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