Former Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses always had the size, the starting experience and good health going for him.
All he needed to do once last season ended was start serving notice that he deserved to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. So he got to work at the Senior Bowl in January, taking advantage of the opportunity to showcase his talents against the best in college football. If the headline, "Moses parts the red D at South practice" is any indication, Moses did just fine for himself.
Then a few weeks later at the NFL combine, Moses impressed some more. Now, the second-team coaches all-conference selection in 2013 has become one of the biggest risers during the draft process. He has made trips to 14 NFL teams, crisscrossing the country while trying to juggle his final two classes so he can graduate next month.
Both ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay believe Moses is a first-round pick. Kiper has Moses going No. 28 to Carolina. McShay has Moses going to the Dolphins at No. 19 in his latest mock draft. Mock drafts are one thing. But Moses also scored and accepted an invitation to attend the draft in New York next May. So, all indications are Moses will be picked in either the first or second rounds.
"A lot of people are asking me, 'Is it first round, second round, what do you think?'" Moses said in a recent telephone interview. "I’m just blessed with the opportunity to be there at the draft in New York and whenever my name is called, I’m going to be happy. It’s an opportunity to play in the NFL, and that been a lifelong dream."
Several factors have impressed coaches in the run-up to the draft. Moses has terrific size, at 6-foot-6 and has slimmed down to 315 pounds, down 10 from his playing weight at UVa. He started 43 games for the Hoos and was never injured. And he made the move from right tackle to left tackle this past season, showing he can play on either side of the line.
The Senior Bowl, though, started tipping the scales in his favor.
"Just going into the Senior Bowl and being on the football field with the top of the top of college football and to do very, very well there definitely opened all 32 teams’ eyes and put me on a different level," Moses said.
Game tape obviously helps, too. Moses got an opportunity to play against some standout players a year ago. He held both Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley and Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu without a sack. In fact, Morgan has given up just two sacks in 506 pass attempts. Last season, Virginia also had its first 1,000-yard running back since 2004.
Virginia is now poised to have two offensive linemen selected in consecutive drafts. Moses switched over to the left side to take over for Oday Aboushi, who went to the Jets last year in the fifth round. While it remains a mystery where he will end up, the man known for his beard -- and the accompanying Twitter handle @NourishTheBeard -- knows one thing for certain.
No matter when he goes, no matter where he goes, the beard will follow.
"Of course," he said. "Unless somebody chops it off in my sleep."