OXFORD, Miss. — LSU fullback J.D. Moore didn’t expect the ball to be in his hands.
On a first-and-1o from the Ole Miss 11-yard line, Moore lined up bunched to the right side of the formation with tight end Foster Moreau and wide receiver Russell Gage. Before the snap, quarterback Danny Etling sent Gage in motion. Etling called for the shotgun snap as soon as Gage started moving. Upon catching the snap, Etling stuck the ball out into Gage’s chest, showing the jet sweep look LSU has dominated opponents with over the last three weeks.
But something was different this time. Ole Miss defensive tackle Breeland Speaks chased Gage upfield, creating a crease off tackle. Luckily for LSU, Moore was running straight into that crease.
Etling shoveled the ball to Moore. Earning the No. 18 on his back, Moore channeled his inner Jacob Hester and started chugging. He shed one tackle. He stepped over another. Shouldered through a third. Before he knew it, he was in the end zone.
Five years in Baton Rouge. Five years a Tiger. A former walk-on turned team captain sporting the program’s most famous number on his chest and back. And for the first time as a college athlete, Moore could say it: He scored a touchdown.
“It was a little surreal,” Moore said after LSU’s 40-24 win over Ole Miss. “I wasn’t expecting at the beginning of the play for that to be the turnout. But that’s the way it played out. I was excited. We’ve run it a few times in practice. Quite honestly, I’m not sure this week at least if I had gotten it ever because the read Danny always has in practice is to give it. So I just told myself I’m going to do my job and we’ll see what the outcome is.”
The outcome was, as Moore put it, a memory he’ll relive for the rest of his life. Upon returning to the sideline after his score, Moore said he was swarmed by teammates wishing him well. Moore isn’t the kind of player willing to make a big deal about himself, but he said he felt his teammates rallied around his score.
Senior running back Darrel Williams can confirm that.
“He’s been through so much these last four or five years,” Williams said. “He’s worked hard. Very hard. His first career touchdown, it means a lot to him and it means a lot to us. I just watched him grow and grow as a player and as a person. I really think he deserves it.”
If there’s one person in purple and gold unafraid to sing Moore’s praises, it’s LSU coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron has described Moore as the consummate leader and example of what an LSU football player should be. How else, after all, can a former walk-on earn the most prestigious leadership honor an LSU player can earn by wearing No. 18?
Orgeron added to his regular list of praises when he raved about Moore after Saturday’s win.
“J.D., you know, he wears No. 18, walk-on, has a 4.0 grade point average,” Orgeron said. “He’s going to be the CEO of a company some day, running it. Tremendous character, tremendous leader. I’m so happy for him. He’s been fighting some injuries, but he’s very healthy and I’m fighting for him.”
Moore finished Saturday’s game with 3 catches for 26 yards. In LSU’s first seven games of the year, Moore had 3 catches for 25 yards. He hadn’t caught a pass since the Tigers’ loss to Mississippi State on Sept. 16.
Everything came full circle for Moore Saturday in Oxford. His whole career had been about creating for others. He was a fullback in a Les Miles offense, after all. But Saturday, Moore finally got his moment in the spotlight.
Naturally, he didn’t think of it that way.
“I just tried to have the approach I have to every play, even if I can possibly get the ball,” Moore said. “I’m going to do my job, and if I get the ball I’m going to have good ball security and see what happens.”