Bishop Amat High in La Puente was holding one of its first spring football practices this year when a familiar scene played out.
A quarterback flared a pass out to the flats during a seven-on-seven segment. Damien Moore caught the ball, ran up the field and contorted his body with a 360-degree spin that left a defender grasping for air.
Moore returned to the huddle with a big smile on his face. Lancers coach Steve Hagerty had a different reaction. He held his breath.
“I come back to the huddle and coach Hagerty tells me, ‘Slow down a little bit. We don’t need it. We don’t need you doing that right now,’ ” Moore said. “But I felt good. When you’re in that moment, you just … you just want to do what you can.”
That was the moment the 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back knew he was finally back from an injury that cost him his junior season. He tore the meniscus in his left knee in the season opener.
A season Moore expected to be a breakout statistically and on the recruiting front was derailed in less than an hour.
He had surgery and endured a four-month recovery. The rehabilitation process was a grind. Moore said support from his family helped him keep a positive mind-set to get through the struggles and make it back for Bishop Amat’s spring camp.
“We got our hearts ripped out last year when we lost a competitor like Damien,” Hagerty said. “So we’re really excited to have him back. He makes us better instantly.”
Moore proved, not only to himself, that his burst and his ability to make defenders miss in between the tackles had returned this spring. College coaches began to stop by Bishop Amat practices to see his progress.
Moore’s first offer came last year, but his recruitment began to gain momentum in mid-May when he was offered four scholarships in a three-day period. The first of those came from the California Golden Bears.
“They were one of the few schools that believed in me after my injury,” Moore said. “The running back coach, coach [Nick] Edwards, he came out and saw me practice during the spring. He’s seen what I can do. He’s seen I was able to still move, still make those cuts, if not better than the year before. So, yeah, he believed in me.
“Then when I went to go take my visit, I liked their culture. I liked what they’re doing over there. I like their offensive schemes. I’ve seen a lot of good things over there. So I want to be a part of it.”
Moore received offers from Utah, San Diego State and Nevada Las Vegas. But the academics that Cal offered and the upward trajectory of the program under third-year coach Justin Wilcox convinced Moore to commit to the Golden Bears.
There will be some serious long-term bragging rights on the line when Bishop Amat plays San Juan Capistrano JSerra on Sept. 6. The matchup will present a collision of running backs committed to Cal. Chris Street will be the top offensive weapon for JSerra.
“It’s definitely going to be exciting. I know he’s excited as well,” Moore said. “But it’s going to be fun to see who comes out on top. He knows that if I come out on top, that I’ll be talking and if he comes out on top, he’ll be talking. So we got to make sure we bring our ‘A’ game that game.”
Complementary and complimentary
Moore and Street will be battling for carries in the Cal backfield, but they have already struck up a friendship and have discussed how their styles will complement each other.
“We’re that 1-2 punch. And then we compete as well, so that’ll be good for both of us just to make each other better,” said Moore, who sees himself as a patient big back who likes to wait for the hole and then burst through. “I can lower my shoulder, run inside, outside and then when you watch Chris Street, he’s more of a speed type of guy.”