1,334 yards last year were the most by a Georgia freshman since Herschel Walker
ran for 1,616 in 1980, already has some of the attention-getting accessories
that help a Heisman campaign, including a signature highlight—he hurdled
Central Michigan safety Vince Agnew, a feat that has gotten more than 275,000
YouTube hits—and a backstory that enhances his legend. As an eighth-grader at
Bayshore Middle School in Belford, N.J., Moreno famously challenged his entire
physical education class of about 25 students to try to tackle him. About a
minute later he was still dodging and weaving.
If they had ever
brought him down, Moreno probably would have sprung right back up to his feet.
He's like an inflatable toy that pops back up as soon as it's knocked down. It
might seem like an attempt to send a message to defenses that they can't hurt
him or keep him down for long, but Moreno insists it isn't that calculated.
"It's just instinct," he says. "I've been doing it ever since I was
THE BULLDOGS and
their fans wouldn't have him any other way. They're just grateful for the
serendipity that brought a New Jersey kid down South. When he was a sophomore
at Middletown South High, Moreno met Kade Weston, a defensive tackle from
nearby Red Bank Regional High, in an SAT prep class. Weston, a year ahead of
Moreno in school, planned to go to college in the area, possibly at Rutgers,
until a tutor suggested he consider Georgia, her daughter's alma mater. Weston
attended Georgia's high school camp in the summer before his junior year, and
he ended up committing to the Bulldogs.
freshman year at Georgia, Weston told Moreno, who was being recruited by
Maryland and Virginia Tech, among others, that he should take a look at the
Dawgs. Moreno was interested enough to take a 15-hour train ride from New
Jersey to Athens to attend the camp. "I really think when Knowshon got
here, he was surprised to find it wasn't one of those camps where coaches from
all the schools come to watch," Richt says. "To tell you the truth, I
think he was a little bit bummed."
Richt didn't even
know who Moreno was when he showed up, which is hard to believe now that Moreno
is the best-known Bulldog in town. Store owners have a hard time keeping
replicas of his number 24 jersey on the shelves, and he caused quite a stir in
Athens when he wore a number 26 jersey in the spring game in April. The news
was quickly circulated that he was wearing it only for the day in honor of
injured teammate Tony Wilson, keeping Dawg fans from swarming the sporting
goods stores. "When you've done the things that Knowshon has done, it's
hard to hide," Weston says. "People watch everything you do."
The same goes for
teams that are the popular preseason pick to win the national title. Everything
the Bulldogs do is being watched, analyzed, judged. Despite their outward calm,
you get the feeling that the Dawgs are wondering what exactly everyone expects
from them. The answer is simple. It's the same thing that's expected of any
team talented enough to be a champion—more. With the grueling SEC schedule that
awaits, we will find out soon enough whether Georgia has more to give.