Several players performed well throughout this year's event, but the most impressive prospect might have been rising junior Donte Moss. Moss started at defensive end/linebacker and tailback as a sophomore for Jones (NC) before transferring to Jacksonville (NC) Northside this spring.
"He's a great athlete and a nice kid," said Northside head coach Bob Eason. "At the combine he showed for a big guy how he can really move. His grades are good, and it looks like he is going to be qualified in all areas. He hasn't taken the SAT yet because it is so early, but based on his core GPA he's going to be fine.
"When I get transfers in I try to formulate my own opinions on them based on what I see when they arrive here, but I've watched Donte on some film. He is big, strong, and really athletic... I know that much about him. We're going to use him at defensive end and linebacker on defense, and on offense I think we'll play him at tight end or split out at wide receiver."
In 2006, Moss totaled 87 tackles and nine sacks while also leading Jones Senior in rushing with 605 yards (long of 85 yards) and eight touchdowns to earn all-conference and all-area honors. He added another 105 yards receiving with a touchdown and 273 return yards (long of 85 yards) and a score. Jones head coach Greg Hampton praised his former player.
"Donte is a special athlete," said coach Hampton. "He's one of those special players that can probably play any position on the football field. He plays defensive end, tailback, some wide receiver, and he's our punter and kicker. He can do it all.
"He's a naturally gifted athlete, but on top of all of that, Donte is a great kid."
Because he is just a rising junior, a lot of folks didn't know about Moss, but he burst on the scene at the Elite 8 Combine. Checking in at 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, Moss finished first overall in the 225+-pound weight class, despite being just a rising junior. He recorded a 4.63 and a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash, 17 reps of 185 on the bench, a 4.53 pro shuttle, and a 33-inch vertical jump, showcasing his outstanding athleticism. "I felt I did good," Moss stated after claiming his trophy. "I couldn't do my best because of the weather, but I feel I did good."
With his size, athleticism, character, grades, and productivity, Moss will be one of the top recruits in the 2009 class, and he has been given one of five underclassmen invites to the upcoming Scout.com Combine held in Charlotte, North Carolina. While the combines help players garner attention, Moss uses them as a way to find out how he can improve athletically and to see who the other top players in the area are.
"I just look at my own stats and try to make them better," he said. "I just wanted to be with the team, and I wanted to see what my competition was. "[I need to work on] the 40. I need to learn how to run even with the wind going against me. I ran a 4.63, but I usually run a 4.5."
A standout in basketball and track, Moss admits that his future likely is in football.
"When I first came to high school, they said I could go to college, but I didn't really think about it that much," he said. "Now that it's really going on, the doors are opening up. I'm staying on my grades and the things I need to stay on to make sure I can make it."
Now he is starting to see that college is just a couple of years away and a few schools are already showing interest. East Carolina attended two games last year to watch Moss in action, and NC State has been in this spring to start the early evaluation process. Moss mentioned that he will camp at NC State and attend a team camp at North Carolina this summer.
The Wolfpack leads big for Moss, who sported a red NC State jacket in the cold at the Elite 8 Combine.
"I want to go to State," he said. "I just grew up liking State. They've got a good engineering program, and the facilities there are nice. Man, those are nice. I went up there one time with the school, and it's just nice."
Because he plays defensive end and is a big-time NC State fan, Moss stated that local fans believe he wears #9 because of former NC State star and 2006 #1 Draft Pick Mario Williams. Williams grew up just a few miles away from Jacksonville in Richlands.
"Really I just wear [#9] for my own sake," said Moss. "I know people say I wear it because of Mario [Williams], but I didn't really think about it until Mario. He was a great player, and I liked how he worked hard."
College programs can't extend official offers until September 1st of a prospect's junior year, and Moss is expected to garner several offers because of his talents. At this point, he is hoping that NC State will offer and if they do a commitment could follow.
"If they offered me, I'd take it," said Moss. "I'd take it."