COLUMBIA, S.C. — Skai Moore went back and forth for months.
The thought of leaving South Carolina and going to the NFL was a very real thought in Moore’s mind. But in late November, the South Carolina linebacker settled on a a final decision: He would be back for his senior season as a Gamecock.
“After long talks with my support system – coaches, family and all that – we all decided it was the best decision for me to come back and finish what I started here and make myself known again,” Moore said.
Moore is back on the field for the Gamecocks this spring, a year removed from playing football. He sat out last season following neck surgery in May, a reality that initially left him fearing for his football future.
“Just not knowing really what was going to happen afterwards and how the procedure was going to go, that was a worry of mine,” Moore said. “The doctor told me it wasn’t a career-ending injury, so I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. When he told me that, it took a bit weight off my shoulders letting me know I could come back.”
But coming back was not an overnight process. Moore knew the surgery brought with it a long road and the knowledge that he would be out for a full season. He found last year extremely difficult, watching from the sidelines as his teammates played and he could not be on the field with them.
Instead, Moore was going through a slow, steady process to come back and be ready for spring football.
Moore, who led the Gamecocks in tackles every year from 2013-15, said getting back into football shape this spring has been a test. But as South Carolina enters its second week of spring practices, Moore has his legs back under him.
The 6-foot-1 linebacker was cleared to resume weight lifting in stages through the fall and has maintained his weight at 223 pounds.
“I feel a lot stronger,” Moore said. “My weight room numbers have gone up a lot. I definitely feel a lot stronger with the weight I have.”
The moment hasn’t come yet for Moore to fully throw his weight into somebody, but he relished the opportunity that has yet to come. He’s focusing on not playing timidly and not letting the surgery keep him from playing less than 100 percent all the time.
After all, Moore made the choice and let coach Will Muschamp know he was 100 percent coming back this season.
“After the Clemson game, I let him know that I was 100 percent coming back and ready to take on this season,” Moore said. “He was excited. I was excited, too, to come back and play under him. We both know that we can benefit each other. It was a mutual excitement when we both found out that decision for sure.”