Rondale Moore's return caps a wild journey back to the field for Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE — When Rondale Moore was injured last season, his knee buckling awkwardly as he tried to cut by a Golden Gopher, it came with a silver-lining.
Moore, the All-America wide receiver and one of the most dynamic players in the country, would be back for the Boilermakers. And possibly soon, maybe in a few weeks, perhaps by the end of the year. Or, at worst, he’d return for 2020.
And then disaster struck.
A global pandemic — who among us saw that one coming? — knocked the 2020 season into upheaval. And Moore, coming off the hamstring and knee injuries that kept him off the field the rest of the 2019 season, decided he couldn’t risk illness or injury. He announced in early August he was opting out, even doing so a few days before the Big Ten said it would delay the fall season into the spring.
He always has been able to see things develop before they develop.
And so maybe he knew he’d comeback. Thursday, the junior announced on ESPN2 that he’d return to the Purdue football team following the Big Ten’s decision to start the season on Oct. 24. Moore cited the league’s improved testing procedures for COVID-19 and Purdue’s focus on keeping its students as safe as possible.
“My whole decision behind opting out was the uncertainty and to secure my safety and my mother’s safety was important to me,” Moore told ESPN2. “It was important to dig deeper and find out more information and hopefully the Big Ten would come to terms and find a way to have a season.
“The Big Ten found a way to test and have safety protocols that make me feel safe, so I want to thank them and thank Purdue as well for keeping me safe while I’ve been here.”
The big announcement.
— Nick Yeoman (@NYeoman) September 24, 2020
Moore would seem to have few roadblocks toward a return. Unlike some other high-profile opt-outs (several of whom have opted back in), Moore did not hire an agent, even as he prepped for the spring’s NFL Draft. And being set to graduate from Purdue in December, in only two-and-a-half years, Moore continued his education, even remotely, as he worked out back home in Louisville.
And of course he was working out, because that’s what he does. There are few other players ever who have taken as professional approach to a (supposedly) amateur sport as Rondale Moore.
And so now here we are.
Moore is back with the Boilermakers, giving them their most dynamic playmaker, probably in program history. It’s not too much to say he can change games. Maybe Purdue beats No. 2 Ohio State 2 years ago without him, but certainly not by a score of 49-20.
When Purdue initially opened its camp in early August, before it was then shut down, word was that the quarterbacks were laboring a bit without their No. 1 target.
(But hey, the defense was looking good.)
Now, Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell (or maybe Austin Burton) — whoever wins the job — has his full arsenal of weapons.
When Moore was hurt vs. Minnesota last year, it opened the door for others to step up, none more than David Bell. The freshman finished with 86 receptions for 1,035 yards and 7 touchdowns. An underlining storyline late last season, as the Boilermakers labored to a 4-win campaign, was that soon Jeff Brohm would have Moore and Bell at his disposal.
What a combination. Arguably, the best combination of Purdue receivers in its history, at least for the past 40 years. Drew Brees would have salivated over the possibility of having such a duo.
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) September 24, 2020
What’s a defense to do? Covering Moore 1-on-1 out of the slot has proven to be a disaster for defenses, with the 5-9, 180-pounder able to use his speed, but also his strength — he squatted 600 pounds in 2018 — and smarts to twist DBs into pretzels. And Bell has a knack for turning 50/50 balls into 80/20 balls, particularly when he’s facing man coverage on the outside.
Others will benefit as well; Purdue has a talented, albeit somewhat inexperienced wide receiver room, with sophomores Milton Wright and Amad Anderson Jr., and freshmen Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen, Maliq Carr and Mershawn Rice, along with senior Jackson Anthrop.
They’ll all want the ball.
But it’s going to go a bunch to No. 4.
Moore is back.
And it’s great to have him.