The speculation burned this past month, and in particular on Internet message boards this past week, that Stanford redshirt junior wide receiver Evan Moore would avail himself of the NCAA rule allowing transfer between Division I-A schools without a penalty for a student-athlete who has completed his college degree. Moore is on track to graduate before finishing this his fourth year year at Stanford, and a combination of conventional wisdom with some of his own comments during the season fueled the rumor mill of his taking a collegiate free agency jump to USC or another school. We asked Moore about where he would play his football in 2007 throughout the 2006 season. His frustration with his injury, production and the overall failures that came with a 1-11 season were palpable and quotable.
Today, Moore has ended the silence and reveals the decision he has made with his family after deliberation during his winter break back in Southern California.
"As of late Thursday and early Friday, the decision is to come back to Stanford," Moore declares. "That's the decision we made and feel is the best thing to do. In getting acquainted with this coaching staff and getting to know them more and more, that's I think the best thing to do for my fifth year."
The Brea (Calif.) product says that the call for the Cardinal was crystallized in his heart and in his mind when he spoke with Hall of Fame coach and Stanford athletic department special assistant Bill Walsh in recent days.
"One of the most influential phone calls I received was from Bill Walsh a couple nights ago," the wide receiver relates. "He voiced his support for Coach Harbaugh, what he thinks Coach Harbaugh can do when he's here and how excited he is to see what he can do. He kind of addressed my concerns a little bit. It wasn't too long of a conversation, but the fact that he took the initiative to call and say the things that he said to me on the phone - that left a mark. That definitely did. Yeah, that's Coach Walsh, but it was also hearing somebody like that excited not only about my personal ability but also the team as a whole. That was almost like closure, if you will, knowing that a guy like that is saying, 'You want to play in this offense. You want to be a part of what this guy is going to try to do with you, and that's the best thing for you to achieve your dreams.' What better person to hear that from than him? That was pretty influential."
While the personal concern and encouragement from a living legend had an emotional impact on Moore, he and his family primarily approached this decision from the standpoint of what locale and environment could help him achieve success in the NFL.
"This decision was not 100 percent about playing at the next level, but it definitely played a part because that's my dream," Moore admits. "While you are trying to decide what to do for your fifth year, you're trying to ask yourself, 'How am I going to play this game after this year, with the decision I make this year?'"
The reason transfer rates are so low at Stanford relative to almost all other Division I-A schools is the value of the degree. Jumping away from The Farm carries a heavy opportunity cost, and that diploma in most cases was an important factor which drove the recruiting decisions of most student-athletes who sign with Stanford. This new and controversial NCAA rule opens a new dimension to someone in Moore's shoes. He has told us repeatedly how much he loves being at Stanford and the people around him, but he could walk away with those four years of experiences plus a degree and find a new football environment that might better fit and further his particular football talents. After a lackluster display of production and four losing seasons, three of which were devastated for him individually by injury, Moore would not be blamed for wanting to find a fresh start elsewhere.
As it turns out, he believes he can find that fresh start on The Farm. That excitement was ignited by new head coach Jim Harbaugh and wide receivers coach David Shaw two weeks ago. They visited Moore at his home in Orange County just days after being hired, shortly before Christmas. The 6'7" wideout and his prospective Cardinal coaches sat down and talked for several hours.
"Any issues or concerns I had about going into a fifth year with a third coaching staff and with how fifth-year seniors are going to be treated by a new coach, they happily addressed them. I think they did a very good job of that," Moore reports. "I can't say enough how much I appreciated the way they handled it."
Of particular concern for Moore was the role that older players would play in Stanford Football this coming fall. On the heels of a 1-11 season, a new head coach could easily embark on a rebuilding project for the program that would emphasize the young talents returning on the team. There were a significant number of true freshmen and redshirt freshmen that played major roles on the offense and defense in 2006. A new head coach could also be expected to favor playing time for the recruiting class he signs in February, the first class of "his guys" with which he can build at the ground floor. A coach can play for the future rather than the present in some such decisions. Moore as a younger player saw some disappointed seniors who did not play extensive roles when the last two head coaches came to Stanford, and he wanted to explore that issue and concern with Harbaugh.
"It's hard for them to know everything that went on before they were here. But when they got here, they realized and handled things that I'm sure some of the other seniors appreciated as well," Moore explains. "I remember at his press conference when he was being named head coach, one of the first things he said is that we have to make sure we recruit our own players. Right off the bat, that tells me that he is not interested in alienating any of the older guys. He wants to use them, which tells me that he thinks we can make some noise in his first year."
"I voiced it not for personal reasons but for team reasons," Moore offers. "Even though I hadn't made the decision, I spoke as if I was going to come back and told him that it's a concern for our team because these guys have had it bad. They want to play and want to succeed. This will be our third coach, and it's scary to know that this is it. He said all the right things, and I appreciate that."
Moore saw Harbaugh's pronouncement at his press conference, and the trip he took to Orange County, as exciting evidence of initiative and interest toward Stanford's returning players. While Harbaugh has miles of tape to watch on high school senior and junior recruits across the country, the new Cardinal coach is also reviewing his existing personnel. These things are not lost on Moore.
"I am not going to say that I was looking to be recruited again or that I needed this coach to come and sell me. He took the bull by the horns, and he took the initiative. I really appreciated it," the receiver relates. "I feel like he knows this personnel, and he's been working very hard at evaluating this personnel. It shows by how he has handled his duties thus far since he's been there."
"Coach Shaw - I've probably talked with him three or four times over the last two weeks, and he's interesting to talk to," Moore adds. "I'm excited to get out there and playing for him."
The other remaining question on the minds of some impatient Cardinal fans is why this decision took this long. Each day that passed since the end of the season, some five weeks ago, fueled speculation that Moore was exploring schools and a transfer. He took some time initially to step away from the situation and clear his head. Then he and his family conducted a careful exploration and examination. Moore also felt a responsibility to not make public comments hinting or speculating one direction or the other, given how they would be interpreted as an indictment of Walt Harris. If Moore suggested a desire to transfer, Harris was the cause and villain. If Moore quickly commented on a desire to return, it was because Harris was replaced.
"I wanted to be sure - 100 percent sure," he explains. "Also, out of respect for the previous coaching staff, I wasn't just going to immediately come out and say, 'Now that they're fired, I'm coming back.' I don't think that would have been fair to anybody."
"I felt like I had time, and I used it all. Now I feel rejuvenated, and I'm really looking forward to it," Moore maintains. "There is not going to be any looking back. I'm really looking forward to going after it with this staff and making some noise this year. By no means was I forced to come back, and there is not some part of me that doesn't want to be at Stanford. That is not the case at all. I chose to come back, and I'm looking forward to it."
The returning Cardinal roster starts winter quarter classes on Tuesday, which will also kick off the 2007 off-season training. Lest we forget, Moore played with an injury to his foot that did not completely heal during the season. He instead was fitted with custom orthotics to distribute weight away from the injury and allow him to play. Moore reports at an exit physical he received in December before leaving campus, there was good news. X-rays showed calcium building up at the stress injury. He expects to start January with a full head of steam.
"They felt good about the way it was healing, and with another month there should be no issues," he says. "I don't expect to have anything holding me back when I go back up there. It's been over a month since the end of the season, and I feel pretty good."
While one can hope for touchdowns, big plays and more wins for Moore in his fifth and final year at Stanford, the thing he most needs is a healthy season. Each injury he has sustained while in college has taught him new lessons, and he has improved himself physically and advanced his knowledge of training as a result. The stress injury hit him in September and marginalized him through the end of the season, so it understandably affects how he approaches his training this off-season.
"The only part of my body that ever hurts is the feet, and I have to take care of them. I'm sure I weigh a lot more than any receiver out there, and I'm going to go through a little more pounding than other receivers. So I have to be smart with it," Moore says. "I don't plan on changing a whole lot because last year's injury was one of those freak things. I'm not going to say that I'm not going to train as hard because I got a stress fracture. I'll trainer smarter, I guess, with the orthotics and this and that. But I'm just going to try and forget that."
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!