INDIANAPOLIS — Kenny Moore II was so elated to have secured his first-career NFL interception that his legs temporarily gave out on him.
On the Denver Broncos' opening possession last Thursday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, the rookie cornerback undercut wide receiver Demaryius Thomas' route and picked off an ill-advised Trevor Siemian pass into heavy traffic to halt the Denver drive.
Starting with the ball at the Indianapolis 25-yard line, Moore II initially stumbled to the ground, but was able to recover and popped up, untouched, and made a nifty return — which included a video game-style spin move — to midfield to set up the Colts' first offensive possession of the night.
"I just saw green grass but I was just too excited," Moore II said about the momentary drop to the turf. "I couldn't even pick up my legs."
Jacoby Brissett would lead the Colts down the shortened field to jump out to a 7-0 first quarter lead, calling his own number on a seven-yard touchdown run and capitalizing on Moore II's turnover.
Moore II is one of multiple young Colts defensive backs who have been forced into significant playing time due to injuries, particularly those to veterans corners Rashaan Melvin, who has missed the last three games with a hand injury, and Pierre Desir, who suffered a season-ending pectoral injury Week 13 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But of all the Colts' young corners filling in down the stretch, Moore II has, perhaps, faced the longest odds to get to where he is. A standout at Division II Valdosta State University in Georgia, Moore II went unselected in this year's NFL Draft. He spent the offseason with the New England Patriots, who waived Moore II during final cuts in early September; the Colts picked him up the next day, a week before the start of the regular season.
Utilized in a special teams-only role to start the season in Indy, Moore II eventually has seen more and more time at corner as others ahead of him went down. Now he has 14 games and three starts to his credit in his rookie season, as well as 21 tackles, three passes defensed, that aforementioned interception and a team-leading eight special teams stops.
Playing alongside fellow rookie Quincy Wilson, the Colts' second-round pick this year out of Florida, as well as second-year corners Chris Milton and D.J. White, as well as rookie Nate Hairston, who has been the team's top nickel corner the entire season, Moore II acknowledged that the "trial by fire" experience the group has received has been beneficial, though they certainly don't use it as an excuse when mistakes are made.
"We don't really feel like we're young — we just haven't played as long as the other guys," Moore II explained. "We're all grown men and we all come to play. This is our job so we're all trying to do the best we can."
That attitude has been adopted across the board by a large group of Colts rookies on the defensive side of the ball, which also includes outside linebacker Tarell Basham, inside linebacker Anthony Walker and defensive tackle Grover Stewart.
Former Colts head coach Tony Dungy, who was in town covering last Thursday's matchup with NBC, said before the game that he, too, sees good things from the young crop of players for Indy.
"I think these guys are getting that experience," Dungy said. "They're coming in to a winning situation. They'll be fine and I'm looking forward to next year already."
As a former coach, Dungy also realizes the benefit live game tape has for the coaches and personnel department to review.
"That is one of the benefits this coaching staff is getting," Dungy said. "You're getting a chance to see some players in live action that you normally wouldn't see. Get a chance to have them grow and again, that's going to pay off in the long run."