First impressions are often lasting ones.
That was case for West Bolivar (Rosedale, Miss.) coach Harry Johnson when he first watched running back Kailo Moore in middle school.
"I first saw Kailo in the seventh grade playing football," Johnson said. "He was just unbelievable. I mean, we all knew he was going to be a phenom. I don't think he lost a football game in middle school."
It's the kind of stuff that creates legends. As an eighth-grader, he joined the high school varsity (as a starter) after his eighth-grade season was over. A year earlier, Moore ran a 10.85 in the 100-meter dash and placed fourth in the state (all levels).
"Oh, I knew the first time I saw him that Kailo was so much superior than anyone on our team regardless of age or class," said West Bolivar athletic director Willie Thomas, who also serves as the track coach. "This was at such a young age, and he was running those times and playing football with the varsity. I have been here a long time and I have never seen anything like it. Never."
Moore, 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, is clearly one of America's top running back prospects in the Class of 2013. He rushed for over 2,500 yards as a sophomore and 1,500 yards as a junior. Last year, he led his high school team to a state title, even though he rarely played more than one half of each game and was injured toward the end of the season.
"He brings so much speed to the table," Johnson said. "We won a [2A] state championship this season largely because of him. When Kailo gets a step, he's gone. Once he's out of the gate, he's gone. But Kailo is also a good character kid and a leader. And he's so talented. It's hard to get those two things to go together, but that's Kailo Moore. He's just great to be around."
Moore also carries a 3.2 core GPA, and you would never know that he's one of the top high school football talents in the nation.
"He's not cocky or arrogant," Johnson said. "All the kids and teachers just love him. He's a good student who takes care of his academics. And he's never in trouble."
Things have always seemed to come easy for Moore -- even when he jumped from middle school football to varsity -- but he will be the first to admit that he was nervous in his first start against the big boys back in the eighth grade.
"I figured these are the older guys and I won't be able to outrun everybody in high school," Moore said.
Not so much.
"That very first Friday night, I broke out for two long scoring runs. I was still faster and I never, ever lost confidence. And as a running back, I slowly progressed each game and each season, especially from my eighth- to ninth-grade year. I just starting reading blocks better. Then I really broke out my sophomore year."
After his sophomore season, Moore committed to then-Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and the Rebels before the off-field fireworks ever had a chance to begin.
"At the time, I really liked the tradition with Ole Miss and I really got to know the coaches," Moore said. "I felt like I could trust them. They had been recruiting me since the eighth grade and I knew that was the staff I wanted to play for. Then the staff got let go and pulled away. Now I am keeping my options open, but I think I have my mind on where I want to go."
At this time Moore favors three schools -- Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Alabama -- and he will have visited all three schools by next weekend. At least, that's his plan.
"I went to Ole Miss a couple of weeks ago and I was at Mississippi State this past Saturday," Moore said. "My plan is to visit Alabama this weekend. I have a track meet in Birmingham on Saturday and Sunday, and I will try and get there on my way back.
"I think everyone in the SEC has offered me, but those are the main three that I like right now. I like those coaches and I want to go to school where I will be happy. I want to stay in the SEC and play for a school where I trust the coaches and where I can also run track."
There's not much left for Moore to achieve at the high school level, but he still has two track seasons left plus this fall for football. That means this speed demon from the Magnolia State has some goals in mind, and that's scary for his opposition.
"I want my football coach to really turn me loose this fall," Moore said. "A lot of times I would play only a half. Then I missed time late in the playoffs because I hurt myself lifting weights. I really want to bust out. I want to rush for 400 yards in a game. There's a lot I still want to do. And in track my goal is to run 10.30 [100 meters] and 20.50 [200 meters]."
Moore is still hungry, even after winning the 100 and 200 meters last July in the Junior Olympics in New Orleans.
"People have to remember and realize that this is a track guy that can really play football," Thomas said. "I have seen the growth in football. He loves running and loves football. Kailo will excel doing both sports in college. He's that kind of talent."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.