COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hayden Hurst let it be known at SEC Media Days. Skai Moore, one of the most productive players in South Carolina football history, hasn’t lost a step.
“He’s the same old 10,” Hurst said of Moore during his July appearance in Hoover, Ala.
Moore, who’s led South Carolina in tackles every season he’s played, is set to return to action in 2017 after missing all of last season with a neck injury.
“There’s been no falloff,” Moore said on Thursday. “I’m the same player – if not better – than the last time I stepped on the field, for sure, so just to prove there’s no falloff for me.”
The 6-foot-2, 218-pound senior from Cooper City, Fla. hasn’t played since South Carolina’s 2015 loss to Clemson at Williams-Brice Stadium, during which he had a game-high 13 tackles.
For his career, Moore has 260 tackles and he needs 47 more to move into the school’s all-time top 10. He’s also three shy of tying Bo Davies’ school-record of 14 interceptions.
“It’s definitely on my mind,” Moore said of the interception record. “People are always coming to me and talking about it, but I’m just going to go out there and play my game, do what I do, and the plays will come to me.”
Moore believes he’ll have plenty of opportunities to chase history.
“I’m in space a lot, so I just feel like this scheme is going to [display] my abilities,” he said, “So I’ll be able to make a lot more plays.”
To stay or not to stay?
South Carolina outside linebackers/defensive ends coach Mike Peterson played 14 seasons as a linebacker in the NFL, so he helped serve as a sounding board when Moore debated whether he should depart for the pros.
“I picked my times when I felt that it was needed,” Peterson said. “I’d see him walking in the building with maybe a discouraged look on his face. That’s when you pull him aside and let him know – there’s better things coming, just keep your faith and everything will work out.”
Moore was “close” to leaving, but his “family and support system” helped him reach the decision to stick around Columbia.
Peterson and the Gamecocks coaches are certainly excited to have him.
“It’s good to have a veteran guy, an older guy who loves football who can run and make some plays and hopefully get us out of some bad situations sometimes,” Peterson said.
Influence of Hall of Fame LB Derrick Brooks
From 1995-2008, Derrick Brooks was one of the best – perhaps the best – linebacker in the NFL. Brooks, who played at Florida State before he was drafted in the first-round by Tampa Bay, was voted to the Pro Bowl 11 times.
Brooks’ career also included a Super Bowl, five All-Pro selections and the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
In 2014, he was selected to the Hall of Fame.
“He was before my time, but my grandfather put me on Derrick Brooks,” Moore said. “That’s why I wear No. 10, because he wore No. 10 at FSU. That’s a guy that my granddad really just put onto me, so I’ve just been watching him for a while, [his] highlights.”
These days, Moore keeps a close eye on Telvin Smith (Jacksonville) and Ryan Shazier (Steelers), but the Brooks influence runs deep.
“He gets the ball off people. He got a lot of interceptions, hard hitter,” Moore said of Brooks. “He was never a big dude. He was always considered undersized, but he was definitely a Hall of Fame linebacker, so I just like how he plays, fast and he gets the ball off people.”