After a difficult 72 hours, former USC running back Emmanuel Moody is headed to Gainesville where he’ll get a chance to line up in the Gators’ spread offense in 2008 after he sits out the 2007 season.
“It’s been a very stressful time,” Moody said. “But while it’s been stressful, it’s also been good at the same time because I know the decision that I have made is a good one.”
Moody announced his intentions to leave the Trojans in mid-August. After a solid freshman season where he rushed for 458 yards on 79 carries, scoring two touchdowns, Moody found himself competing with nine other highly-touted running backs in the USC backfield. But a bruised knee suffered during a scrimmage earlier in fall camp sidelined the former U.S. Army All-American.
After much consideration, Moody narrowed his list to Florida and North Carolina, looking for a chance to start with a clean slate.
“Honestly, it’s a blessing,” Moody said. “I’ve been given a second chance, and I just thank God for the opportunity. I just hope to improve and keep on improving so I can continue to play at this level.”
Last Tuesday, Moody visited the North Carolina campus before heading to Gainesville on Wednesday. He spent two full days in Florida, heading back to his hometown of Coppell, Texas late Friday afternoon. He initially planned to make a decision on Saturday, but pushed the decision back to today. He contacted both schools on Sunday.
“I told Florida that I was coming,” he said. “I made my decision, that’s my word and I’m sticking to it. Then I contacted North Carolina and told them thanks for everything. I appreciated the opportunity they gave me to go out there. I appreciated the opportunity they offered me to play for them, but my heart was in it for Florida, and I feel like that’s the place for me. I want to help the team out while continuing my collegiate career.”
Moody said Florida just felt like the right place.
“When I got off the plane I just got that feeling,” Moody said. “I just kind of knew that it was the place for me. It was one of those situations when people say you just know, kind of like when you meet your wife. When you meet your wife you just know she’s the one.”
“I’m not getting married or anything, I’m just using that as an example,” Moody said laughingly.
“It was just one of those things,” he added. “One of those feeling you get deep down in your heart, that instinct, that deep down feeling in my stomach that this was the place for me. The more I got to talk to the coaches and the players and looked at all the schemes in the offense, I just feel in love with it.”
With his 6-1, 205-pound frame, speed and agility, Moody should fit nicely into the Gators’ offensive plans. But Moody said it’s not about what he can do, but rather what the team can do.
“For me, I don’t feel like I’m one of those backs that’s looking at what I can do,” Moody said. “I’m just really excited to play in that offense and to play under coach Meyer and coach Mullen. I’m just excited and really looking forward to taking it up another notch and compete, and I’m getting a fresh start, a new beginning.”
Moody starts classes at UF on Wednesday and will be able to take part in all team functions, including practice despite having to sit out the season.
“What I’m going to try and do is play to the best of my ability,” he said. “I’m just going to try to make plays. Hopefully, that’s what I can do for the team. I just want to help out the team in any way that I can. I can’t predict the future, but all I know is nothing will happen without hard work.”
Another selling point for the Gators was the team atmosphere. Moody spent extended time with some of the players who made him feel right at home.
“I met [Tim] Tebow, he’s really cool,” Moody said. “He welcomed me right in and that says a lot about his character. I met Percy [Harvin], he seems like a good guy. I love the team. There’s a bunch of really good guys on the team. They’re all well-respected.”
Even though he spent his freshman season playing for the Trojans, the Texas native knows a little bit about SEC football.
“Football in the South, I already have a feel for it from playing in Texas,” Moody said. “Southern football is huge. The fans are die-hard fans out there. SEC football is like a war zone, not just for the football players, but also for the fans. The stadiums are packed and the tickets are sold out for a decade. People are waiting in line for years to get tickets. I’m just excited to play in a stadium where fans are excited, and they’re excited for the team to perform.”
In addition to earning U.S. Army All-American honors while in high school, Moody was the No. 11 ranked running back in the nation according to Scout.com.