After redshirting in 1996, Moore became a dependable reserve as a sophomore and an irreplaceable starter the following two years. His 35 career sacks rank third in school history behind Bruce Smith's 46 and Cornell Brown's 36 — Smith and Brown played four seasons to Moore's three.

"He just got better and better," Wiles said. "He always had that me-against-the-world mentality, being a smaller, undersized defensive lineman. He's very, very smart, very good football IQ, very coachable, but he kind of willed himself into the player that he got to be."

Moore set a Big East record with 17 sacks in 1999, and coaches named him the conference's best defender for the second consecutive season. He won the Lombardi Award as the nation's top lineman — offensive or defensive.

Larry Coker, the coach of Texas-San Antonio's start-up program, was Miami's offensive coordinator from 1995-2000. He went 0-3 against Moore.

"You didn't handle him," said Coker, who as head coach led Miami to the 2001 national title. "You had to have help with that guy because he was one of these guys you just can't block. You knew it on Sunday when you watched the tape before you played them the next Saturday. … He would just disrupt your whole offense."

Moore's signature performance came in the third game of 1999, a nationally televised 31-11 victory over Clemson. He dominated the Thursday-night contest with two sacks, four tackles for losses, five hurries and his lone collegiate touchdown — a 32-yard, fourth-quarter fumble return that erased any Tigers' hopes.

"We had heard it all week," Moore said. "We were overrated, we weren't tested. Going into that game we felt it was an opportunity to showcase to the nation that hey, 'We're gonna be right up there the entire year.'

"I put a lot of pressure on myself. I was really, really afraid of letting a lot of people down because I felt like my junior year I did OK, but for whatever reason people thought I did great. I had questions about myself, about whether I could top that or even produce at the same level. I know for me Clemson was a big, big confidence booster."

Led by Moore, fellow end John Engelberger, linebacker Ben Taylor, safety Cory Bird and cornerback Ike Charlton, the Hokies ranked first nationally in scoring defense, third in total defense, third in rushing defense and seventh in passing defense.

Ironically, those teammates enjoyed longer NFL careers than did Moore. A third-round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills in 2000, he played nine games as a rookie and one the following season with the Miami Dolphins.

That was all.

"There was little difference between him and Dwight Freeney in my opinion," Foster said, referring to the Syracuse end who became a Pro Bowler for the Indianapolis Colts. "Corey probably got drafted in the wrong situation.

"(Buffalo) wanted to make him a linebacker and took him away from what he did best, which was put his hand on the ground and get off on the ball. We'd have made him a linebacker if he'd had those skills.

"I know this. He felt like he let a lot of people down because he didn't make the NFL. But I told him, 'Not everybody's going to be an NFL player, but they can't take away from you what you meant to this program and what a great college football player you were. You weren't just great. You were the best.' "

Foster has long used a lunchpail to symbolize his defense's working-man attitude. The only Hokie he allowed to leave the program with the lunchpail was Darryl Tapp, an end from 2002-05.

"But I should have given one to Corey," Foster said.

In drills, "Corey would make the rest of the defensive line look slow," said Carl Bradley, a Northern Virginia teacher who started alongside Moore at tackle. "He was just so explosive off the ball. When you looked into Corey's eyes, you saw what we worked for every day."

Moore deflects the praise and insists he's content. He earned a master's in student-affairs administration from Michigan State, worked briefly at Ohio State before starting his doctoral studies and is immersed in raising his 14-year-old son, Gabriel.

He disputes chatter that he's estranged from Virginia Tech and cites his visit to a spring-practice session in April as evidence. John Ballein, the Hokies' football operations director, is lobbying Moore to return for this season's homecoming game against Boston College, when Tech plans to reunite the '99 team and honor Moore's No. 56.

Moore sounds amenable.

"I didn't think I deserved any accolades," he said. "I just played with a good group of guys that loved to play football and loved to be around each other. … That was a special group of guys, and I would like to reconnect."