When cornerback Kenny Moore II picked off Matthew Stafford's pass in the third quarter of the Colts Week 4 game against the Los Angeles Rams, it was much more than just a highlight play.
It was his first interception since Week 13 of the 2021 season and a tipping point for what has been nearly a year-long journey for the 28-year-old.
"It had a lot to do with what I went through and have endured up to this point," Moore II said. "It was a lot of emotion built on that interception. Honestly, just to be back into the game, just to be able to have the opportunity to add one more to my career – so yeah, a lot went through that."
Since Moore II was claimed off waivers by the Colts in 2017, he has been a mainstay of the team's secondary. After several productive seasons, Moore II earned his first Pro Bowl bid in 2021 when he set career highs in games played (17), interceptions (four) and pass deflections (13).
"He sets the standard and the pace in that room," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said during training camp. "I think he sets the pace of the whole defensive unit. But no doubt about it, there are things we constantly show tape of him and how he executes and his technique things and say, 'This is how we want it done. Just like this.' So, I think that's probably the best way – a true pro that sets the standard and pace for the room."
Unfortunately, the following season he missed the last five games of the season after suffering an ankle injury.
Missing significant action due to injury for the first time since 2019, Moore II said coming into this season he wanted to show that he was still the same player.
"I wanted to prove that I can be me again," Moore II said. "It dates back to me proving it to myself first and then obviously proving it to my teammates, the [coaching] staff and the city. There's a lot of work that I wanted to put in to be able to get back to the player that I know I can be. Just moving around, being positive, physically and mentally just getting back to who I want to be whenever I go out there."
That work has been noticed and appreciated by his teammates, especially safety Julian Blackmon.
"[Him] catching his interception was just as exciting for me as it was for him just because we are close," Blackmon said. "I don't do anything but root for him and I think he's one of those players that at times is undervalued in how difficult his task is and how well he does it. So, it was good to see. It's been great to see his progression."
Through the first four games of the season, Moore II has 21 tackles, a tackle for loss, three pass deflections and the aforementioned interception.
Getting more comfortable with Bradley's defense in his second season in it, Moore II said he is playing some of the best ball of his career.
"I think we've come to a point where we understand each other from player to coach and coach to player, to be able to put that communication in play," Moore II said. "The dialogue has been great. It's been very positive. Just being able to run out there and just play my game and honestly just having a green light to be me and just being 23. The plays have helped me a lot, the position that they have me in has helped me a lot."
However, more important than his on-field production is the leadership role that he was established in the locker room. Prior to the season, he was voted a team captain for the second straight season.
His presence can especially be felt in the secondary, as he has more starts than any other defensive back on the team. A valuable resource for his younger counterparts, Moore II said he always tries to communicate with his teammates about the unpredictability of the game.
"I'm used to being a leader by example," Moore II said. "But, whenever you are around younger guys, you got to be able to be vocal. You got to be able to challenge them and make sure that they grow in certain ways. Whether it's faster than what they expected or whatever it is, but just to be ready for the unexpected because obviously, we had injuries and with Dallis Flowers going out on Sunday, someone has to be ready to go."
Flowers suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Despite the tough blow to the defense, head coach Shane Steichen said it makes things much easier knowing that whoever fills his role will have Moore II to rely on.
"It's huge to have a guy like Kenny (Moore II) in that room – a veteran leader, makes a ton of plays, leads that room," Steichen said. "To have those guys to talk through different things – obviously, coaches are coaching them but to have a veteran player like that to give his little insight on certain things definitely helps that room."
And if the Colts need him to fill Flowers' role, he can do that too.
So far this season, Moore II has played 58 snaps as the boundary corner. He has five tackles from that position and has only allowed one reception that has resulted in a first down, per Pro Football Focus.
A former cornerback himself, Blackmon said that is no small feat if Moore has to assume that role in an expanded capacity.
"It's very difficult," Blackmon said. "Especially because I had to fill in for Kenny last year when he got hurt. I was at nickel. You just see the stress that they put on the nickel, but that's just one thing. It's a part of our jobs. Everybody got something dirty about their job, that's just one thing.
"Playing in space is different, especially when you have to read everything closer because you're closer to the line of scrimmage. So, it's a difficult task, but you know, it's what we signed up for."
Playing both positions since his rookie year, Moore II is happy to fill whatever role his coaches need him to as long as it benefits the team.
"It's nothing new to me playing outside corner," Moore II said. "Honestly, I can do it all. I can move around wherever on the defense. Whatever is asked of me, I try to do my best to help this team win."