Watch: Skai Moore describes his welcome to the NFL moment
Skai Moore is living the NFL life now, competing with “grown men” and trying to make his way after a season with the Indianapolis Colts.
But when he was back in Columbia, he paid some respect to those who helped him build the foundation for all that at South Carolina.
“From the coaches, to even the academic staff, Maria Hickman, all those people, they really helped mold me, grow into a man,” Moore said. “Very appreciative of that.”
The former Gamecocks star went from undrafted to Week 1 starter, but spent much of his rookie season bouncing between the practice squad and active roster. He was in town this week for D.J. Swearinger’s charity basketball game.
He found his career starting lined up across from Seattle’s Russell Wilson, a slightly jarring experience. But he also got to be part of a playoff team, experience a new city and a fanbase that left an impression.
“I learned a lot,” Moore said. “I got my feet wet my first year. Being undrafted and going into there, you’ve got to really grind and earn your spot. So I learned a lot. It was a good experience.”
He finished the year with four tackles, mostly playing on special teams.
It’s a different world from college, where he led the Gamecocks in tackles four times and departed with the school record for interceptions. His lack of bulk hurt him in the draft process, but thus far hasn’t limited his ability to earn an opportunity to play.
Moore said he occasionally got to catch South Carolina games in the hotel on Saturdays before games. His assessment was the season could’ve been better, but he liked the fight the team had.
Through the spring, when Gamecocks coaches were asked about the linebacker play in 2018, they often referred back to the difficulty of replacing Moore. He said he spoke a bit to middle linebacker T.J. Brunson, his partner in 2017 and the unit’s veteran last season, as he came through an injury during the spring.
“I just told him, be smart,” Moore said. “Take it slow. You’re a great player. When you come back, you’ll be ready to perform well. We chopped it up a little bit.”
He’s been spending time with family since the season ended, getting to enjoy a little down time.
As he looked back on his first year as a pro, he’s mostly happy with it, but not exactly satisfied.
“Definitely wanted to be on defense a little bit more,” Moore said. “But that’s going to come with time. I learned a lot this year.
“I’m ready to get back.”