CHARLOTTESVILLE — Morgan Moses knew how many eyes were fixed on him. And it wasn’t just because of his imposing frame.
The coveted offensive lineman took a detour to Virginia, spending a year at Fork Union Military Academy that might ultimately serve as the most crucial juncture of his career.
Now a college sophomore, Moses has a chance to be the next great Cavaliers offensive lineman. At 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, he could eventually follow D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe as first-round NFL picks.
“I don’t want to do the SI jinx or anything, but Morgan can be as good as Morgan wants to be,” Virginia coach Mike London said last week.
That always was assumed. The gargantuan Richmond native was a coveted recruiting prize for former coach Al Groh. There was only one problem.
Moses, who could allow his natural talent take over on the field, needed to work on academics. So it was off to Fork Union, a short drive from Charlottesville but still a world away from a college campus.
“It definitely was a time I got more disciplined,” Moses said. “I had to discipline myself into studying and getting the job done and not cutting corners. It was a big year for me. I learned a lot from it. I wouldn’t do it again, but I definitely learned a lot.”
There were times the early wakeup calls and uniforms and strict regimentation made Moses think he wouldn’t come back. Those feelings were amplified when he started growing facial hair during winter break while believing he completed his business, only to find out he needed another term.
Still, he went back, hardly thrilled but cognizant of the significance of doing what was needed to make it to Virginia.
“I thought about how all through high school, I took the short way out,” Moses said. “I could have gone to Hargrave [Military Academy], which was a lot easier, but I just needed that substance I was missing, and that was @ Fork Union.”
The discipline paid off, and not just with the study skills that helped get him through his first year of college. He stayed around campus throughout the summer, working out while trying to adjust his weight. Moses is down to 335 pounds, sticking to a rule of no food after 7 p.m.
Moses played in all but one game as a true freshman and slid into the starting lineup for the final seven contests. He entered camp this month as Virginia’s starter at right tackle and will be counted upon to help acclimate a new starting quarterback much as he adjusted to a new situation last year.
“I feel like he embraced it and did his role to the best of his ability and was a beast at it,” wide receiver Kris Burd said. “I feel he’s grown. You can definitely tell from his attitude and his swagger that he feels he can do the job.”
Moses’ brute strength is as impressive as ever. London rattled off some weight room numbers without much effort - 300-plus pounds on a power clean, more than a 500-pound squat, nearly a 400-pound bench press.
The mental lessons from an unexpectedly circuitous journey, though, might serve Moses just as well this season and beyond as his natural physical gifts.