INDIANAPOLIS – There’s unfinished business for Kenny Moore II.
Now and later.
Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts’ veteran cornerback will walk across the stage for graduation ceremonies at Valdosta State (Ga.) University.
“It’s been a journey getting to this point,’’ Moore said Wednesday afternoon, his emotion/pride evident, “but I knew how important it was for those around me to get my degree and it meant a lot to myself individually to definitely walk across that stage.’’
He put pursuit of a degree on hold in 2016 to focus on an NFL dream that initially began as an undrafted rookie with New England and has blossomed as a defensive cornerstone with the Colts. When he left Valdosta State, Moore still was roughly a year and a half short of earning his degree.
But there never was a doubt he would finish what he started. He switched majors to Organizational Leadership and pecked away at the requirements with online classes during several offseasons.
“I’ve never been so excited to graduate from anything,’’ Moore said with a laugh, “until this weekend.
“I’m just ready to see my mom’s face, honestly.’’
Moore clearly has his life priorities in order. He’s heading into his seventh season, but the NFL never was going to be a final destination. It’s the means to something else.
“(The NFL) is a short stint to my life,’’ he said. “Someday whenever I hang the cleats up, there’s more that I want to tag my name to.
“There’s more that I want to represent.’’
And that brings us to the other bit of unfinished business.
Moore is coming off a frustrating and disappointing 2022.
Collectively, the Colts finished 4-12-1, endured a couple of historic collapses and dealt with the firing of Frank Reich and the hiring of Shane Steichen.
Individually, Moore struggled to find the type of role and success in Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme that he had with previous coordinator Matt Eberflus. As the season wound down, his frustrations bubbled to the surface. The 2021 Pro Bowl selection failed to generate an interception for the first time in six seasons and missed the final five games with an ankle injury.
“Coaching and playing works together,’’ Moore said in early January. “We just didn’t click. We didn’t click.
“I wasn’t able to give them exactly what they wanted, first and foremost. I didn’t give myself what I wanted. It was tough.’’
With the Colts in obvious transition mode – from Reich to Steichen – various personnel moves were considered internally.
General manager Chris Ballard granted cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s request to be traded, and considered trade interest in Moore and center Ryan Kelly. Gilmore was sent to Dallas for a fifth-round draft pick, but Moore and Kelly remain part of the Colts’ rebuild effort.
“They’re good football players,’’ Ballard said at the owners’ meetings. “When you’ve got a good football player that’s a great person and a good fit, it makes it hard to move away from those guys.’’
It’s clearly meaningful for Moore to have a bounce-back opportunity with the Colts rather than re-starting his career elsewhere.
“It was important to me,’’ he said. “Indianapolis holds a special place in my heart. I feel at home. I feel as if I have a special family in Indianapolis.
“I would definitely love to make everything right here in Indianapolis.’’
Moore was asked if there were times he wondered if that would be the case.
“I think you all can answer that,’’ he said with a smile.
Yes, there was a point a career relocation entered his mind.
“I think in this business anything is possible,’’ Moore said. “The way that I was raised in South Georgia, you work for everything. You’re entitled to nothing. Whether it’s your best season or worst season, you’re not entitled to any seat in any building.
“It’s the same mindset I had whenever I was in New England trying to make a roster (or) the first day I got here . . . Sept. 3, 2017. I just want to keep working and being me. Just be better for this organization.’’
Meetings with Bradley and Ballard following last season were critical in giving Moore perspective on his place with the organization.
“I’m feeling great,’’ he said. “A lot of communication went and took place for me to be in this seat right now. I’m very grateful for everything that took place after the season to obviously be here.’’
Moore described those meetings as “tough talks.’’
“It was something that was very important to me . . . ‘Let’s go back through everything and see where everything went wrong,’’’ he said. “We did that and I like where we’re at right now.
“Just to be able to look each other in the face and just say, ‘I’m thankful. I appreciate you. Let’s keep it going.’ I’m feeling great, happy. I’m restored. I’m ready to go.’’
As it turns out, Moore will look for a bounce-back season in his contract season. He’s in the final year of a four-year, $33 million extension.
“My mentality is embracing the process – working, working, working – with no entitlement,’’ Moore said. “Of course I want to be here. Definitely want to be here.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.