ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Safety Rahim Moore has long been a fan of Denver defensive backs Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins, dissecting their games from afar while building a pretty good name for himself at UCLA.
Now, he gets to be their understudy.
Considered the top safety in the NFL draft, Moore said he’s already learned a thing or two from the Denver duo that he calls “my favorite DBs ever.”
After the Broncos selected him in the second round, he revealed that he had photos of Bailey and Dawkins on his cell phone and laptop, and he wasted no time calling Dawkins the night he was drafted.
“It’s a blessing for me to be here and it’s funny how I have these guys’ pictures in my phone because they are my favorite athletes. I knew this was the right place for me,” Moore said. “I have to learn the ropes from players who have already paid their dues. They’re future Hall of Famers, so I look forward to working with them and learning as much as I can.”
Moore also is eager to learn from Denver’s new defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen, who was New Orleans’ secondary coach when the Saints won the Super Bowl two years ago and safety Darren Sharper picked off nine passes, returning three of them for touchdowns.
“Darren Sharper, Hall of Famer in my eyes. That’s the type of safety I am, a ball hawk,” Moore said.
Moore led the nation with 10 interceptions his sophomore season but only picked off one pass as a junior last year when quarterbacks shied away from him.
“There were some games where I felt like, am I doing anything?’ Where no one would run my way or pass my way,” Moore said. “But I knew coming into the season that it would be that way sometimes because they studied me more than they ever did.”
Moore admits he pressed to make plays at times last season and paid the price, “but other than that, teams went away from me. It was just tough. It was like they knew everything I was doing, every little disguise. But that’s just how it is when you have an impact and teams study you for a whole offseason.”
Moore is more of a thumper than a classic hard-hitting safety, more of a ball hawk than a bruiser.
“I’ve always been like that, since Pop Warner,” he said. “I just love the ball, man. That’s what the game is all about. Everybody wants the ball, and I want it, too.”
To hone his ball-hawking skills, Moore sprinkled in some oddball drills every day at UCLA.
“First of all, you have to make sure you’re well-conditioned to be able to get to where the ball is and also you have to watch a lot of film. Film study puts you into the situation to where you’re right here and you can get to there before your opponent does,” he said. “And then also with the football, you’ve got to make the football look like a beach ball in the air. You’ve got to train with a baseball and train with a golf ball and train with a tennis ball every day.”
Baseballs? Golf balls? Tennis balls?
“Yeah, I throw it to myself. When I do my DB drills toss the ball to the other side of the field, just go track it down,” Moore explained. “Then, when you see the football, it’s like a big Dodge Caravan or something like that. That’s how it is.”
The Bruins’ other DBs did the same thing.
“That was our thing to do. We used to call ourselves the Killer B’s,” Moore said. “Everywhere the ball goes, we were always buzzing around, everywhere that ball goes, we’re there. Golf ball, tennis ball, baseball, all kinds of objects.”
Coach John Fox said he sees Moore as a free safety and fourth-round pick Quinton Carter of Oklahoma as a strong safety.
In landing the top two safeties on their board, the Broncos bypassed their most pressing need at defensive tackle so they could inject some youth into a seasoned secondary that features four thirtysomething starters.
“They have some veteran guys to learn from and that will speed the process,” Fox said. “We needed some youth there and we think we picked two very good ones.”
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Pro Football Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)