Northeast Times

Washington honors football gentle giant

George Wash­ing­ton honored seni­or foot­ball All-Amer­ic­an Justin Moody at a pep rally on Fri­day af­ter­noon. Moody has been in­vited to play in the Sem­per Fi­del­is All-Amer­ic­an Bowl in Los Angeles on Jan. 4. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

— With re­peat­ing as Pub­lic League champs on their minds, Wash­ing­ton paid trib­ute to All-Amer­ic­an Justin Moody.

Start­Frag­ment

Justin Moody is of­ten called a gentle gi­ant by those who know him best. But those who have met him in the trenches of a foot­ball game have called him … oth­er things.

Such is the life of a mam­moth de­fens­ive end whose job de­scrip­tion in­cludes run­ning down scram­bling quar­ter­backs, lev­el­ing run­ning backs with bone-jar­ring tackles, and toss­ing of­fens­ive line­men around like rag­dolls.

“Foot­ball’s a tough sport,” said Moody. “There’s a lot of in­tens­ity. Every play, you might get hurt. It comes with the ter­rit­ory.”

The George Wash­ing­ton High School seni­or is lis­ted at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds. Some — but not many — op­pon­ents might be big­ger, but that doesn’t auto­mat­ic­ally make them bet­ter.

Far from it.

“Justin has two things that are hard to de­fend,” said Ron Co­hen, whose 28-year coach­ing ca­reer has helped pro­duce such NFL play­ers as Bruce Perry (Class of 1998, Phil­adelphia Eagles), Domi­n­ique Curry (2005, St. Louis Rams), and Jameel Mc­Clain (2003, Bal­timore Ravens) as well as Uni­versity of Flor­ida pro pro­spect Shar­rif Floyd (2010), who could be seen on CBS Sat­urday af­ter­noon block­ing a field goal in No. 2 Flor­ida’s win over South Car­o­lina.

“He (Moody) has great strength, and he has great quick­ness.”

Co­hen paused.

“He has one oth­er thing,” he said. “He has know­ledge of the game. You put all of those things to­geth­er and you have a spe­cial play­er.”

Co­hen lauded Moody for his at­ten­tion to de­tail and his will­ing­ness to hit the weight room with fierce ded­ic­a­tion and de­term­in­a­tion.

Moody’s work eth­ic has already at­trac­ted double di­git Di­vi­sion I schol­ar­ship of­fers. It has also garnered an in­vit­a­tion to play in the second-an­nu­al Sem­per Fi­del­is All-Amer­ic­an Bowl in Los Angeles on Jan. 4.

Many of the na­tion’s top re­cruits will be par­ti­cip­at­ing, and with in­terest from uni­versit­ies such as Purdue, Pitt­s­burgh, Syra­cuse, Cali­for­nia and Temple, Moody has cer­tainly earned a “top na­tion­al re­cruit” la­bel.

Last Fri­day, Wash­ing­ton honored Moody at a pep rally also at­ten­ded by his fam­ily, coaches and team­mates. He heard many kind words about his grid­iron prowess, and then he was asked to ad­dress the crowd.

“I’m not too used to that,” Moody said. “But I was thank­ful for it.”

Moody said that “next to my fam­ily and my faith” as a Chris­ti­an Baptist, foot­ball is the “most im­port­ant thing in my life.”

Since he lists fam­ily — which in­cludes mom Kat­rina, grand­par­ents, and eight sib­lings — as an in­teg­ral part of his life, some have con­sidered that a hint that per­haps Moody will choose to at­tend the nearby Temple, thus al­low­ing his loved ones to watch him play.

While that “is def­in­itely something I have thought about,” it has not served as a key mo­tiv­at­or to reach a de­cision.

Un­sure about what ma­jor he would choose or what po­s­i­tion he would play since he’s ad­ept at both de­fens­ive end and de­fens­ive tackle, Moody has elec­ted to “take things in stride” and con­cen­trate on help­ing the Eagles con­tin­ue to win foot­ball games.

With the Pub­lic League play­offs about to be­gin (second-seeded Wash­ing­ton fin­ished 4-1 in the AAAA Gold Di­vi­sion and will face third-seeded Cent­ral in the semi­finals next week­end), Moody is in­tent on bring­ing home a second con­sec­ut­ive Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship to a team on which he has star­ted on varsity for three straight sea­sons.

“That’s im­port­ant,” he said. “That’s what you play for.”

Soft-spoken by nature, Moody was re­cently asked by Co­hen to emerge from his com­fort zone and be­come more vo­cal. The Eagles had not been play­ing con­sist­ent foot­ball and Co­hen and his as­sist­ants were be­com­ing con­cerned about a per­ceived lack­a­dais­ic­al ap­proach by some of the play­ers.

Without so much as a peep of protest, Moody re­ad­jus­ted his mo­tiv­a­tion meter.

“When Coach asks you something, you do it,” Moody said. “He cares about you as a per­son first and a play­er second. He is al­ways there for you, and so when he needs something, it’s an hon­or to do it for him.”

Per­haps aided by his in­tim­id­at­ing frame, Moody said his team­mates gran­ted him their un­di­vided at­ten­tion. 

“I think when you don’t usu­ally say a whole lot, people tend to listen more when you do,” Moody said. “If I see them do­ing wrong things, I will say something, and I know they listen to me.”

Co­hen said it’s been re­fresh­ing watch­ing Moody’s lead­er­ship skills emerge.

“You like to see a play­er take some own­er­ship over the team,” Co­hen said. “It’s es­pe­cially nice when it’s a guy like Justin who keeps most things to him­self. He’s will­ing to do whatever it takes for his team­mates.” ••

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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