Left tackles, particularly the regal and robust ones, usually don’t admit being afraid of much beyond missing a meal.
But Steven Moore, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive lineman for Cal, has a confession. The Elk Grove High School graduate said one thing scares him to the point of giving him the shakes, and it’s not something he encounters on the football field.
“Sharks,” Moore said during the Pacific-12 Conference’s annual media day this month. “I’m scared of sharks. I won’t get in the ocean.”
Moore may be one of the few players who stays out of the ocean in the days before Cal’s opening game, the Sydney Cup against Hawaii on Aug. 26. It will be the first college football game in Australia since BYU beat Colorado State in 1987.
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About 170 species of sharks can be found in the South Pacific Ocean, giving Moore plenty of reasons to groan. He certainly won’t be surfing in Sydney, instead focusing on improving his football skills and helping Cal build on its success last season.
In Moore’s first season as a starter in 2013, also Sonny Dykes’ first season as coach, the Bears were 1-11, their only victory coming against Portland State. But they improved to 5-7 in 2014 and 8-5 last season.
Cal will have the fewest starters returning among Pacific-12 Conference schools. The Bears also will be without Moore’s roommate the last two seasons, quarterback Jared Goff, who was picked No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Rams in April. This season, Cal will rely on its experienced offensive line and a wealth of running backs.
Moore, who has played every offensive line position except center, relishes his role as a senior. He came to Cal after being recruited by former coach Jeff Tedford, who was fired after the Bears went 3-9 in 2012. He was a redshirt in Tedford’s final season and remained loyal to Cal while others left the program, which is common when there is a coaching change.
“Leadership is important,” Moore said. “People need someone to look up to. Leading by example is important.”
Dykes said Moore fits that role.
“He’s been the most solid player in our program,” Dykes said. “He’s been a guy who has worked incredibly hard. Blue-collar guy, exactly what you want as an offensive lineman.”
Moore has been hungry, too; perhaps as hungry as a shark, if you will.
“Going 1-11 was the hardest season of my life,” Moore said. “We barely got that win against Portland State. We were all so young. We were all freshmen. I was 270 pounds going against huge guys. I was so light, but I had to step in and mature fast. And I was motivated to get better, to get us better. I was ready to help change things at Cal, and we’re so much better now, and we can still get better.”
During media day at the Hollywood & Highland Center, Moore sported a trim beard, a remarkable contrast from his Bunyanesque look last season.
“Started growing it out as a senior at Elk Grove, and I had it down to here last season,” Moore said. pointing to his upper chest. “It was ridiculous. Time to trim. When I shaved it, I had to tighten up my chin strap.”
Moore, who is on the NFL’s radar, said football is safe when played the right way. He said Cal has followed NCAA protocol regarding monitoring in-practice contact.
“Football is a great game,” Moore said. “I don’t think it should be changed any more. When you sign up for football, you know what you’re getting into. I know we follow the rules at Cal. There are less times we can hit, and every team does what they can. I’ve had two concussions at Cal, one last year and one from the year before. But I had plenty of time to recover.”
Moore anticipates ample recovery time after the 15-hour flight from the Bay Area to Sydney, and he appreciates the extra leg room he’ll have in first class.
“I definitely don’t want to be sitting in a little chair all the way to Australia,” Moore said. “That would be cool, first class.”