Dexter Moody had his scholarship pulled before he ever got to UGA for low test scores, then after reviving his career at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College and Georgia State — only to see the Panthers boot him from the team — Moody is getting another chance at ASU. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
WHO: Miles (2-1) at ASU (1-2)
WHAT: Conference opener for both teams.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Albany State Coliseum.
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
ALBANY — Dexter Moody had it all.
The speed, the strength, the talent — and the scholarship to play football at Georgia.
But then he got the phone call that changed everything.
“Coach (Mark) Richt called me and told me he had to pull my scholarship,” Moody said. “It was March 13, 2009. I’ll never forget the date.”
Moody was two months away from graduating from Emanuel County Institute in Twin City when his scholarship was taken away because of poor test scores. One of the heaviest-recruited football players in the state was suddenly without a college, but the toughest part was the call he had to make after he hung up with Richt.
“I had to call and let my family know,” Moody said. “And I remember my dad saying, ‘This isn’t the end for you. You just have to do something else.’ ”
Moody’s journey as a football player was far from over.
The 6-foot-3 linebacker-turned-safety worked his way back up the college ranks, initially signing with Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College and then transferring to Georgia State, where he was kicked off the team in March for his role in a bar fight.
Now he has landed at Albany State and is trying to turn his career around. He has moved into the strong safety position and has thrived, picking off two passes in Albany State’s first three games and running one back for a TD.
He’s lost much as a football player, just not his talent or passion to play the game.
“He has a short-term memory, because he doesn’t ever bring any of that up,” Albany State senior defensive end Justin Blash said. “If he loses anything, he’s going to take the loss and move on. He won’t bring it up. He’ll just keep working.”
Albany State coach Mike White, who recruited Moody out of high school, talked with the embattled player after he was kicked out of Georgia State, and any reservations White had about bring Moody to Albany were eased after their conversation.
“We met him. The conversations we had prior to us committing to each other (told us) he was ready to come and we were ready to have him. It’s been a good fit,” White said. “A lot of times you bring a guy in and you don’t know what you got. But he has been everything we have asked and more. He has been a leader. He has made some highlight-type plays already. The interception he made up at Elizabeth City was special. He left everybody’s mouths open on that one.”
Moody made a habit of leaving spectators in awe in high school, where he was rated a three-star linebacker and was ranked 17th in the country at his position.
At ECI, he rushed for 271 yards and three TDs and had 261 yards and 10 TDs receiving and was even more dominant on the defensive side of the ball (79 tackles, 10 sacks, four fumble recoveries, three interceptions) as a defensive end, which is why Georgia and other top Division I schools were knocking on his door as early as his junior year. It was during his junior season at Emanuel County Institute when he verbally committed to Georgia, a moment he said he’ll never forget.
“It was a great feeling,” he said. “I was trying to do everything right, but you know, stuff happens.”
It happened to Moody in the classroom.
A combination of poor grades, low test scores and behavior issues at school left him unqualified to suit up for the Bulldogs.
Moody told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2009 that he was accused of threatening a male teacher.
“I got into a little trouble down here,” Moody told the AJC at the time. “I got into an argument with one of my teachers.”
Moody added Thursday: “I had a bad attitude coming into high school. I had a hard head. A lot of stuff could have been avoided … I had to change.”
Former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin took interest in Moody after he parted ways with Georgia, but Moody said, “When they found out about my situations in the classroom, I had to take the JUCO route.”
So he signed with Fort Scott Community College, moved to linebacker and played alongside current Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lavonte David (LB) and Jermarcus Hardrick (OL).
“I learned a lot about the game from Lavonte David, like to go full speed at all times and motivate yourself at practice,” Moody said.
Moody was redshirted his first season at FSCC and had a mediocre redshirt freshman year, finishing with 28 tackles and 2.5 sacks. It was enough, however, to catch the eyes of several coaches around the country, including Oklahoma, which offered Moody a scholarship in 2010.
“But I was having a kid and just wanted to be closer to home,” Moody said.
So Moody signed with Georgia State and emerged as the team’s leading tackler with 65 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception. Georgia State coach Bill Curry had plans to move Moody to an outside linebacker-safety hybrid position for his junior season, but an altercation at a bar in Atlanta five months ago changed the course of his college career, again.
“I got removed from Georgia State because me and a couple of teammates got into a bar fight,” Moody said. “I was actually breaking it up, and by the time the court cases and all went through, coach Curry had released me from the team.”
Curry also dismissed quarterback Bo Schlecter and kicker Christian Benvenuto for their roles in the fight, which occurred outside of Moondogs bar. Chris Hannaford, vice president of Tuff TV, told ESPN.com at the time that Schlecter and another man approached him outside of the bar and were later joined by two other large men, who allegedly tried to start a fight.
“Two guys came up from behind us and started poking us and trying to provoke a fight,” Hannaford told ESPN. “It was totally unprovoked. I’d never seen these guys before this whole incident. I’d never seen them ever.”
The altercation was briefly put on hold after a Georgia State trooper drove by, but Hannaford claimed the four men returned to the scene and attacked him by repeatedly hitting him in the face and back of the head.
Moody, who insisted again Thursday that he was simply trying to break up the fight, was arrested at the scene for the fight and for underage drinking.
“When I went back to court, they dropped all the charges and found me not guilty,” Moody said.
Since then, he has found a home at Albany State, where he has been instrumental in helping the Dirty Blue defense hold opponents to an average of 20 points per game, which is third in the conference. The Rams are 1-2 heading into Saturday’s game against Miles, but the fact the team has dipped below .500 is no fault of Moody’s, who has nine tackles, a forced fumble and two picks.
“He’s an excellent athlete and has been a pleasure to work with and has done everything we have asked him to do and more,” White said. “He makes us a lot better having that kind of an athlete on the field.”
White moved Moody to safety, a position better suited for his speed and size.
“I feel really good with the defense,” Moody said. “I like the setup coach White has here. It allows us to be a more free player while having responsibilities at the same time. Overall, it’s just, ‘Play ball.’ ”
He’s excelling off the field, too.
“I am a totally different person now,” Moody said. “I know how to handle myself in certain situations now because I know that I have a child that will be looking up to me. I just want to make the best for him and my family. … (Curry) always told me, it’s not what you do. It’s how you respond to it.”
And Blash thinks his new teammate has only begun to respond to his challenges.
“He is going to open some eyes Saturday,” Blash said. “I’m telling you. He is going to make some plays.”