AUBURN, Ala. — For what seemed like the longest time Auburn freshman T.D. Moultry couldn’t convince defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to call him by his real name.
“I called him field goal,” Steele joked after the Tigers’ win at Arkansas on Oct. 21. “And I wasn’t going to call him T.D. until he got his first sack.”
When Moultry approached Steele in the locker room, excited that his coach was going to have to change his ways, Steele cut him off, instead reminding the newcomer that he hadn’t made it yet.
“No, I can’t. You only got half a sack,” Steele responded playfully. “So, I’m just going to call you ‘T.'”
But Moultry was told to have better luck next time and to keep trying try — and so he did.
The Birmingham, Ala., native was the clear backup at the Buck linebacker position behind junior Jeff Holland in Auburn’s win over Texas A&M on Saturday. Better yet, Moultry delivered his first full quarterback sack in College Station, and he didn’t need any help this time, either.
Moultry continues to live up to expectations stemming from his well-recognized play as a high school prospect. ESPN listed him as a top 20 linebacker, Scout ranked him in the top 10 and 247Sports rated him in the top 5 in Alabama.
The question he needed to answer was: Would Moultry really be able to contribute to such a talented defense so early on? And it was a valid concern.
“As a freshman, man, you come in and you’re timid, playing your first game out there and playing in your first big SEC game. It’s kind of hard. You just look around like, ‘Dang, this is the SEC,'” sophomore defensive lineman Marlon Davidson said. “But with him, he just came out there and gave us his all. That’s the only thing we ask from anybody.”
Coaches raved about the Jackson-Olin standout long before he got on the field. Now, Auburn fans who couldn’t see behind the scenes are realizing why. After all, it takes a special kind of player to wear No. 55 the year after Carl Lawson leaves for the National Football League, right?
There’s obviously a bright future for Moultry and a couple of other long defensive standouts, including “Big Cat” Bryant. A handful of these young players have already proven they can contribute regardless of their age.
“They have a skill set,” Steele said. “They’re young. They go out there and try to learn every day. They improve every day. They’re still young, but they got good upside.”
The best part of Moultry’s first year on the Plains is it’s not done yet and his future continues to shine brighter. Teammates who’ve played as true freshmen keep taking notice and are giving the freshman nods when he deserves them.
“T.D. is strong. T.D. is really, really strong,” sophomore defensive lineman Derrick Brown said. “I think as T.D. keeps figuring this thing out, just like [Tyrone] Truesdell, you’re looking at two dominant players that can dominate the SEC in the future.”