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It’s taken two-and-a-half months, but Damontre Moore is back with the San Francisco 49ers. The now seventh-year defensive end was on the wrong end of the team’s roster cuts, but is back following Ronald Blair III’s season-ending right ACL tear.
Moore’s had something of a bizarre career. He had a notorious draft-day fall in 2013, performing poorly at the NFL combine and reportedly in interviews. Originally viewed as a top-10 pick, he was selected in the third round by the New York Giants, and had his NFL career dented by a series of off-field incidences.
Reunited and it feels so good
Eventually, he ended up playing and starring for the San Diego Fleet in the American Alliance of Football, where 49ers scout R.J. Gillen discovered him and tackle Daniel Brunskill, who are now low locker-mates (and also a number apart, for the moment, with Brunskill No. 60 and Moore No. 61).
Both stood out in the preseason, but the glut of defensive line options for the 49ers, and lack of offensive line security saw Brunskill make the cut and Moore on the outside looking in.
Now that Mike McGlinchey is starting again at right tackle, Moore might not see Brunskill as much in practice as he did with the Fleet. That didn’t diminish his excitement about the odd couple’s reunion—Brunskill being the reserved, quiet type, and Moore much more vocal.
“That was my guy,” Moore told KNBR. “We had battles every day in practice.”
Brunskill told KNBR the experience of facing players like Moore was crucial in developing his skillset to make the 49ers’ roster.
“It was a great experience to be able to go against such a good players, it was huge for me to get better,” Brunskill said. “It was awesome. That’s one of the best things that came out of AAF was to be able to go against guys like Damontre, and to get better and help me improve which was amazing so I mean, he’s a great player, a great teammate. I’m glad to have him back.”
“I’m glad to be back with you too Dan!” Moore yelled. “Don’t tell them about the time you pancaked me.”
He stayed in contact with coaches, defensive linemen
Moore said he wasn’t upset that he missed out on the roster, but was disappointed realizing the defensive line was likely to accomplish “something special” this season.
What Moore said got him through that time as a free agent was multifaceted. At a base level, he had the knowledge that he didn’t leave anything on the field in the preseason, when he racked up three games of four-plus tackles, including a two-sack game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
He also remained in contact with special teams coach Richard Hightower and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who continually reaffirmed to Moore that his time would come.
“I was talking to him at least maybe once a week, maybe once every two weeks, so they had nothing but good things to say and reassured me,” Moore said. “They was like, ‘Just keep working out, eventually something will happen,’ so the few times that it got a little dark, that kind of helped me out and brought me back to focus again.”
His mantra was, “Keep going Tre’, somebody will call eventually.” He needed that on Sundays, which Moore felt was simultaneously the most painful and hopeful day of the week. The experience of waiting for a call is not one he’ll miss.
“That was torture,” Moore said. “I was actually talking to my wife about it. I told her Sunday was the most painful day because I wasn’t playing, but it was also a good day because I knew it was a potential opportunity. So Sunday through Tuesday was a good day and if I didn’t get a call that week, Wednesday and Thursday was the bad days and I’m just like alright, you know what, let me go in there and hit it harder in the gym and when that time does come all this pain and anxiety, I had as far as not playing, I’m gonna use it on the field.”
The contact he retained with the 49ers extended to the defensive line group. Moore referred to them as “arguably the best D-line going,” and said he texted with them after each game.
“I always texted, ‘Hey guys you doing this, Nick you balling out right now man, keep that going. Go ahead and get Defensive Player, Rookie of the Year, Dee Ford keep doing that, Arik, just tone up,'” Moore said. “So it’s a brotherhood, it’s different. I feel like a little schoolgirl right now talking about them, and watching them play.”
A maturing perspective
If you had asked Moore three or four years ago whether he’d be upset at being cut, the answer would have been clear.
“I definitely would have been mad, there’s no probably. I would have been upset,” Moore said. “But as far as me just learning from my mistakes and all this, there are so many different stress factors that are in this game. I’m not going to stress myself out worrying about something. I know that I went out there and played to the best of my ability, balled out and made my plays and I did everything I had. I was cool with that.”
While the 49ers have been fairly strict in not bringing in players who could cause issues within the locker room, Moore talked in the preseason about the birth of his first child, his son, Sekani, as giving him a new “why” in life, as defensive coordinator Robert Saleh put it. For all the time away from the game that frustrated Moore, it gave him a chance to spend time with his newborn son back in Mansfield, Texas.
It also provided the opportunity to stay in shape without the physical wear that an NFL season demands. Moore said he’d work out five or six days a week, with one or two two-a-day work outs. His days started at 8 a.m., and he’d be in the gym by 10 and work out for two hours, followed by an hour of treatment and relaxation with his son.
“That’s all I did this whole time while I was off was just hang out with him,” Moore said. “He’s actually turned six months on the 23rd so I just wanted to take up that time with him because since I was little, it’s been football all year round and doing stuff and then going to college you have a whole offseason, so this is like my first time really just being at home and it’s my first child.”
Moore will lose that time with his son, but he’s back doing what he craves, and with the 49ers limited in their edge rushers (only Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead outside of him), he figures to see plenty of snaps.
While said he worried “all the time” about not being picked up by another NFL team, until he’s effectively carted off the field and not given a call for a couple of years, he won’t even think about retirement—”the R word” as he called it.
“I’m blessed enough to say I’m going into my seventh year,” Moore said. “The average lifespan is 3.5, so you start looking at yourself and when you don’t get no cause or you’d be like yo I performed well and I ain’t got picked up yet, you start asking yourself, is this the end?
“My thing is my dad always raised me to be a realist and don’t go into it with a blind eye so half of me was like yo this could possibly be the end and you need to be prepared for it mentally, but the other majority of me was like, nah, I’m too much of a dog, I work too hard, so just keep going and you wasn’t going to catch me even uttering that R word until they take me off the field and I’m limping and nobody called me for like a year and a half, two years so I didn’t really worry about that.”