Allen Park — In a lot of ways, Emmanuel Moseley is exactly the type of player the Detroit Lions have been about under the stewardship of general manager Brad Holmes.
Moseley is used to having something to prove and making believers out of doubters. An undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2018, he’s already beaten the odds, sticking in the league for five years, scrapping the first two years to not only earn a roster spot, but significant playing time with one of the league’s better defenses in San Francisco.
And the past two seasons, he was proving he’s more than just a guy, but a truly reliable starting cornerback. In 16 games, opposing quarterbacks were completing fewer than 60% of their passes when looking in his direction, with Moseley getting his hands on 16 passes and intercepting a pair.
“I may not look it all the time, but I’m a very physical corner,” Moseley said during his introductory press conference on Thursday. “I love coming up to tackle. I love being up in front of people’s faces, getting my hands on people. I can play off-coverage. (I’m a) smart corner, confident corner, and pretty much a leader.”
But now, after establishing himself, he’s back to having something to prove, after last season was prematurely ended by a torn ACL in Week 5. And while he likely won’t be ready to take the field until training camp at the earliest, the Lions liked the film, the player and the leader enough to bring him in to help stabilize one of the biggest areas of concern on the roster.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a journey,” he said. “It’s been a blessing, to be honest. Came in undrafted. San Fran took a chance on me. Appreciate them giving me the opportunity. Got a chance to work with Sherm (Richard Sherman) out there, some of the great cornerbacks, guys like Jason Verrett, learn things from those guys. They really inspired me in my game.
“It hasn’t been easy, the journey, because you started from the bottom and nobody is counting on you,” Moseley continued. “But, it’s just amazing when you can continue to prove people wrong and continue to do the things you know you can do to get to points like this one.”
In Detroit, Moseley will connect with Cam Sutton, another free-agent addition in the team’s defensive backfield. The two previously played together three seasons at the University of Tennessee, with Sutton hosting Moseley on his recruiting visit to the school.
There, they built chemistry and learned to work together on the field, and in the film room, to better themselves. And Moseley is looking to bring that collaborative approach to improving Detroit’s secondary, learning and growing together with holdover players such as Jeff Okudah and Jerry Jacobs.
“I think the secondary group before us was really, really good,” Moseley said. “Us coming in, we’re just going to be leaders of the group, coach as much as we can, learn from them the things they do well, and they’ll learn from us, the things we do well. Most of all, we’re just going to compete in that room. Competition makes things better. That’s how I’ve learned; that’s how I’ve always gotten better.”
Interestingly, Moseley didn’t start playing cornerback until late in his high-school career. Before that, he was his division’s player of the year as a quarterback for an undefeated state champion as a senior. His backup, Hendon Hooker, is one of this year’s top prospects in the draft at the position. But, the only school that offered Moseley a chance to play QB collegiately was North Carolina A&T.
But, when Tennessee came calling, the lure of playing in the SEC, even at a different position, proved to be too great. Clearly, Moseley doesn’t shy away from the difficult path, and it’s typically been the right one. Now, it’s led him to Detroit.
“I know what type of player I can be,” he said. “I see the direction the program is going in. I used to watch the games. Just being a football player watching the games, you can see they’re ascending in the right way. So, why not be a part of that?”