Football journey: Sterling Moore

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Sterling Moore during his safety debut vs. the Jets.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots safety Sterling Moore was 11 years old when his favorite team suffered one of its most heartbreaking losses.

“The ‘Tuck Rule’ was real tough,” Moore said this week, laughing.

The laughter was because Moore, who grew up a Raiders fan in Antioch, Calif., is now a Patriot. He knows how the “Tuck Rule” rule game in the 2001 playoffs, the Patriots beating the Raiders in the snow, is viewed differently between New Englanders and those in the Black Hole.

These days, Moore wants the best for the Patriots. Back then, well, it was a different story.

When it comes to his football career, the 21-year-old Moore is an underdog who has taken an unconventional route to the NFL. His emergence in New England has been a hot story this week because he filled in at safety and played every snap in the team’s 37-16 win over the Jets last Sunday.

Moore, a lightly recruited high school player who went undrafted this year, shared his “football journey” this week with ESPNBoston.com:

When he first started playing football: “Senior year of high school. I was playing basketball and baseball and my mother didn’t want me to play three sports in high school.”

What made him go out for the football team as a senior: “All my friends played. It was the day before the first day of tryouts and I was just out there with them, throwing the ball around, and I was guarding some of the receivers. The receivers coach was out there and said, ‘You should come out tomorrow.’”

Top memories at Deer Valley High School in Antioch, Calif.: “That first season we went 10-0. We won our division but got knocked out of the playoffs. That success has carried on and they’ve been doing pretty darn well since.”

Attending Los Medanos Junior College and then Laney Community College in California: “I didn’t think I’d play football. My friend played quarterback and he was going there to play. He dragged me along to some of his workouts and I just stuck with it.”

Recollections of those years when he was an All-California JUCO selection: “Tough times. It’s kind of like high school all over again, but it’s probably the thing that made me work the hardest. You knew if you did well, you’d have a shot somewhere. It was probably one of the toughest times, but one of the best because it taught me a lot.”

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Sterling Moore (2) at SMU.

Why he attended SMU: “They were the only D-I school that offered me. I felt like I could play at that level and said, ‘I might as well.’”’

Top memories at SMU: “Winning the Hawaii Bowl and just being part of a program that turned it around. Everybody knows the history of SMU – for 25 years, there wasn’t a winning season, no Bowl games. Back-to-back Bowl games and a winning record, that was probably my biggest momory.”

Expectations in the 2011 NFL Draft: “I tried not to expect too much because I had some knee injuries my senior year. I couldn’t do too much at my Pro Day, but I was just hoping I had a shot. After my workouts, I was getting calls from quite a few teams. Things didn’t go the way I wanted, but it was kind of what I expected.”

Signing with the Raiders as a rookie free agent: “I felt like I had a good opportunity there and it was going back home. With Rod Woodson coaching the secondary there, I felt it would be a good place to learn how to be a pro from a guy who has been there. He’s a Hall of Famer, and you’re picking up little tidbits you wouldn’t even think of.”

Released from the Raiders practice squad Sept. 26 and signed to the Patriots practice squad Oct. 5: “I viewed it as another great opportunity. It’s another great team, and it was a chance to hopefully be on a team that could do something special. The approach was to come in, work hard, and hopefully prove myself. We’re close as a team. Everybody truly genuinely cares about each other, and is hoping for the best for everyone, no matter if you’re a starter or backup. It’s a cohesive group.”

Getting promoted to the active roster last week: “It was one of those things where ‘You’ve made it here, now you have a chance to get on the field.’ Go prove to everyone that they’re making the right decision to put you out there.”

Playing all 72 snaps at safety in a win over the Jets: “I thought it went well. There are things I can improve on, but I think that’s every game. Still being new to the position, there are still things I need to learn. We’ll get those figured out.”

His background at safety: “What background? [Laughing] I never played there before.”

Role models in his life and career: “My mom, grandma, and my grandparents. That’s where I learned my hard work from.”

Favorite team growing up: “Raiders.”

Favorite player growing up: “Charles Woodson.”

What this week has been like for him with more media attention: “It’s definitely something where I’m more nervous when there are a whole bunch of cameras in my face than when I’m out there on the field in front of however many people. I’m just trying to take it day by day, get better, and not worry too much about the media and all that stuff. I’m just trying to focus on the plays.”

What he loves about football: “Just the fact you’re out there with your teammates and you’ve put in all this hard work that a lot of people don’t see. Most of what people see is what is on the field on game day, but they don’t know what went into that. As a player, you do, and you want to go out and play for the man that’s next to you.”

Summing up his football journey: “It’s been a whirlwind. A lot of ups, a lot of downs. I’m hoping it’s up, and for a long time."