October 3, 2012 9:02:25 PM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
SCOOBA -- While the casual observer may not notice this, East Mississippi Community College does not pass the football on every offensive play.
For EMCC sophomore running back Rodriguez Moore, that is very good news.
Moore may be the "unsung hero" for one of the nation's best offensive attacks. With 1,779 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in his two-year career, Moore has brought the balance to EMCC's 17-game win streak.
Moore and the Lions will look to extend their winning ways when EMCC plays host to Holmes Community College in a battle for the North Division lead.
EMCC's homecoming game is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Sullivan-Windham Field in Scooba.
"I really love my team," said the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Moore. "The last two years have been an incredible experience. Right now, I am focused real hard on graduating in December and helping this team win another national championship. I think we have everything in place to get that done."
As a senior in at Bastrop High School (La.), Moore ran for 1,094 yards and 16 touchdowns. His size was a deterrent to some schools. His breakaway speed, tough running and swiftness with the initial cut made him a "diamond in the rough" for the EMCC recruiting class a few months later.
"The main attraction to here was the play in the spread offense," Moore said. "I really wanted a place that would showcase me as someone who could run the football but also someone who could catch the football."
"I am not a big guy who can run the ball down field. I have to have more moves and I have to make good use of my hands. I feel like I have really adapted to things around here. I feel like a Mississippi kid now."
Last season, EMCC quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 4,604 yards and 53 touchdowns. This season, Quez Johnson and Dontreal Pruitt have combined to throw for 1,472 yards and 19 touchdowns. Moore gives a light-hearted chuckle when asked if he enjoys not being in the spotlight.
"I love right where I am at," Moore said. "I feel pretty good about my role. If you forget about me, you have made a big mistake. We are definitely a passing team. There is nothing better for a good passing team than to have a good running game to go alongside it.
"When we run it well, it really opens up our passing game. That is when we can destroy the opposition."
The humble attitude and killer instinct is what made EMCC coach Buddy Stephens want Moore from the beginning.
"With Rodriguez, you get a complete player," Stephens said. "I think people totally lose sight on the fact that we run the ball really well. It starts with Rodriguez. He could be a dependable, every-down back if that was what we did.
"He accepted his role from the beginning. He is a team player, who sets a great example for the younger players. Since he doesn't have the numbers, Rodriguez is not considered a flashy player. But we know what he does for us in every practice, every game."
Moore had totaled nine 100-yard rushing games, including a career-high 214 yards in a division win over Holmes and 202 yards in a win over Hinds Community College last season.
"When we throw the ball early and have success, it helps me out," Moore said. "As soon as I see the linebacker step out of the box, I know that that is my chance to make some big plays. My job is to add that extra spark to keep drives alive. Balance is very important."
While the Lions rolled to a school-record 12 victories and a first-ever national championship last season, Moore feels like this squad could be even better.
"Our team is a lot faster this year," Moore said. "We really don't talk about repeating. We don't worry too much about that. We just try to stay in our comfort zone and play our game. This is the most athletic group of people I have ever been around.
"Offensively, we need to improve. Man, the defense has been unreal. They are a lot better than they were last year. That tells me, if we can take it to another level on offense, we will be in great shape."
Johnson knows that Moore is the type of player who can help take this team to the next level.
"Rodriguez is a complete back," said Johnson, a freshman from Starkville High School. "He is also the kind of guy you want in your huddle. You know he is going to lay it on the line on every play. He is just as a good at blocking as he is at running. His leadership has meant a lot to me, as I have gotten used to playing on this level."
That leadership has trickled down to everyone in the backfield.
"I owe Rod a lot," EMCC freshman running back Lakenderic Thomas, a former West Point High School standout. "He took me under his wings from the first day. He taught me some new moves and he also worked with me on using my hands more. He told me I had to use my hands more if I wanted to play right away on this level.
"In high school, I could just line up and run over players. On this level, you can't do that. I appreciate everything that he has taught me."
As Johnson and Thomas both become comfortable with this level, Moore is eagerly anticipating the next level. By completing his degree work in December, Moore could be on a senior college campus in time for spring drills.
"Really I don't know where I want to go," Moore said. "It is exciting knowing that people are watching you and pursuing you. All of my energies are focused on helping my team win and making sure I graduate in December.
"Coach Stephens and the other coaches have been great to me. They have kept me in check and they have made sure that I take care of all of my commitments. I thought this could be a special experience. It has been even more than that."
Moore said several schools have contacted him but the recruiting process will not go into full effect until after the season. Present front-runners include Texas Tech University, University of Mississippi, University of South Alabama and University of Memphis. Moore recently attended the Ole Miss home game with University of Texas and the Mississippi State University home game with South Alabama.
"I am really looking for the right coach and the right fit," Moore said. "I have always had the dream of playing senior college football. I know I have the right people here to help make that happen."
While a senior college decision will happen down the line, the immediate thoughts are on repeating as North Division, state and national champions.
"Coach Stephens told us the other day to always be grateful," Moore said. "He tells us you are not going to win every day in life. However, around here, that has been what we do."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter