Long before he was a cornerback who signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Detroit Lions, Emmanuel Moseley was a star quarterback who led his North Carolina high school to a state championship — good enough to keep one of the best signal callers in this year’s NFL draft on the bench.
Moseley revealed at his introductory news conference Thursday he started as a prep quarterback over Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.
“I was quarterback there and he was my backup quarterback, which is crazy,” Moseley said from Allen Park. “So then he went to Virginia Tech, and once he went to Virginia Tech, he didn’t play much and then he started playing, I think he had maybe a few issues that he overcame. And then he went to Tennessee. I used to tell the Tennessee coaches, I said, ‘Hey listen, that’s a guy you guys need to go get.’
“So when he got his opportunity to come to Tennessee, it was just amazing. He’s a good guy, man. Definitely my little brother and I hope that he’s healing well and whatever team picks him, he’ll do well there.”
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Hooker, a potential top-50 pick in April’s draft, was a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy before he tore the ACL in his left knee during a November loss to South Carolina.
Mosely is recovering from his own ACL tear, which depressed his value as a free agent and led him to join forces with his ex-Tennessee teammate, Cam Sutton, as the new cornerback duo in the Lions secondary.
Moseley, who wore a compression sleeve on his left leg Thursday, offered little insight on his recovery other than to indicate he’ll be ready for the regular season.
He suffered the injury in an Oct. 9 game against the Carolina Panthers.
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“I would definitely say (rehab is) going well,” Moseley said. “I’m putting in a lot of work. About five months out now. We got a lot of time between training camp, so I’m going to continue to do that and then when it’s time for me to get out there and go, I’ll go.”
Moseley has battled injuries throughout his career as an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee in 2018, and emerged as an important part of the San Francisco 49ers secondary in his second season.
He has played 45 games in five seasons, and played more than 12 games in a season only once, but should bring a physical element to the secondary once healthy.
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“I may not look it all the time, but I’m a very physical corner,” Moseley said. “I love coming up and tackle, I love being up in front of people’s faces, getting my hands on people. Can play off coverage. Smart corner, (confident) corner and like I say, pretty much a leader, so that’s pretty much my game.”
The Lions are counting on Moseley and Sutton, who was Moseley’s recruiting host during high school, to help transform a secondary that was one of the most picked-upon last season.
The Lions ranked last in total defense and tied for 28th in points allowed, and gave up an NFL-worst 6.2 yards per play.
Sutton should be a Day 1 starter in the secondary, while Jerry Jacobs and/or Jeff Okudah will work opposite him with the first team until Moseley returns.
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Moseley, who has four career interceptions, said his time in San Francisco, where he learned under Richard Sherman, was invaluable to his growth as a player, but he’s ready for a new chapter with the Lions.
“They took a chance on me, signed me here coming off this knee injury,” Moseley said. “But I know what type of player I can be. I see the direction that the program is going in. I used to watch the games, just being a football player, watching the games, you can see that they’re transcending in the right way, so why not be a part of that?”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.