This season, the Colts' secondary was full of young, inexperienced players who were out to show that they had what it took to be successful in the NFL. However, no player had a bigger chip on his shoulder than cornerback Kenny Moore II.
"Honestly, I had a lot to prove this year," Moore said. "Not only to everybody around me, not only to people who said I couldn't play anymore but to myself. I knew what I had instilled in me. I just wanted to show that."
After making his first Pro Bowl in 2021 in the NFL in 2021, his momentum was halted the following season after missing the last five games with an ankle injury.
It was also the first year since coming into the NFL that he didn't have an interception.
"You truly figure out who you are whenever you're hurt because it's not about you," Moore said. "The spotlight isn't on you, no one's talking about you. You just got to figure it out from there."
While on the sideline, Moore had time to reflect and evaluate the kind of player he wanted to be in 2023. As the team's most experienced defensive back, Moore said it was clear he was going to have to step up as a leader.
"My position was just to be the best player I could be and honestly the best teacher – just give them all the experience I've known on the field and off, just try to be there for those guys," Moore said.
His influence proved to be invaluable for the defense, especially for rookies like cornerback JuJu Brents.
Along with safety Julian Blackmon, Brents said the veteran duo went out of their way to help the young players get up to speed.
"Having Kenny out there is like having another coach," Brents said. "After every single play, he's giving me a little token or nugget for a picture I may see later on the next drive or whatnot. So, I would say definitely for them, it was just like having them in our ears for the mental aspect. Then obviously, just the physical aspect of seeing the way that they work and it was infectious. It allowed us to continue to meet up to their standard."
Even with all the knowledge that Moore shared with his younger counterparts, it never took away from his own ability to make plays.
In 16 games, Moore racked up 93 tackles, eight tackles for loss, six pass deflections and three interceptions. In the Colts' Week 10 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, he became the first player in Colts' history with two pick-sixes in a game.
|Kenny Moore II's Production
|Rank Among NFL Cornerbacks
|Tackles for loss
|Interceptions returned for touchdowns
"I couldn't put any more flowers on Kenny's desk if I wanted to," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "Just his leadership for me, a guy that I follow in this building. To be honest, I tell him all the time, I don't know how it works without him to be honest with you.
"Just the role that he played in that DB room with all those young DBs, he was a guiding light for those guys – main communicator, playmaker. He means a ton to this team, he means a ton to me, and he means a ton to that locker room too. Kenny has been a mainstay for us for a long time. I don't even want to know what it feels like without him, I'm going to just be honest with you."
With Moore set to hit free agency in March, there's a chance Franklin and the rest of the locker room may be forced to live in a world where he's not playing for the Colts. However, Moore said that if he had his way, he wouldn't be going anywhere.
"I obviously want to be here," Moore said. "That's been obvious throughout my entire career how much I put into my craft, how much I put into my teammates. None of this has been a façade with 23. Whenever I'm throwing up the heart or when I'm throwing up my hands or all the good plays, I'm doing it for this city. So, nothing is about me. Everything's about my teammates and everybody in this locker room."