INDIANAPOLIS — NFL cornerbacks are seldom left tongue-tied, but Kenny Moore II on Thursday found himself unable to utter a single word — for a few moments, at least.
Staring him in the face was a brand new contract from the Indianapolis Colts, one that not only rewarded him for his hard work and production over the last two seasons, but one that also carries with it expectations that his abilities as a playmaker — and as a leader — will only continue to get better.
It was a far cry from Sept. 2, 2017, when Moore II, then an undersized, undrafted prospect out of Division II Valdosta State, was let go by the New England Patriots during final roster cuts. The next day, the Colts, needing to add talent and competition at cornerback, took a chance on Moore II and claimed him off waivers.
Less than two years later, Moore II is putting ink to paper on a reported four-year extension.
What a way to start your month-and-a-half break before reporting for training camp.
"I was speechless," Moore II said of the experience on Thursday.
Moore II showed plenty of promise as a rookie in 2017, appearing in all 16 games with five starts and collecting 33 tackles (one for a loss) with one interception, five passes defensed and one forced fumble.
But something really clicked for Moore II last offseason, and by Week 1 he was firmly planted as the Colts' starting nickel cornerback. In 15 starts, he finished with 76 tackles (four for a loss) with 1.5 sacks, three interceptions, 11 passes defensed and a forced fumble.
Moore II's versatility was on full display during the Colts' two playoff games, meanwhile, as he would set a Colts franchise postseason record with three sacks, while also adding another interception in Indy's Wild Card Round victory over the Houston Texans.
Along the way, Colts head coach Frank Reich came to the conclusion that Moore II "means everything" to what the team is looking for both on and off the field.
"I mean, he is a consummate pro, really," Reich said of the 23-year-old Moore II. "It's not just the high-level play, but it's the consistency of play. That's really what I think he embodies. We saw his playmaking ability last year on the ball, sack, blitzer. But really just the way he brings that every day out in practice. Then out in the community he's a leader. We love him."
Hired last February as the Colts' head coach, Reich went over the roster with general manager Chris Ballard and said it didn't take long for him to realize just how special Moore II could be. In a matter of months, the cornerback was being recognized as one of the elite defensive backs in the NFL.
"Kenny personifies the characteristics that we look for in a Colt with his leadership, tenacity and work ethic," said Ballard said Thursday. "We are happy for Kenny and his family. He has done the right things and deserves this."
Perhaps the best part for Moore II is that he realizes this is only the beginning; lots of hard work remains for him to be the player he wants to be, and for the team to get to where it wants to go.
But he hopes that perhaps there are unsung players out there who can take his example as someone who just kept his head down and kept working — and ultimately got rewarded for it.
"If you believe in it and you see other guys that are older than you getting the things that you like, you want to follow in their footsteps," Moore said, "you want to be coachable, you want to do the right things on and off the field to get what you want."
Here is a great way to put a name with a face!
Kenny Moore II #23 | CB | 5-9 |190lbs | 23yrs. | 3yrs. |Valdosta State