Photo by John McCoy/AAF/Getty Images
SANTA CLARA – In 2013, Damontre Moore was far closer to a Nick Bosa-type prospect than a roster bubble guy. Six years later, he’s fighting to stake his claim on the 49ers’ roster, and is making a pretty good case for himself.
Coming out of Texas A&M, where, in his junior year, he racked up 12.5 sacks and 57 tackles (21 of which went for a loss), Moore was seen as a potential top-five prospect. But Moore’s draft process was nothing short of a nightmare.
According to Bleacher Report, one scout referred to Moore, who was arrested for marijuana possession in 2011, as a “mess off the field.” Moore was also arrested for a DWI while driving with a suspended license for the Seattle Seahawks in 2016, for which he served a two-game suspension in 2017 after he’d signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
Moore reportedly had poor pre-draft interviews and had a woeful time with his workout, hitting just 12 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press (last among defensive linemen at the combine) and ran a 4.95-second 40-yard dash. All of sudden, the projected top-five pick fell into the third round, where the New York Giants selected him 81st overall. Roughly two-and-a-half years later, following a 5.5-sack sophomore year in 2015, and 3 sacks in his 11 games in 2016, the Giants released him.
The cause of that release was a locker room fight with defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, over a free pair of Beats by Dre headphones doled out by then-Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., according to NJ.com. That fight was reportedly the last straw for the then third-year defensive linemen who struggled mightily with penalties and off-field issues to the point that then-head coach Tom Coughlin said he couldn’t trust Moore.
After his release, Moore signed with the Miami Dolphins for the remainder of the season, then signed with the Seahawks in 2016, before being released following his DWI charge. In 2017, Moore served the initial two-game suspension once he signed with the Dallas Cowboys, before getting into a fight on October 20 caught on camera outside of a bar in Dallas. He was cut four days after the incident.
Moore signed with the Oakland Raiders late in 2018, playing just two games, before signing with the San Diego Fleet in the now-defunct American Alliance of Football at the start of 2019. There, Moore excelled, pulling in a league-high 7.5 sacks and taking the highest grade amongst AAF edge rushers, according to Pro Football Reference.
Since signing with the 49ers, Moore’s had an excellent camp, despite not being on head coach Kyle Shanahan’s radar before being signed. Shanahan credited general manager John Lynch and his staff for their scouting of the AAF, from which the 49ers also plucked offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill.
Now, after what’s so far been a mess of a career, Moore – who will turn 27 years of age three days after the 49ers’ September 8 season opener – is in the mix. In the team’s first preseason game against the Cowboys, he had four tackles and led the team with three quarterback hits. On Saturday, in the third preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Moore had a team-leading five tackles (one for a loss), two sacks and four quarterback hits.
“He’s done a lot. He’s a candidate,” Shanahan said Sunday. “He’s done a real good job. You guys can see the plays he’s making. He’s been consistent with it, so it’s going to be tough when we get down to the final D-Line group, because we’ve definitely got a number of guys. But, he’s doing all he can to make it real hard on us. I know it’s about other guys and the people he’s going against and who we think is going to be available for Week 1 and who is going to help us throughout the year. It’s a tough decision that I’m excited that we’re in a position to have to make.”
Moore put on that performance while playing in what he called a “billy club,” one of those whack-a-mole-hammer-sized wraps that defensive linemen are given when they have a hand injury. Moore had dislocated his left thumb the week prior, early on against the Denver Broncos, which, as Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports reported, was evident from the fact that the bone broke through the skin.
But heading into that third game against the Chiefs, the 6’4″, 260-pound defensive end was nervous. He had a barrage of questions for the team’s medical staff about his hand and the wrap. Would he have any limitations in warmups? How much padding could they stuff in? Could he move his hand under the cast?
Once that “billy club” actually came on, though, Moore says the nerves eased. He also added his own layer to that wrap: the initials of the his three-month-old son, Sekani.
“They were just telling me to just calm down and breathe, so I actually ended up FaceTiming my son and I wrote his initials on the cast,” Moore said. “Any time I got out my bubble or I felt like I was getting off track, I just looked down at my cast at his initials and was like, ‘Alright, you have to lock in.'”
The birth of Moore’s first child has fundamentally changed the equation for him. The priority to provide is no longer for his and his significant other’s sake, it’s for the life of his own offspring.
That shift has been pretty evident in Moore – who was signed in OTAs, then cut (due to injuries elsewhere) and re-signed for training camp – according to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who has six children.
“He’s been playing his butt off,” Saleh said. “Like I said, he’s a new dad, so it’s amazing how the mind triggers when you’ve got a new why in life. It’s the ultimate goal for every human, I think, is to always know what your why is and why you’re doing things. He’s relentless, he’s been practicing with a relentless nature and I’m excited for him getting this second shot at the NFL. He’s making the most of it and he’s got another big week ahead of him.”
Sekani Moore has given his father just that: a new “why.”
Moore said “everybody” was asking about his first born when he reported to training camp and he was surprised at his own emotions.
“I didn’t think I was going to cry and be sad once I left, but when it was time to come back I was happy I had a job, but I was really sad to leave and before we even started playing any games and practicing, [Saleh] was like, yeah, you’ve got a whole ‘nother why, when you get another why, it’s like a whole new level turned up there,” Moore said. “Probably, maybe a week or two into training camp I was doing really good and [Saleh] was like, ‘See, remember that why factor I told you? This is what you’re doing. Just keep working.’ He’s definitely right. It definitely makes you see things in a whole new light. You’re no longer worried about yourself. You have a family to feed and it’s no longer you have a girlfriend or a wife or somebody depending on you, you’ve got a whole child that you can’t get rid of, so it makes it a little bit harder.”
Moore said he’s become more meticulous about watching film as opposed to the early days in his career, and that, with the added motivation of his son in mind, he’s “locked in on the little things,” including his pre-snap keys for things like offensive line stances. He’s also familiar with the oft-discussed “wide-nine” technique, which rushes an edge from outside the tackle; it’s something he did in his time with the Cowboys and at Texas A&M.
He’s taken full advantage of the scheme, and as far as performance goes, there’s not much else he could have done right thus far. Moore said he’s hopeful that, “this ain’t the end of the road,” and he’d be “ecstatic” to make the 49ers’ roster.
He’ll get an answer to that question when the roster is cut down to 53 players on August 31. Just what will he be doing on that day?
“Sitting in my room, praying on my lord and looking at my phone and hoping it don’t ring,” Moore said. “On a serious note, I really don’t know what the future holds. I just take it one day at a time and do the best that I can, and hopefully I’ve positioned myself to still be here and if not, everything else will take care of itself. But as long as I know that I left it all out there, I’m not going to have no regrets.”