Draft Q&A: Rondale Moore never stops working

We chat with the 5-foot-7 Purdue dynamo about his work ethic, mercy rules and what makes him special on the field.

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There is not a more unique weapon in this draft than Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore. Pound for pound, there certainly isn’t anyone stronger. At 5-foot-7, 181 pounds, we’ve all seen Moore’s surreal strength via workout video as a college freshman and one photo had everyone talking back in February.

On the field, the New Albany, Ind., native won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile college football player as a freshman. That 2018 season, Moore led the FBS in receptions (114) with 1,258 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, while also averaging 20.1 yards per kick return and rushing for 213 yards with another two scores.

After four games, his 2019 season ended with a hamstring injury.

In 2020, despite only playing three games, Moore earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors with 35 catches for 270 yards. And at his pro day, of course, Moore turned plenty of heads with an unofficial 4.29 and a vertical leap of 42 1/2 inches.

He didn’t play a ton of games in college but, obviously, there’s a lot to love about Moore’s game which is why there’s a good chance he’s drafted in the first two rounds.

We discuss the roots of his work ethic, balancing academics with athletics and what’s coming next.

It sure seems like you’re one of the hardest workers in this draft. What does that look like? How do you approach lifting, studying — what makes you wired the way you are?

Moore: For me, it’s always about having a business mindset about it and finding a way to get better regardless of the situation that’s going on around me. Honestly, it started at a young age. I’d probably say… when I got there my freshman year I met my trainer, Chris Vaughn, down in Louisville, Kentucky. From there, I learned what it took to get offers and get on the scene and go perform and what it took to actually be there. So, for me, it started early. When I got to Trinity my junior year, a coach by the name of Andrew Coverdale — I was at quarterback meetings before school. I was ineligible when I first transferred so I was sitting in the press box while everyone was practicing. So I knew how hard it was to actually be a part of something great.

You always were a small guy — back to Pop Warner — yet you always dominated everybody. How and why is that? You’ve always been the smallest guy out there and it has never really mattered.

Moore: Yeah, I don’t get too caught up into that to be honest with you. If you’re not the tallest, you have to compensate somewhere else. Whether that’s speed or strength or being tough or whatever that trait may be. As long as you continue to gain upon the strength you do have, and double down on those, you’ll be just fine.

Do you remember those days in Pop Warner? Were there really mercy rules being put in because you were beating teams up too bad?

Moore: Yeah, no joke. Also when I was playing Little League, there were games I’d score seven, eight times a game and I basically could not carry the ball anymore.

How did it work? Would you just get a direct snap and take off?

Moore: Yeah, so I played quarterback until my sophomore year of high school. So basically, if I wasn’t running, it was a bomb. I could throw it 60, 70 yards. So it was, get the ball in my hands and let me go to work.

Would the official really tell your coach that you weren’t allowed to run anymore?

Moore: Right. That’s exactly how it went.

He could’ve told the other coach to find a way to stop you, too. The stuff we’ve seen you do in the weight room seems next level, too. When did you get into sculpting and molding your body, and dedicating yourself to working out.

Moore: I’ll be honest. I’ve got some God-given ability I was blessed to have. I’ve been blessed with great genes. A lot of it is just something I’ve had. Obviously I’ve took it upon myself — with help from people around me — to build upon it but, man, I’ve been blessed. I have to shout out my trainer, Chris Vaughn, and my strength staff at New Albany to Trinity to Purdue, I think they’ve all been part of the process. But when I met Chris my freshman year is when I really started taking the weight room serious. I realized how important that was to my game.

Everybody works hard, everybody lifts weights but this does seem next level with you. What’s a day in the life like for you over there? Even in college? You took like 27 credits one semester, which doesn’t even sound real. How is this all possible?

Moore: To give you a day, in-season, I wake up around 7. Get to the facility, eat breakfast, the lift will be at 8. After I lift, I’d get treatment if I had a little bit of time. From there, I go to class. After class, I get a bite to eat. And then I get done with everything around 12, 1 o’clock. From that time, I’m getting some homework done before meetings and walkthrough. Meetings are at like 2:15. So then we have meetings for an hour. Practice doesn’t start until 3 something. After practice, it’d be cold tub, hot tub, any type of recovery. From there, I transition into dinner and then, after dinner, I get home around 7 or 8 o’clock. And it was just homework, chatting with my family, video games, that kind of stuff.

So there is a way. None of us should be complaining that we don’t have enough time to do something.

Moore: Definitely some late nights and early mornings for me. Fortunately — I guess this is a positive and a negative — with corona, everything went remote. So I had nine classes online. That’s why I was able to take so many. I was at a consistent 21 (credits) each semester and I took at least 12 during the summer. That’s how I got it done. I loaded up when I could. I knew I wanted to leave with my degree in hand and my original plan was three years and to graduate in the spring. But I had only three classes left so I decided to get them done.

What was the toughest class you took?

Moore: I’ve got two. Both Financial and Managerial Accounting were my toughest ones. My stats class was tough. That was definitely up there.

What made it difficult?

Moore: My first accounting class was a night class and it was like three hours. This was in the spring. So I’m coming out of practice and I’m hungry because I didn’t have time to get a bite to eat. I’m sitting in class for three hours—tired, hot—and the crazy thing with accounting is if you don’t understand one lesson then you’re pretty much screwed for the rest of the semester. Because everything builds off of the lesson before it. That was my thing with my first accounting class. I think I got a B+. And then my second one, my managerial accounting, it was online. So the tough thing with that is I’m not in person to ask questions. We’re just watching a video or a lecture on Blackboard. So that was a tough thing, not being able to ask questions and not being able to talk to the teachers.

Obviously you’re going to be in the NFL but, with your degree, is there something you envision doing down the road?

Moore: I definitely want to get into commercial real estate in the future. But right now, I’m just focused on the NFL and getting better.

After the freshman year you had, a lot of guys could’ve blown off class then on but it really did mean something to you to finish what you started.

Moore: For sure. And the credit goes to my mother. That was huge for her. If she found out that I missed class, she’d be on my butt about it. So just knowing what I come from and how I was raised, I’d be doing myself a disservice to miss class. That’s not how I was raised or how I was taught.

What makes you dangerous as a weapon on the field? When the ball is in your hands, how does magic happen? What goes through your mind?

Moore: As a player, what makes me dangerous is my versatility. I think it gives defensive coordinators a lot of problems because I can line up in a lot of different spots and succeed in all of them. I think that really makes me hard to guard and hard to prepare for. I have a lot of tools in my toolbox that enable me to go out there and make plays, whether that be running past you, making you miss, I’m really instinctive out there. There are a lot of different things that make me elusive on the field.

The Ohio State game has to be right up there, right?

Moore: Yeah, for sure. (laughs)

That day, how did you do that?

Moore: It was a special night, man. Everything went right for us. As you know, we had Tyler Trent on our side that night and everything was going great. We were consistent in all three phases of the game. We had the biggest supporter on our side that night. It was a great atmosphere. The fans were loud. It was a special night for us.

It’s been a weird two years since your freshman year. You had the injury. Then, Covid this year. How excited are you to get out there, play a full season, and prove that dude we saw out there as a freshman is still ascending?

Moore: No doubt about it. Really excited to be honest with you. Obviously I’ve grown since then, since I was an 18-year-old out of high school. Learned a lot. I put on strength and my knowledge of the game continued to expand. I took it upon myself to continue to get better in every phase. I’m excited to get out, hopefully play a full season and get to work.

There have been no questions about your talent. And we have seen short receivers play well in the NFL. But when teams ask you about your size, what do you tell them? How do you compensate for being three inches shorter than a lot of your peers?

Moore: For me, it’s the same question every time. I don’t think there’s a direct answer to how tall a good football player is. You know what I mean? So, for me, I always say I possess enough tools in that toolbox to go out there and put them on display. It doesn’t matter if you’re 6-5 or 5-9.

It probably doesn’t hurt when you can squat 600 pounds, too.

Moore: That definitely helps.

Can you still squat 600? That was before your freshman year.

Moore: I’ve continued to expand upon myself and my body. I can definitely do well over 600.

How is that even possible? That’s triple your size. When you watch that video, it looks like the bar will fall right on you.

Moore: I’ve been blessed, man, and met some great people along my journey. With all of that? Anything is possible.

And that work ethic, the way you work and how diligent you are, is that something that can separate you from other players in this draft?

Moore: No doubt about it. And then the film, it looks different when I put my foot in the ground. I have the ability to play many positions — return game, inside, outside. I’ve won on every stage. For me, it’s important to stay consistent and do what I’ve been doing.

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