EAST LANSING, Mich. – Kellen Moore, an undrafted free agent from Boise State, beat the odds by making Detroit’s 53-man roster Friday, landing a job as its No. 3 quarterback.
The Lions told him his fate was 50-50 in meetings earlier in the day. He received the news in a text message from quarterbacks coach Todd Downing just before kickoff while attending Boise State’s game.
“Certainly very excited,” Moore said. “Nice to just know some facts and know that you’ve got that opportunity.”
Friday was the deadline to cut rosters from 75 to 53. It’s still possible the Lions could make a change as they assess the players cut by other teams.
“It’s the NFL, you’re never totally comfortable in that,” Moore said. “There’s ups and downs throughout the season. That roster is small and there are a lot of dynamics going on.”
Moore is trying to become the first Boise State quarterback to play in an NFL regular-season game – and achieve his childhood dream of playing professionally. He received far more playing time in the preseason than any other recent Broncos quarterback, appearing in all four games.
Moore was 41 of 78 for 434 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He played his best game Thursday against Buffalo, when he led the Lions to a touchdown (he scored on a 1-yard run) and three field-goal attempts despite a rash of dropped passes.
“Kellen played great, all preseason,” Lions starting quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “He’s a smart kid. The guy’s just a winner. He knows how to play the game. He gets in there in practice, and practice doesn’t slow down. He’s up there calling plays. He’s never fumbling stuff around and doing normal rookie stuff.”
Second-year Lions receiver Titus Young knows Moore better than any of the Detroit players. The former Boise State standout topped 1,000 receiving yards in 2009 and 2010 while playing alongside Moore.
He said it was strange to watch Moore as the No. 3 quarterback, but the same qualities that made him a Heisman contender also showed up in camp.
“He makes players around him better,” Young said. “That’s something you look for in a quarterback, especially in a professional league. I still see him having that same personality and that same integrity and approaching the game the same way and not taking any days off and just taking every single day as a learning lesson.”
Moore, who grew up in Prosser, Wash., attending his dad’s high school practices and watching coaches’ videos he found on the Internet, has tried to enjoy his experience despite the stress.
He spent four months with the Lions, with no guarantees. He lived in a hotel, then with Stafford for a while. His wife, Julie, moved to Michigan, too.
Moore is renowned for his smarts – and his Lions coaches have mentioned that, too – but the NFL offense was still an adjustment. That’s one reason Moore’s play improved from week to week, and why he looked comfortable picking apart the Bills on Thursday.
“It’s just continuing to get comfortable with everything,” he said. “New offense, new environment, new personnel. You get comfortable with things. When you’re comfortable … you throw with a lot more confidence.”
Moore’s job changes now – from learning the offense to helping the defense prepare for opponents, just like when he was a true freshman in Boise.
“The bottom line, you’re still playing football,” Moore said.