It’s uncommon news when any high school football player in Rhode Island commits to play at a Division I FBS school in, as only a handful of athletes have made that jump in recent memory.
But with Lee Moses, newsworthy as it may be, it’s hardly a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.
Moses, Bishop Hendricken’s rising senior speedster who plays both defensive back and wide receiver, committed to the University of Massachusetts last month, becoming the first Hendricken player since former Boston College standout and current Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Will Blackmon in 2002 to commit to a D-I school out of high school.
A first-team All-State selection a year ago and the Warwick Beacon’s Male Athlete of the Year, Moses has seen his stock rise dramatically over the past year due to his football prowess in helping lead Hendricken to a fourth straight Super Bowl title last fall, and his performance in track, where he’s become one of the elite sprinters and jumpers in the state.
High-level college coaches began expressing interest, and once the ball got rolling, Moses got a D-I offer UMass and he let the coaching staff know that Amherst is where he wants to be.
“You dream about playing at that level,” Moses said on Wednesday. “It doesn’t usually happen, especially coming from a small state like Rhode Island. It’s kind of hard to play Division I.”
Moses will join a program that made the transition to the highest level of college football in 2011, and plays in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). On UMass’s schedule this season are games with the ACC’s Boston College, the SEC’s Vanderbilt University, the Big Ten’s Penn State and the Pac-12’s University of Colorado.
Adding to the school’s appeal was a Rhode Island connection. Former All-State La Salle quarterback Liam Coen, who played at UMass while it was still in Division I-AA after high school, is the quarterbacks coach for the Minutemen, and he was one of the first representatives of the college to reach out to Moses.
With Coen, and the reputation of head coach Mark Whipple – a former quarterbacks coach in the NFL and former head coach of Brown University – UMass seemed even more logical.
“We’re really comfortable with Liam Coen,” said Hendricken head coach Keith Croft, who has helped Moses through the entire recruiting process. “Coach Whipple whose reputation is great – I remember when he was at Brown. If I could pick a school, with a coaching staff that you trust, UMass is a great fit for him.”
The process really started early this year, when Coen emailed Moses to touch base. Not long afterwards, Moses and his family went to the campus and took a tour, met coach Whipple and got a feel for his potential college destination.
Soon afterwards, Moses had an offer. He didn’t commit on the spot, but he attended UMass’s football camp over the summer despite being limited in participation due to an injury he suffered in the outdoor track season.
He kept his options open for a little while, as he attended Boston College football camp as well, and schools like Central Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Boston College, Connecticyt, Syracuse and Brown all expressed interest.
But before long, he settled on UMass.
“I liked the campus, I liked the coaching staff,” Moses said. “They built a brand new facility, I liked the school. They’re a good fit right now, and they’re a good school for me right now. I talked it over with my family and everybody else, and that’s where we are.”
Moses is unsure of which position he’ll play in college, as he’s going in with the “athlete” designation, but the coaching staff has expressed interest in using him at both cornerback and in the return game.
Croft sees him as a defensive player at the next level, yet he knows the kind of overall athlete that UMass will be getting. Two plays in particular from last fall’s football season opened Croft’s eyes to the fact that Moses was a D-I-caliber talent.
The first play came in the regular season finale against La Salle. With Hendricken trailing by five points with less than two minutes to play, Moses caught a wide receiver screen pass and turned it into an electric, 53-yard touchdown up the left sideline that proved to be the game-winner.
Then, in the Super Bowl, Moses made Hendricken’s biggest play of its championship season. Trailing against Cranston East with time nearly expired in the first half, Moses returned a kickoff 88 yards on the final play of the half to give Hendricken a 19-14 lead at the break, one it would never relinquish.
“He just started to gain more and more confidence as a playmaker,” Croft said.
That playmaking ability has led to the opportunity to take the field with the best college football players in the country.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do it at such a high level,” Moses said.
With his commitment settled, Moses can turn his attention to his senior season at Hendricken, where he’ll be trying to lead the Hawks to a fifth consecutive Super Bowl title.
“It just felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Moses said. “You’re thinking about this, you’re thinking about going to camps, then you’ve got Hendricken football. Give them the verbal, get the weight of the shoulder, and now I can focus on Hendricken football.”
And Hendricken’s first D-I commit in over a decade is primed for another huge season before moving on the college ranks.
“I think he’s going to have a lot more confidence offensively this year, which is good for us,” Croft said. “I think that’s what I want to see him do this year. There’s no questions about can he do it. He’s going to be a senior now, so we expect our seniors to be leaders. I hope the kids look at him as a leader now, and I think they will.”