-Money, that definitely would put me in a different circumstance,” Moore said. “But with the whole situation that we have this year, I couldn’t. And the way I’ve been working, I couldn’t not give it a try, just throw in the towel and have the surgery. I couldn’t do that to myself.”
Moore said playing with the injury has naturally made him more of a leader among the wideouts.
“It just shows how much he really cares about this team,” freshman receiver Emanuel Hall said. “J’Mon’s a really talented player. He’s still a young guy, too, so to push through an injury in general is hard, and then it just shows how much he cares. It really does.”
Moore entered the season with two career catches. He had three for 74 yards Saturday, including a 27-yard touchdown pass from Maty Mauk on the Tigers’ first completion of the season. It was Moore’s first career touchdown.
“Just waiting to play and going through that moment there, I dreamed that,” Moore said. “So to turn that into a reality was just a good feeling.”
Moore made an athletic play to go up and grab Mauk’s third-and-11 pass in the front corner of the end zone. He said it was important for the inexperienced passing game to get going early against SEMO.
“Just to see somebody make a play just gives you that extra boost, it gives you a good feeling,” he said. “… We hear a lot of things and a lot of people saying that we’re young, a lot of people just question what we can do. So with us getting reps and us getting connections with Maty on the field in the game it just uplifts our spirit.”
Moore enjoyed seeing four of his fellow receivers record their first career catches Saturday.
“Seeing them get some action just made me smile,” he said. “Because that’s a good feeling, you being young and you being out there to have an impact on the team, that’s a blessing.”
Hall, a true freshman, and redshirt freshmen Keyon Dilosa, DeSean Blair and Thomas Richard each had their first career grab against the Redhawks.
“I took a big hit after it, but it was really cool to get my first career reception,” Hall said. “… Before I went out there I was really nervous, but as soon as I stepped on the field, I was really confident and knew what I had to do, and all the nervousness just went away.”
Hall, a graduate of Centennial High School in Franklin, Tenn., said getting to contribute right away was a big selling point for Missouri.
“I knew that they needed help at wide receiver, at least that’s what I heard before I was being recruited,” Hall said. “I came in, I worked really hard during the summer, gained some respect from the coaches, then I just put in the time and the effort and came out on Saturday and played.”
One of eight true freshmen listed on Missouri’s depth chart, Hall has impressed Moore so far.
“He’s just so eager,” Moore said. “He wants to learn. He loves to play the game, and he plays the game the full speed. He goes out there — even if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s going to go out there and run full speed and give it his best try.”
Missouri will get some added experience at receiver Saturday at Arkansas State with the return of senior starter Wesley Leftwich. Leftwich missed the season opener with a knee injury.
“Wesley works hard, and to see him go down, you feel bad, because you know how much he’s been working,” Moore said. “Definitely with him being back in the lineup, it just lifts our spirits a little bit more.”