In the back of his mind, the idea was always there.
Dale Moss excelled at basketball for SDSU for four years, capturing gasps of awe from fans with his high energy and emphatic slams at the rim. But left with one final year of collegiate eligibility, Moss has taken the chance to come back to a sport that he’s always loved: football.
A courtship that began over five years ago when Moss was being recruited separately by both the football and basketball coaches at SDSU will take shape Sept. 3 on the field when the Jacks host Southern Utah in the season opener at 6 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.
“It was just always something that I wanted to do and during the recruiting process in high school, I was a little bit torn over what to do. I’ve always had a good rapport with the football coaches and I had the year of eligibility left, so I figured why not,” Moss said.
It’s certainly not out of the blue. Moss was a standout two-sport athlete at Brandon Valley High School, achieving all-state accolades in both football and basketball as a senior. He caught 89 passes after joining the football team as a junior at Brandon Valley before attending SDSU.
“Dale’s love in high school was basketball, even though he was an incredible football player,” said Chad Garrow, Moss’ high school football coach at Brandon Valley. “At that time, he was already honed in on college basketball. I always thought he could be a pretty darn good collegiate football player.”
The NCAA allows each student five years of athletic eligibility, as long as they’ve made adequate progress toward their degree. Because Moss played immediately as a freshman for the men’s basketball team, he still has one year of eligibility in a sport other than basketball.
“We’ve been thinking about Dale for the last five years,” said co-offensive coordinator Luke Meadows, who recruited Moss to play football for the Jacks before he ultimately decided to play college basketball at SDSU.
“When he decided to play basketball, we told him ‘You better play as a true freshman, so you can play in your fifth year.’ Fortunately, it all worked out for us.”
“I talk to Coach Meadows all the time and I told him that I would play football in my fifth year and I just wanted to keep my word there. I’m happy I’m playing now,” Moss said.
Meadows believes that Moss’ athletic ability translates easily to the football field.
“Anyone who has ever seen him play basketball before knows that he is really dynamic and people know about the dunks and the rebounds,” Meadows said.
More explosiveness won’t hurt the Jacks at the wide receiver position. Brandon Hubert, Trevor Tiefenthaler and Aaron Rollin all return after contributing to last year’s young receiving corps and Moss will give SDSU a specific advantage at wideout when it comes to athleticism.
“Our receivers have worked hard this summer and we’re all just trying to compete and battle every day,” Moss said.
“Being able to use him in a one-on-one situation is going to give us an advantage,” Meadows said. “It’s one thing to be able to jump like he can but he can really run and we don’t really have any concerns about throwing the ball up to him on a fade route.”
Garrow says that his athleticism and leaping ability is unquestioned but not to forget about his hands.
“As far as catching, that comes natural to him. We haven’t had a guy with hands like Dale and he’s just a great player and a great kid to have around,” he said.
The 6’4” senior has been on the squad since March and he’s defeated a few of his critics, including the guy who throws him the ball, SDSU quarterback Thomas O’Brien.
“I think I was probably his biggest skeptic, to be honest, and he’s really proved me wrong,” O’Brien said. “Usually it takes a redshirt year, through the spring and into the following fall to get adjusted and he’s worked really hard. He’s brought a lot of different experiences that he’s had and he’s definitely made a great transition.”
SDSU head football coach John Stiegelmeier said that Moss has been surprising for two reasons: his hard work and dedication to a fifth-year sport.
“Also because of his work ethic and leadership in a group of young men that he really doesn’t know, hasn’t grown up with really says that he’s a special individual.”
As for personal goals, those are high for Moss, as well.
“I want to do whatever I can do to help us win. It’s a high expectation but I really want to be an all-conference wide receiver. I know it’s my first year back, but just based on the plays that I can make and need to make for my teammates, that’s a definite goal for me and I think it is realistic.”
“He will make plays for us, not just because of the passes caught but because of the picture he’s painted for a lot of the players,” Stiegelmeier said.
After all the talk, Moss is ready to play.
“Just the progress that we’ve made individually and as a team and I feel like it’s night and day from where we were when I stepped on the field in the spring. I’m just excited to step on the field and see where things go.”