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August 25, 2011BOISE, Idaho (AP) When Kellen Moore arrived on campus in the summer of 2007, Boise State was in the midst of being engulfed by one giant national bear hug of underdog love.
It was just a few months after the Broncos' stunning, trick-play infused upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and everything Boise - not just the blue rug - was cool. The Broncos were the darlings of overachievers, representing the little guy surmounting the elite.
Moore personified that characterization perfectly. He was the talented, overlooked high school star that 118 FBS schools passed on when offering scholarships, with only Boise State, and Idaho at the very end, deciding Moore was worth the free ride.
It'll probably go down as the smartest scholarship offer of Chris Petersen's coaching career and the one that has helped lead Boise State's transition from loveable little guys into legitimate bearers of national championship credentials.
Now Moore begins his final season with a slew of NCAA records in his sights, the loftiest being the chance to walk out of college with the most wins of any quarterback in FBS history. And even though he's relatively silent in the Broncos locker room, Moore will also leave with the added acclaim of being largely responsible for the Broncos' rise to legitimacy.
"He's not a real vocal guy but when he does say something you hone in, you want to listen because you never hear him say much," Boise State defensive tackle Billy Wynn said. "When Kellen says something it's almost like a life lesson in a sense."
Consider Boise State well versed in Moore's teachings by now.
Moore and the Broncos start the year ranked No. 5 in the AP Top 25, the second-highest preseason ranking in school history. A win over No. 19 Georgia in the opener in Atlanta clears the path for potentially another fall of debates about Boise State's BCS worth.
Cracking the BCS title game would only add another layer to Moore's legacy.
By the end of the year, Moore could hold NCAA career marks for completion percentage, pass efficiency, percentage of passes intercepted, touchdown passes, and he could become just the second NCAA quarterback with four seasons of at least 3,000 yards in total offense. But the big one remains the NCAA record for wins by a quarterback, with Moore already holding a 38-2 career mark through three seasons. While many of those victories have come against lesser competition compared to what Colt McCoy faced in racking up 45 wins during his career at Texas, Moore could conceivably end his career with 49 or 50 wins, establishing a mark that'll be hard to surpass.
"Everything he does he does it his own way," said Washington receiver Cody Bruns, who was on the receiving end of hundreds of passes from Moore in high school. "It might not look the best at times but he always gets it done."
Moore's not the first QB from a lower-profile school to gain national notoriety. Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan did the same thing at Hawaii in the last decade, flinging passes all over the western U.S. and setting a load of NCAA passing records. But they never raised the Warriors' profile beyond an occasional marquee win and bowl trip.
Moore's done it as Boise State has morphed into a national power.
"When you're playing at the level that he's played at, he doesn't have a glaring weakness like `you have to fix this, he has to get better at this,'" Petersen said. "The numbers don't lie. There is nothing for him to get markedly better at. So it's a bunch of little things, it's the things that he already does well."
What also makes Moore unique is the likelihood that whatever he accomplishes in college could be the ceiling of his football career. It's rare for a Heisman finalist to be looking at his post-football life with such clarity and immediacy, but Moore has already finished his degree and is working on a Master's degree in kinesiology with the idea of getting on the sidelines in some form, at some level in the future.
"There was a different Master's I was targeting and then ended up dropping it so I found this one. It's still got stuff that is applicable to coaching and stuff that is interesting," Moore said. "I want to go to class and look forward to it and have fun and enjoy it."
Moore's NFL prospects will be based on teams being willing to look past his physical stature. The same worries that led college coaches to pass on offering Moore a scholarship are the same questions that linger about Moore in the NFL: his size, his arm strength and playing in an offensive system geared toward Moore's skills.
The decision-making and scheme recognition that Moore possesses are beyond debate. But the physical tools he can't alter are what have most draft scouters believing he'll be a late-round selection at best.
"The reality is he does not possess the arm to complete every NFL throw against NFL caliber cornerbacks," wrote Rob Rang, senior analyst at NFLdraftscout.com. "He does, however, identify defenses very well and has the accuracy and timing to complete the majority of throws - which could be enough to get him drafted especially for a team utilizing a horizontal, quick-hitting passing attack that allows the quarterback to take the majority of his snaps out of the shotgun."
Moore will get plenty of opportunity after his final season wraps up to show NFL scouts he can make the plays needed to succeed in the pros.
"Everybody always says he's kind of unorthodox," Bruns said. "But ever since I've known him he's been great at everything he did.