Despite a nickname suggesting otherwise, Louis Moore’s journey from Mesquite, Texas to IU football has not always been sweet.
Poteet High School coaches dubbed him “Sweet Lou” because of how smooth he looked on the field, both in practices and games. Then-defensive coordinator Rodney McLain recalled a clutch over-the-shoulder, toe-tap catch Moore made by the sideline during a senior year game at McKinney North, and called it a “Sunday type of catch.”
Safeties coach Anthony Byrd said the way Moore flew around the field, whether at wide receiver or defensive back, made coaches swoon.
“He would be running past people, and it just looked so sweet and so smooth. It looked like he was moving in slow motion,” Byrd said. “His long strides, it’s like, ‘Man, that’s sweet right there.’ That’s what you want in a DB or receiver. Or on the track, he’s running the 400, and he turns the curve and just looks so smooth, and everything is just sweet. So we started calling him “Sweet Lou.”
The moniker has followed Moore to Bloomington. But while “Sweet Lou” shined internally at Poteet, college coaches and scouts didn’t initially see the same thing. He primarily played wide receiver at that time, and he didn’t have the traditional physical attributes colleges typically look for in top receiver recruits. So when coaches came to Poteet to scout other players, Moore was overlooked.
After the recruiting process passed him by, he considered trying to be a walk-on somewhere. But with encouragement from Byrd and others, he went the junior college route instead at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. Moore realized that path could give him a better opportunity to eventually earn a scholarship.
And Moore is someone who takes those chances.
“He’s the type of kid who always bet on himself. When other people might not have thought he could get a job done or do something, he always knew he could,” McLain said. “He didn’t get picked up by a big-time school coming out of high school, and he said, ‘I know I can play at that level.'”
Juco was an eye-opening experience for Moore. He went in as a receiver in 2019, and faced similar circumstances as all college freshmen see, whether Juco or FBS. He went from being the guy in high school to being just a guy. And at a junior college, everyone on the team has been similarly overlooked.
Moore, admittedly, wasn’t the best receiver on the team at Navarro, admittedly. He began at the bottom of the depth chart, and he redshirted that first season. He served on scout team for his first year in Juco.
That wasn’t easy for him, but it strengthened his mindset. He knew he had to work even harder.
Moore did that and earned a starting job in 2020. Across seven games, he caught 24 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown. But that season — already impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — was cut short during a scrimmage. Moore was a gunner on punt coverage at the beginning of the game, and he felt his knee pop.
But Navarro didn’t have a trainer with the team. So Moore played the rest of the scrimmage — which, physically, isn’t out of the ordinary. But when he woke up the next morning, his knee was red and swollen, and he couldn’t bend it.
He went home the next day, and his doctor revealed he’d torn his ACL. Moore feared he’d played his last down of football.
“Juco, you’ve got two years. If you don’t make it, you’re done,” Moore said. “That’s when it really got to me. I was like, ‘I’m really done.’ All my career, I’ve done a lot of good things. A lot of people know what I do. I was just like, ‘This can’t be it.’ But that’s the mentality I had about it.”
Moore knew he wasn’t ready to be done with football. So he leaned on his faith and dove into rehab.
Recovering from a torn ACL is a challenging process for anyone. It sends high-level athletes like Moore from focusing on the intricacies of their sport and training for them to re-learning how to walk. The long rehab process — eight to nine months, on average — can be just as difficult for athletes mentally as it is physically.
With limited facilities at Navarro, Moore did much of his rehab back at Poteet, so he was around his high school coaches a lot. Byrd helped Moore throughout that time, mainly with the mental side. He saw Moore’s athletic potential, and wanted to help him push through this setback and reach it.
McLain wasn’t certain how his former player would respond to this obstacle. But he knew Moore would bounce back after seeing the way he attacked rehab.
“Lou, when it first happened, we were distraught for him. And then we see really quickly that, ‘No, he’s going to be OK,'” McLain said. “He just had that type of mindset like, ‘This isn’t going to stop me. I’m going to come back. I’m going to be fine.’ He treated rehab like he was training or working out.”
Moore returned to the field for the 2021 season at Navarro after a grueling rehab process, but he still wasn’t fully recovered. He was cleared to play, but the surgically repaired knee didn’t feel completely healed that entire season. That prevented him from performing how he wanted to in some games.
Still, he played most of the season — nine games — for the Bulldogs. And he made 24 catches for 428 yards and four touchdowns. That year, Navarro coaches began using Moore on defense as well. He played some defense in high school, but he’d never practiced at defensive back. So he lacked a fundamental background at the position.
Learning some of those concepts, while fighting through knee discomfort, forced Moore to lean on his natural ability.
“I was really just going as my knee goes. Some games I wasn’t able to perform how I wanted to perform. But when my knee did give me all it got, I was able to perform,” Moore said. “I played defense in high school and middle school, but I didn’t play it at the level to where I’m training in it. It was literally like raw talent. So it was difficult. But it’s just football at the end.”
Moore finished 2021 with 18 tackles, with two tackles for loss, along with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and a pass breakup. That season helped Moore begin to draw collegiate interest.
It didn’t come immediately, and it began with mostly Division II schools. But Moore garnered a few FBS offers during the post-spring recruiting cycle, after teams completed spring camp. He received offers from South Alabama, Central Michigan, and Indiana.
IU head coach Tom Allen liked Moore’s athleticism and ball skills that come from being a receiver, and he viewed the limited defensive experience as having a lot of room to grow. Moore committed to the Hoosiers around a week after visiting campus in May 2022.
Since arriving in Bloomington, Moore has brought personality to the safeties room. He’s not afraid to make his voice heard; linebacker Aaron Casey called Moore one of the defense’s loudest players. He trash talks during practice to keep energy high, and he does it during games to try and get in opponents’ heads.
Moore, as a high school underclassman, would often mess around and cause disruptions; McLain regularly became frustrated with a younger Moore and would tell him to chill out. As he grew up, he locked in and became more serious when needed, especially on the field.
And he now — sometimes without knowing — straddles the line between class clown and no-nonsense. Casey said Moore frequently jokes around and threatens to kick teammates out of practice if they aren’t playing up to the team’s standards, something defensive coordinator Matt Guerrieri said to the players throughout fall camp.
But Moore wasn’t kidding.
“Oh no, I don’t be joking. I want to be on the field with 11 people, including me, that’s going to give it their all, know their assignments, and execute,” Moore said. “So in practice, I tell them — I’ll tell them even before practice, in walk-through, ‘I want you to be locked in.’ I tell them, ‘I will kick you off the field.’ I’d be serious. I’d be telling them to get off the field, but they’re my teammates, they ain’t going to really just get off the field. But I’d be serious about it.”
Moore has also brought playmaking ability to IU’s defensive backfield.
He played in every game for the Hoosiers last season, but with limited snaps behind more experienced safeties. But he still flashed his capability. During the Nebraska game, Moore blitzed, used his speed to get around the Cornhuskers’ right tackle, and made a strip sack in the end zone that turned into an IU touchdown.
Moore impressed IU coaches with strong spring and fall camps, regularly drawing praise for his efforts, and he became a starter this season. And he’s already making plays, like his key red zone pass breakup against Ohio State.
He’s shown no signs of slowing down. He’s quickly establishing himself as one of the more important pieces on IU’s defense, and could have an extra year of eligibility to get even more playing time and continue improving.
With his arduous journey to this point motivating him and fortifying his work ethic, Moore has the potential to be the next standout Hoosier defensive back.
“The sky’s the limit for Sweet Lou,” Byrd said. “If he’s putting himself in the right situation, if he has the right people around him and the coaches believe in him — the coaches at Indiana, if they believe in him the way I knew I believed in him in high school, the sky’s the limit. If you tell him he can’t do something, he’s going to work that much harder to prove you wrong.”
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