By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
If you were among the brave and hearty who found the West Virginia Gold and Blue Spring game important enough to sit through the rain and cold of a Morgantown night, you were rewarded midway through the first quarter when you were sent scurrying toward your program to see who was wearing the blue No. 7 jersey.
He, you see, had just ruined your image of quarterback Geno Smith’s perfection by stepping in front of a receiver and picking off a badly timed pass for an interception.
When you looked to your program you saw the name Matt Moro and surely a quizzical look crossed your face as you tried to recall who Matt Moro was, for he did not log a lot of playing time a year ago after coming to West Virginia.
So it was after the game that I approached him to get his story.
Turns out we didn’t have to talk about it, because it was written all over him.
There are tattoos almost everywhere.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know how many,” he answered when asked about it. “It’s over 30.”
And this is not just body art for body art’s sake.
“This is how I express myself,” he said. “I like to represent where I came from, my family and my career and, of course, Jesus Christ.”
They run down his right arm and part of his left, across his chest and abdomen.
“It represents my county, Miami Dade,” he said, pointing to a large tattoo on his right forearm that reads “Dade County.” “It represents football. It represents Jesus Christ. I got my mother’s name and my father’s name. It inspires me, looking at myself.”
His story should inspire, too, for this is a kid who was on the wrong path in an area where that often seems to be the only path.
There is no Sesame Street in his Miami area neighborhood.
It’s an area where there was drugs and crime and the inner city stuff that turned the TV show “Miami Vice” into a hit a couple of decades back and he was kind of lost in it, not going bad but not going anywhere.
In high school he played only one year of football and that came about after he realized what he had been doing.
“I didn’t start,” he said. “In fact, I didn’t play very much,”
He was a good athlete, though, but was inexperienced, and his grades were so low that no major college would think about touching him.
“If you don’t get your mind right you’re going to end up either dead or in jail,” Moro said a year ago in a radio interview with MetroNews. “So somebody has to wake up.”
It was then he discovered religion. Oh, he’d gone to church before, but he suddenly discovered that it was his way out, that there was a path to success and it led through California.
He would go to junior college and learn to play football the right way.
So it was he played at College of the Desert as a freshman and El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., as a sophomore, being known as a hard-hitter and good cover man out of his safety position, catching the eye of then Coach Bill Stewart’s staff.
Last June, after finishing one final class, he picked up his associate’s degree and came to WVU.
“The junior college route is not easy at all,” he said. “You have to stick with it and stay positive and confident. If you don’t have confidence you won’t make it through out there.”
Now he’s in the mix for playing time, getting more of it than he might have since Terence Garvin, the starter, has been out with an injury. That, actually, has been a blessing for the Mountaineer secondary because Garvin is expected back but Moro now is far more experienced.
He is thinking big.
“I expect to start. I’m just going continue to listen to Coach [Joe] DeForest, to get bigger, get stronger, improve in the weight room, on the field, off the field and take it from there,” he said. “As a senior, this is the last year and you want to make the biggest impression you can. You want to play on. Of course, everyone’s ambition is to go to the NFL, and that’s mine.”
Who knows? Perhaps someday he’ll have to make room for a Miami Dolphins tattoo.
If not, it won’t be because he didn’t go after it.
“It is always motivation coming from where I came from. I’ve always been at the bottom. It is nothing new to me, and I just have to continue working and continue improving on and off the field,” Moro said.
“Hopefully this will be my destiny.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.