Carolina Panthers

Moore happy to top friend and Cowboys' QB Romo

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Moore initially went to Dallas with hopes of becoming Tony Romo.

Little did he know he'd beat his mentor to the punch.

The undrafted rookie from Oregon State, who came in to throw two emergency passes in last week's win at New Orleans, laughed and said one of the first messages he got after his NFL debut came from Romo, his teammate this summer in Dallas camp.

In fact, Moore chose Dallas over Carolina and several other teams for what he thought was the better chance to make a roster. But the Cowboys kept just two quarterbacks (they wanted to bring him back to the practice squad), allowing the Panthers to claim him off waivers.

"It was funny; he text-messaged me the other night, said it took him four years to throw his first pass, but it took me four games," Moore said of Romo's congratulatory call. "But just look at him, and all he's done. He told me to just keep it going.

"He's living proof you don't have to be drafted. You have to go in and learn and do all the things he's done. He told me it's a long journey, you have to stick with it, and when you get your opportunity, take advantage."

Instead of learning from one rags-to-riches story in Texas, he came to Charlotte to back up Jake Delhomme, who was Romo before Romo was cool.

Moore had no way of knowing he'd be called upon so soon. He threw his first two passes in the NFL last weekend in New Orleans, the first for a 43-yard gain to Keary Colbert, which led to a field goal. The second was nearly intercepted before David Carr was able to return and finish the game.

Moore's getting plenty of chances to polish things this week, as he and Vinny Testaverde are the only two healthy arms in practice, meaning he's getting more repetitions than ever.

"Both those quarterbacks weren't here September 1," coach John Fox said. "We're getting to know them and what their strengths are. The same way with Matt. He was a guy that we liked off of the preseason that he had in Dallas and we liked him coming out of college at Oregon State. He's getting more acclimated to our offense every day."

Of course, most of his work has been with the scout team, even after Delhomme was injured at Atlanta on Sept. 23. Now, he's throwing balls to Steve Smith and working with the first stringers at times, a different experience altogether.

"It's so different from what I've been used to," Moore said. "Trying to, not learn, because it's not that I don't know the plays, but just try to pick it up a little bit. Just working with the other guys in the huddle, the receivers, the offensive line, finding out things they like, even the cadence. Just trying to fine-tune all that.

"It's a lot of stuff. It's a bit overwhelming, but I think I've handled it OK."

While Moore wasn't chosen by the NFL in April, he has been drafted. The Los Angeles Angels made him a 22nd-round pick in 2004, the year he sat out of football after transferring from UCLA to Oregon State. That's a whole other story, as he started as a freshman for the Bruins because of injuries, but was ultimately buried on the depth chart and decided to leave after two years.

Working part-time at a batting cage that spring, he'd kill time by taking swings after hours. Doing so, he caught the eyes of some baseball scouts, who were impressed by his left-handed swing. Cross-checking with their old files on him as a high school shortstop, the Angels offered him a $92,000 bonus and offered to pay his way to finish school.

"It was more than what I got for football, I can tell you that much," he said. "It was definitely hard to turn down."

By comparison, he got a modest $15,000 bonus from Dallas to sign after the draft this year.

"I did. I did," he said with a grin when asked if he considered taking the baseball route at that point. "Mainly, I had kind of had it with college football after UCLA. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back to school. With this happening, it was hard, I really had to think about it. My parents really wanted me to go to school, which was obviously the right thing to do. So I ended up going to Oregon State."

After throwing 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions as a junior, he cleaned up his game his senior year. He threw 18 touchdowns and just seven picks, and once had a streak of 161 consecutive attempts without throwing one to the other team.

In order to learn the Beavers' system, he couldn't go back to baseball his junior year. He said he considered joining the team after his senior campaign -- which would have enabled him to help win the Oregon State's second straight NCAA title -- but was talked out of it by folks who told him to concentrate on preparing for the NFL draft.

"I really wish I did," he said. "I was close, but I didn't take that leap."

Now, he's been thrown feet first into professional football. And though he admits he's been in over his head at times, he's starting to figure things out, and said he was confident he'd be ready if the Panthers need him again.

"I think if I had to, I could run the offense effectively, but there's always more to learn, in my case anyway," Moore said. "Just trying to get used to those guys, in practice, get a little rhythm going. That's why we have these days before the game, to get in there and try to get ready, and do it on Sundays.

"It's been a little rocky, some good, some bad, but I have to get in there tomorrow and get ready for this weekend."

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