Two of Ole Miss football’s most entertaining and electrifying personalities came as a package deal since birth. AJ and CJ Moore were born and raised in Bassfield, Miss., rose through the ranks as three-star defensive backs in high school, tore up the field during some of the Rebels’ most successful recent years, and have begun to turn heads entering a third season in the NFL.
CJ, who battled injuries throughout his five years in Oxford, played in his first two years on special teams in a reserve defensive back role before tearing his pectoral muscle (ouch) and missed all of 2016. His redshirt junior season saw him make six starts, record a career-high 51 tackles and lead the Rebels with three interceptions. It set CJ up for a breakout senior season in 2018, and he got off to a hot start with 13 solo stops as a starter in the team’s first five games. However, his career at Ole Miss was cut short when he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury (ouch again) in September. Despite his troubles staying healthy, he earned the attention of NFL scouts with his athleticism.
It was unlikely CJ would hear his name called in the NFL Draft after missing a large portion of his senior season, but making the league was not a far-fetched thought for someone with his intangibles. He worked out for the Ravens, the Broncos, the Seahawks and the Lions before the draft and talked with 19 teams in total. Immediately after the seventh round of the Draft, Detroit called and invited him to training camp. With his speed and size, he was set on making an impression on special teams.
CJ recorded five tackles in his first game against New England and forced a fumble against Buffalo in week three. Eight minutes before the cut deadline after the preseason, he got a call with a Michigan area code and found out he made the 53-man roster.
“It was the equipment manager just asking do I want to change my jersey?” CJ Moore said. “At that point I’m like, ‘Yo, if he’s asking me to change my jersey...’ I’m asking myself, ‘Wait, did I make it?’ Then I ask him, ‘Hey man, did I make it?’ Then he’s like, ‘Yeah.’”
CJ recorded five solo tackles, seven total tackles and graced the Lions’ depth chart as the team’s third safety and a prominent winger on special teams in 2019. He will look to build his role in year two this fall - plus, he also rocked some pretty sweet cleats.
Custom Cleats for Detroit Lions Free Safety CJ Moore pic.twitter.com/Zo3b53DW6w— Jory Oakleaf (@js_custom_kicks) November 30, 2019
CJ’s twin brother, AJ, was fortunate to stay healthy all four years at Ole Miss and blossomed into a valuable asset on a defense that saw its ups and downs from 2014-2018. He graced the gridiron as a backup defensive back and special teams player in his first season, made a pair of starts as a sophomore, played in every game as a junior and finished sixth on team with 42 tackles and fourth with five tackles for loss in 2017.
AJ really made his mark as a senior when he started every game at the Nickel and recorded 48 tackles on the season. He also flew around like a banshee on special teams and the NFL took notice.
After going undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, New England got on the phone and signed him to a training camp contract after the seventh round concluded. He was waived by the team at the end of the preseason (big mistake, HUGE). Shortly after the final roster cuts were made, the Houston Texans signed AJ to the 53-man roster and gave him his NFL debut against the Patriots. He made a team-leading 11 tackles and recovered one fumble as a rookie on special teams and has continued to ball out as a gunner.
The Texans’ coaches and front office began to take notice of AJ’s prowess and gave him a more expansive role in 2019. He played primarily on special teams but also saw 19 snaps as a defensive back and recorded 14 total tackles. His uncanny ability to sniff out the play and get downfield is something that has been on display since his time in Oxford and continues to prove valuable on the next level.
Entering his third year in the league, he is a lock to make the roster and will continue to gradually see more time in the defensive backfield. The Texans’ 2020 training camp has begun and AJ already made a play, picking off Deshaun Watson at safety.
Head coach Bill O’Brien continues to sing his praise, calling the former Rebel dependable, tough and smart as someone who loves football and being on the team earlier this week. There is no doubt beyond the field, AJ and CJ both are great locker room guys and fan favorites in the NFL, which was also the case while the two were at Ole Miss.
As AJ continues to solidify his career in Houston, CJ will need to play well on special teams in Detroit this season to get the third-year bump his brother is set to see in 2020. Both former Ole Miss legends have the ball skills and energy to make the jump in the NFL, and it will be interesting to see the role each twin plays this fall.
No matter what happens, one thing is for sure— they will always show up to show out!