Pitt FB Recruiting
What Goes Into Raising TJ Moore, One of the Most Sought-After Wide Receivers in the Class of 2024
How familiar are you with the sensation of sinking into a slightly-worn lawn chair, sliding a cold beverage of your choice into the mesh holder and letting the South Florida sun wash over your face? To be honest, I can’t say I’m too familiar myself. But I do know how hard it would be to get me out of that chair.
It’s that much more surprising that Terrance Moore’s friends were such good sports, getting out of their lawn chairs in Key West, Florida to play catch with his son TJ. But even then, the backyard wasn’t the only place that TJ wanted to play catch.
At that point, TJ was just a five-year-old kid growing up in Florida, but he was insatiable. If he saw any of his father’s friends, and a football was within arm’s reach, he didn’t ask. He just took off on his route. It didn’t matter where they were. He wanted to play catch, but he wanted to be the one hauling in the football.
T.J.’s obsession, a one-track mind tuned to playing catch every single day, caught Terrance’s eye. He didn’t even need to mention it to his wife Alexandra. She saw it, too. She saw it with Terrance way back, and if anything, TJ was — and is — his father’s son.
The ‘playing-catch-without-saying-we’re-playing-catch’ routine became such a tradition that the usual ‘down, set, hut’ call was rendered meaningless. If there was a football in the vicinity, TJ took off. How many unprompted go routes can you ignore?
So, Terrance and Alexandra signed TJ up for flag football in the Key West area, giving him a chance to play catch with kids closer to his age. But when he started off in midget football, he spent most of his time on the line. It wasn’t until the end of his first midget season that his head coach moved him to the backfield. “Let’s see if he can run the ball,” he told Terrance.
Terrance saw something special as he watched his son with the football under his arm, running past defenders, something perhaps even more special than when he himself played back in the day.
It wasn’t quite wide receiver like TJ wanted, or what Terrance played back in the day, but that would come with time.
There is no right way to raise a star athlete. You might think you have all the answers, but you don’t. No one does. And Terrance and Alexandra recognized that very early.
“It’s tough, dude,” Terrance says.
“We’re learning,” Alexandra adds, quickly.
“We’re learning on the go ourselves,” Terrance confirms with a laugh. And while there may not be a ‘right’ way to raise a major Division I athlete, Terrance and Alexandra are instilling in their son the lessons they never learned at his age. There’s no time like the present when it comes to growing as a man — and a football player.
“We allow TJ to make his own decisions, honestly,” Alexandra says. “The way that I see it, the way that we pretty much see it, he has to live somewhere, he has to be the one to do this as his career. This is all him. So, we just try to — in the event that we do say no to anything — make decisions one at a time. He drives the boat, we’re just here to support him. We’ll give him the good and we’ll give him the bad, but he decides.”
Terrance and Alexandra couldn’t be more proud of the young man their son has grown into, but perhaps it’s not a surprise considering he’s watched his father his whole life — in life and in football.
TJ drives the boat now, but he was once — not too long ago — just a passenger himself on his father’s boat. It’s still a surreal feeling for Terrance to reflect upon the journey he’s made, with both Alexandra and TJ (and his younger son Nate) by his side the entire way.
It would be easy to say that TJ got his start on the flag football fields in Key West, but that’s not true. He was just a few weeks old when he first attended one of Terrance’s practices in Mesa, Arizona in Alexandra’s arms. “He’s been on the sideline since he was wearing diapers,” Terrance says.
TJ isn’t the first Moore out of Florida to make a name for himself, after all. Terrance’s journey started at Butler Community College in Kansas, and of course, Alexandra was right there beside him. It’s family first now, and it was family first way back then.
It only made sense when Terrance and Alexandra learned that they were expecting during their first year in Kansas that they decided to take a year off. Family is paramount. So, the young couple headed back home to start a family. But it still wasn’t a goodbye when it came to football. It was more of a ‘see you later.’
Terrance knew that he wasn’t done playing football, even as he went home with Alexandra, he was just hoping Alexandra would be down for it. Obviously, she says now, she was. TJ arrived, and as Terrance moved the family to Mesa, Arizona to continue his career, his son was right there at just a few weeks old. “(T.J.’s) been my sidekick,” Alexandra says. “Ever since then, he’s just had that love.”
The journey made stops in El Dorado, Kansas and Mesa, Arizona, and it was supposed to continue on to Morgantown, West Virginia, but a missing credit ended that before it could begin, and the young Moore family wound up in California, Pennsylvania.
A pair of first-team All-PSAC honors, over 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns in two seasons at California University (Pa.), was only possible because of the support of Alexandra and TJ While some kids missed their parents and their hometowns, Terrance had every bit of motivation he could possibly want. He had his family right there with him. “Shit, excuse my language, I had my wife and my son right there, so I was good. I was comfortable.” He was chasing his dream.
While he wasn’t able to achieve his dream of making it big in the NFL, he’s getting to live out a dream that he never imagined possible.
“It is surreal, I love it, but at the same time — I mean, I love it,” Terrance says. “It’s my son, and I get to see him go to another level every year with his skill. It’s surreal. He was just a baby, now this guy’s bigger than me. He’s destroying people on the football field. I just love watching it.”
TJ stands taller than his father now, at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds and holds offers from schools like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Tennessee, USC and many, many more, 44 offers to be exact, but he was once just the kid playing flag football in the Florida Keys.
The Moore family moved back home to Key West following Terrance’s playing career, but it wasn’t for long. As Terrance and Alexandra watched TJ scoring with ease, acutely aware of what should have been normal, they came to a consensus. “We knew Key West wouldn’t feed him what he needed to continue forward,” Alexandra says. So, it was either Miami or Tampa.
Tampa it was. And it wasn’t a decision that was made simply on a whim.
“I think at his age, it was more, ‘This is what we’re going to do if you want to do it,'” Alexandra says. “We’ve always been open to just support and encourage (our children) in whatever they choose. It doesn’t matter if it’s ballet or soccer, I don’t care, but choose something, do it and we’ll support you.”
TJ was used to traveling when it came to following Terrance’s dream, spending the first few years of his life on the sidelines of football fields, so when it came time to chase his own dream of following in his father’s footsteps, it wasn’t a difficult decision.
TJ is just 16 years old, and Alexandra could not be more proud of the way he has handled himself as one of the most sought-after wide receivers in the class of 2024. In fact, if anything, she’s been more excited than he has as offers have continued to roll in. He’s a very nonchalant, down-to-earth kid, and that’s been instilled in him by Terrance and Alexandra. Terrance councils TJ to live, to be a kid, but to remember that he’s got to keep his head on his shoulders. Terrance keeps him right.
There weren’t wide receivers better than TJ in Florida in 2022, as he racked up 45 receptions for 1,169 yards (25.9 yards per catch) and 20 touchdowns on a very good Tampa Catholic squad.
That production, matched with his size and speed and strength, has made him a prime target for wide receivers coaches across the country. One of those, of course, is Pitt wide receivers coach Tiquan Underwood. TJ is at the very top of Pitt’s big board.
I enjoyed my time @ Pitt this weekend!!!🐆🔵 #H2P @TiUnderwood @TC_Football @JerisMcIntyre @SlimeyBoyz7v7 pic.twitter.com/JweteAfNrF
— 𝙏𝙚𝙧𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚 “𝙏𝙅 ” 𝙈𝙤𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙅𝙧 (@tjmoore305) January 29, 2023
So, that made his visit for Pitt’s Junior Day on Jan. 28 that much more important. It was his second unofficial visit to Pittsburgh, following a gameday visit for Pitt’s 28-26 win over Duke.
Terrance and Alexandra had been hoping to make it back up to the Pittsburgh area, where they had spent two-and-a-half years during Terrance’s time at Cal-U, but their busy schedules had made it hard to do so. An unofficial Pitt visit made it possible — even if just a little bit.
Terrance was able to see some old friends — some old friends that Pitt wide receivers coach Tiquan Underwood shares connections with, believe it or not — and get a feel for Pitt with his family.
“Pitt is lovely,” Terrance said. “It’s like family when we go there. They have an advantage; they’re right next to the Steelers. The coaching staff is very great. Coach (Tiquan) tells you how it is. I feel like I’ve known him forever. And it’s like cheating, dude, he played in the NFL. He knows what he’s doing.”
There’s a great line of communication with Underwood at this point. “There’s nothing left unturned,” Alexandra says. “If you have any questions, ask him, he’ll tell you just how it is. Which is our approach.” Terrance and Underwood are around the same age, with ties to the same friends, and there’s definitely a sort of ‘real recognize real’ feeling. There’s an eagerness to make it back up to Pittsburgh again in the spring.
Nothing could’ve prevented TJ from becoming an electric wide receiver like his father. He has spent his entire life around a football, and while Terrance and Alexandra have never — and would never — push him to be anything he didn’t want to do, TJ is following his own dreams now. And that means his dream is a dream that the entire family shares.
“We’re just a tight family, all four of us — I’ve got another young star in the making, too,” Terrance says. “But my family is just like my little bubble, and they’re my friends and we do everything together.”
So, when it comes to making visits, the whole family is there. Terrance, Alexandra, TJ and Nate. And after every visit, and every offer, there’s an opportunity to sit down and reflect. To study who’s there, who’s leaving, the bond with the wide receivers coach and how education factors into the equation. “TJ wants a family and discipline,” Terrance says. “And getting on the field right away.”
“It’s TJ’s decision, we just try to point out the good and the bad and we table conversation, talk about the pros and cons and what he took from each visit,” Alexandra says. “We’re just there to support; we’ll be happy regardless.”
It’s been a long journey for Terrance and Alexandra, but they’ve had TJ there basically every step of the way — and eventually Nate, too. Terrance had a lot of fun going through his own recruiting process back in the day, since he was out there playing himself, but it’s an even more special feeling to do it with his son now. He’s a part of himself — and Alexandra, too.
TJ is driving the ship right now, and he has the full and continued support of his entire family, but it’s also his journey at the end of the day. “You can teach your kid to swim,” Alexandra says, “but you can’t keep him from drowning.” And Terrance and Alexandra have no doubt that not only will TJ swim, he’ll push forward at full speed.
They sound like a great family. wish them the best. forget the skill I’d love to have that level of character on our team. H2P
Good story but perhaps better to write these up for players that have actually committed to Pitt.