Growing up, Memphian Darreon Moore loved football.
So much, in fact, that whenever he finished playing games for the Whitehaven Cowboys youth league, he and several of his teammates would attend practices of Whitehaven High’s football team.
As Moore recalls, among the things he deemed mostly intriguing about the Tiger football program is the way Whitehaven coach Rodney Saulsberry interacted with his players, a trend he believes inspired him as an up-and-coming player.
“It was nice to hang around high players at a young age,” Moore told MemphiSport Friday in a telephone interview from Kennewick, Washington. “And seeing how (Saulsberry) would talk to players and get them hyped for the game, it showed me that every player goes through situations, but you’ve for to fight through it.”
Moore, 15, is a highly-touted cornerback for Kamiakin High in the Kennewick area. While his football prowess initially was discovered in the Mid-South roughly four years ago on the recreational circuit, this speedy, two-way athlete is starting to draw reviews as a young standout in the Pacific Northwest.
For starters, Moore accumulated interests from a number of major Division 1 colleges during what was a memorable freshman campaign this past season for the Braves, one in which he didn’t sense would come full circle this early as a newcomer to the high school ranks.
“When I first started (varsity), I was a little nervous,” Moore said. But when I got under the lights, it’s a different environment as opposed to playing on Thursday nights.”
Fortunately for Moore, his stint as a member of Kamiakan’s freshman squad was short-lived. In fact, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound athlete who boasts an impressive 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, last just two games on the freshman roster before the huge break of his young prep career occurred.
Installed as a starter on the varsity squad just three games into the season, Moore was as good as advertised for a Braves team that finished 9-3 and advanced to the third round of the Washington Class 3A playoffs, where it fell to Shadle Park of Spokane, 34-16.
In 10 appearances, Moore was a catalyst for what evolved into a much resilient defensive unit by season’s end. He amassed 23 solo tackles, three of which resulted in yardage lost. In addition, he had 11 batted down passes and one interception.
Moore proved to be just as efficient on special teams, where he assumed a majority of the kick return duties. In 10 games, he had eight kickoff returns for 190 yards and a single punt return totaling 55 yards.
That Moore was among the most durable players on Kamiakin’s roster — he also played the wideout position — was a testament of his tireless work ethic prior to this past season, said Jerry Mercado, who coached Moore during his tenure with the Tricity Elite football team in the Kennewick area.
“When I got him, I felt like he got a real taste of what the next level of football would be like,” Mercado said. “He played on our team, which is not an easy squad to make. These consists of some of the best ball players in the area. Darreon made some big plays right away, but what separates him is his ability to be coached. Darreon right now as a freshmen is considered one of the best DBs in the area and maybe the best in the State of Washington for (the Class of 2017). But as good as he is at DB, he is equally underrated as a wide receiver. When he finally gets the opportunity to catch passes, I think we will be talking about one of the best prospects in Washington for 2017…period.”
Not only that, this flourishing athlete also is making strides off the field, particularly where it counts the most — in the classroom. Currently, Moore boasts a 3.3 grade point average. Arguably his grandest supporter pertaining to his favorable showing in the classroom is his mother, Cassandra Moore-Thomas.
“As a mother, I feel proud in knowing Darreon exhibited great qualities on and off the field that most people in the community who address me or know me as “Darreon’s mom…it’s such an awesome” feeling,” Thomas said. “Right now, there is no other place Darreon would rather be than at Kamiakin High School.”
Moore’s father, Nickolas Thomas, also has been instrumental in his success as a rising athlete.
Nickolas Thomas, a native Memphian and 1988 Kingsbury High graduate, spent years coaching high school football in the Shelby-Metro area before his job relocated him and his family to Washington state. Among the things about which he labels mostly impressive about Moore’s display is his willingness to broaden his mechanics.
“It’s hard to say what makes him special,” Nickolas Thomas said. “He’s gone through what coaches calls the “it factor.” Wherever you put him on the field, he’s willing to adjust and play that role.”
To his credit, his skills as a newcomer to the varsity ranks have recruiters already inquiring about his services once his prep career ends.
According to Nickolas Thomas, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, Southern Cal, Arizona State, Ole Miss, and Washington State are among the schools currently recruiting Moore. He made an unofficial visit to Washington State over the weekend.
“To be honest with you, I don’t even think he’s reached his prime,” Nickolas Thomas said. “He’s still developing. He’s a student of the game.”
That was evident years ago when he attended Whitehaven High’s football practices.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.