NFL prospects do whatever they can to acquire knowledge about the NFL game before they get there. Oftentimes they call former college teammates in the league to ask about the pre-draft process and work out at specialized training facilities for the NFL combine. UCLA safety Rahim Moore got a much earlier start on his NFL career, and arguably has the most impressive list of tutors in the draft class.
Already blessed to play at a school with a strong tradition of producing NFL safeties, Moore had access to the likes of UCLA alums like Kenny Easley, Carnell Lake and Shaun Williams. Starting as a true freshman Moore wanted to grow his game right from the start. So he also networked through football channels to reach out for advice from Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed.
"He's my mentor," said Moore. "Our cornerback coach met him at training camp. We got a hookup. He heard about me, and I'm quite sure I'd heard about him. That is one of the smartest men I've ever talked to in my life. In a 45-minute conversation I learned so much."
Moore was so honored to be speaking to Reed he said he almost cried during the phone conversation.
"That's how much I love the guy. I respect what he does, the hard work and dedication," Moore said. "The things he does on the field and off the field I think are some of the things I resemble. That's a good guy to look up to. He's what you call a pro."
Moore also drew on the knowledge of former Steelers Pro Bowl cornerback and safety Carnell Lake, who was on Rick Neuheisel's staff at UCLA in what was Moore's most productive college season (2009).
"He's helped me changing me from a boy to a man and also showing me the way to watch film," said Moore. "He told me, 'Rahim, don't just watch film or take a few notes. Kind of visualize yourself in that position, making this play or making this tackle or taking on this block.' When I'm watching film sometimes, I'd be in my living room and actually going through the steps of making plays. And I'd end up making those kinds of plays on Saturday."
But it wasn't just Lake's influence or Reed's that led to his most productive year at UCLA. A write up that he took as an insult to his ability kept him motivated all season long.
"Some guy showed me a magazine and I saw how somebody projected me to be fourth-team Pac-10 player," he said. "I just felt embarrassed. I felt I was better than that. I studied a lot of my freshman film. What I did was I got better. I put people in my life to help me out. I told myself if I want to be remembered at UCLA and be mentioned as one of the best safeties in college football I have to have a good season."
After a breakout sophomore season in 2009 that saw Moore lead the nation in interceptions with 10, going pro became a formality. The only question mark is a 2010 campaign where his playmaking ability dropped considerably as he posted just one interception and broke up just four passes.
"A lot of opponents stayed away from me," said Moore. "We lost a lot of guys up front. We had a lot of youth on our defense. Every year you're not going to have your best stats. But I think this past year I showed more I can come downhill, tackle and make other plays. Interceptions are not everything. You have to make tackles for loss, sacks, pass breakups. I think I showed what I can do."
Moore is also benefiting from what's largely deemed to be a down year for safety talent.
"In a bad, bad safety year, he's the best safety out there," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. "Whether or not he gets in the first round I don't know. He reminds me a little bit on tape of a poor man's Earl Thomas, not quite as good, but he has great range. I think he fits somewhere late one to mid-two."
"I hope I'm first round," said Moore. "I believe I have first-round talent. I believe I'm special. I believe my hard work and my film and my accolades have spoken a lot. But I can't be the judge. It's about hat one team that will fall in love with me. Hopefully on draft day I'm in the first round and my dream can come true."