By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — When he rolled into town last month and moved into the dormitory room he’s sharing with Kevin Parks, reality hit Morgan Moses.
After an odyssey that took him from Meadowbrook High School to Fork Union Military Academy and then home to the Richmond area and then back to FUMA, Moses was officially a UVa student, officially a UVa football player.
“It’s been a long road,” the mammoth offensive lineman said the other day, “but when I got here and moved in my stuff, I was like, ‘It finally came true.’
“Just being enrolled in classes now and working out with the team, and bonding with the players in the class I was supposed to be in, it’s crazy. It’s a blessing.”
Moses, a Parade All-American at Meadowbrook in 2008, occasionally wondered if he’d ever make it to UVa. So did Virginia fans. In February 2009, as a Meadowbrook senior, Moses had signed a letter of intent with UVa. But he failed to meet NCAA eligibility standards and ended up enrolling in the postgraduate program at Fork Union.
After playing for legendary coach John Shuman during the 2009 season, Moses returned home, believing he could fulfill his remaining academic requirements by taking on-line classes. He learned otherwise, which meant he needed to re-enroll at FUMA if he wanted to make it to UVa this year.
That turn of events didn’t thrill him, Moses admits, but “football is what I love, and if I had to go back to Fork Union, that’s what I had to do.”
It helped that his teammates and classmates at FUMA included another UVa football recruit, Cody Wallace. Like Moses, Wallace first signed with Virginia two Februarys ago but wasn’t cleared to enroll in 2009-10.
“He pushed me a lot in workouts and in the classroom and as a friend, too,” Moses said.
In the end, of course, Moses cleared his remaining hurdle and was admitted to UVa, where he’s likely to compete for playing time in the fall.
“I want to play as a true freshman,” he said. “I feel like that year at Fork Union was a redshirt year for me.”
UVa coach Mike London said: “With linemen, you hope they get a year to develop, and he hopefully did that in that Fork Union year. He looks good. He cut some baby fat, he’s added some strength. We’ll see how he looks when people are pushing back.”
In high school and at FUMA, Moses played tackle, but guard might be an option, too, at least early in his college career.
“I would love to play left tackle, but if I have to play kicker, I don’t care,” he said with a huge grin.
At 6-6 and 346 pounds, Moses “blocks out the sun,” London likes to say. Moses wasn’t in great shape when he arrived in Charlottesville last month, but he’s dropped 12 pounds since then.
“College workouts are very different than any high school or prep school workouts,” Moses said.
College classes are different, too, as Moses can attest. He and Parks, a record-setting tailback from Salisbury, N.C., are enrolled in the second session of summer school at UVa. The rest of the Cavaliers’ first-year class will begin summer school July 12.
“I thought it was a good idea to get [Moses] up here a little early to be around his teammates, our academic people, the coaches,” London said.
“Right now I think he’s doing well in the classroom, in the community, on the field. He has flourished being here. He’s getting it done in the classroom. He’s learning. He’s being a college student.”
Moses, who’s taking a summer course on music and computers, said he let himself — and many others — down when he didn’t qualify coming out of high school.
“My ninth-grade year, I kind of dug myself a hole academically,” he recalled. Moses performed much better in the classroom as a senior, but it was too late then.
He said he’s determined to remain in good academic standing at UVa.
“Because of the situation I was in before, I know I gotta work extra hard,” he said, “and if I need I help, I can’t be afraid to ask the teacher.”
An excellent academic-support system exists for his players, London knows. But that’s not enough. He expects them to attend — and participate in — all their classes.
“I tell the players, the professor is like a coach,” London said, “and what coach would want to teach you if you didn’t show up for practice, and you weren’t prepared, and then when it was time for the exam — game time — you wanted the benefit of the doubt and wanted to be put in the game?
“Being there and asking questions and talking to the professor after hours, showing an active interest, that’s key.”
Al Groh was the Wahoos’ coach when Moses signed for the first time. UVa fired Groh after a dismal 2009 season and hired London.
Groh’s dismissal “kind of hit me hard,” Moses said. It didn’t take long, however, for the new staff at UVa to win Moses over. He was already familiar with London, a former Groh assistant who’d been head coach at the University of Richmond in 2008 and ’09, and the more time Moses spent with new defensive coordinator Jim Reid, the more comfortable he felt about re-signing with the ‘Hoos.
Reid, who like London is a former UR head coach, recruits the Richmond area for UVa.
“He’s one of those coaches you dream about having,” Moses said.
Moses has long dreamed about playing football for Virginia. That’s about to be reality. Given the accolades he earned at Meadowbrook, much will be expected of Moses as a Cavalier. But he says he has to prove himself all over again.
“I feel like what happened in high school, happened in high school,” Moses said, “and what happened at Fork Union, happened at Fork Union.
“It’s a whole new level. I gotta write a new chapter for myself at UVa.”