Former Albany State safety Dexter Moody leaps for an interception during a game his senior year against Elizabeth City State. Moody finished his two-year career at ASU with 10 interceptions. (Herald file photo)
BALTIMORE — Dexter Moody never used the word “dream.”
Not when talking about his ascent into the NFL, or his recent three-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens or his arrival at the pinnacle of the football world.
Instead, all he talked about was work.
“It’s not just about coming out and playing football anymore,” he said. “It’s about knowing where you need to be, and it takes a lot of studying. You actually need to know the game.
“At this level, everybody is as good as you are. No one will give you anything. You have to earn everything you get at this level.”
In a recent phone interview with The Herald, the former star Albany State University safety and Ravens rookie said he likes his chances of earning a spot on the team’s 53-man roster this fall. Moody went untouched in the NFL Draft in early May, but in a matter of days he accepted a 3-year, $1.53 million contract with the Ravens — and some in the Baltimore media think Moody could even be fighting for a starting safety spot this season.
For now, Moody is just concerned with making the roster.
“As long as I do what I know I can, I can make it. I have a good chance to make it,” said Moody, who had two interceptions in the team’s rookie minicamp in May and just wrapped up the second of four Organized Team Activity sessions. “I’m just taking it day-by-day and doing what I can. I just let the rest take care of itself.”
Albany State coach Mike White watched Moody take over the defense last season and nearly single-handedly will the Rams to an SIAC championship. Moody was named the MVP of the title game and eventually the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, and White said he would be shocked if “a player as good as we have ever had at Albany State, mentally and physically,” wasn’t offered a roster spot.
“He can turn it up big-time. They say big-time players make big-time plays, and that’s exactly what he did in the championship game,” said White, referring to Moody’s blocked punt and interception in the end zone late in the 2013 SIAC title game that gave the Rams a come-from-behind win against Miles.
White continued: “That’s what he did, and that’s what an NFL player does. He makes plays like that. I’m not surprised where he is, and I expect him to have a long and prosperous NFL career. Anything less than that, and I will be shocked.”
ASU offensive coordinator Steve Smith, who recently spent time in the NFL as an assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, also said Moody has the ingredients for a successful pro career.
“He has all the tools you look for in a safety,” Smith told The Herald earlier in the spring. “He can cover and come down to the line of scrimmage and can blitz. He has the size, the speed. He has it all.”
Moody wrapped up his senior year with the Rams with three interceptions, following a junior season when he finished third in the nation with seven picks. The 6-foot-3 native of Twin City was one of the nation’s top prospects at his position coming out of high school and initially signed a scholarship with the University of Georgia, but because of off-the-field troubles had his offer taken away by UGA coach Mark Richt.
Moody resurfaced at Division I Georgia State and led the Panthers in tackles for one season, but then he ran into trouble again and was kicked off the team because of his role in a bar fight.
Moody has been open and transparent about his frustrating route to the NFL, and it’s a journey he may never have completed if not transferring in 2012 to Albany State, where he turned his life and football career around.
“I am a totally different person now,” Moody told The Herald back in 2012. “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. … (Georgia State coach Bill Curry) always told me, ‘It’s not what you do, it’s how you respond to it.’”
Moody’s response has seemed flawless.
In his two seasons with the Rams, he stayed out of trouble off the field and entered the NFL Draft as the top Division II prospect at his position. White said he believes if Moody had been coming out of a bigger Division I school, he would have been a sure draft pick.
“I think the Ravens got a steal,” White said.
Immediately after the draft ended, the Seattle Seahawks tried to snag Moody first with an invitation to the team’s rookie minicamp. Baltimore countered with a three-year contract offer — and just like that Moody joined one of the fiercest defenses in the league.
“As far as being a Raven, you have to know who you are as a person more than anything. You aren’t just an ordinary person anymore,” he said. “You have to look at the bigger picture. You have to be willing to make sacrifices and live a different life than you were living before.”
The biggest challenge for Moody in the weeks since joining the team has been learning the playbook.
“The biggest thing for all college players going into the NFL is the mental part of it,” White said. “Going into last season, I needed Dexter to be more of a leader in terms of calling and making coverage calls. I wasn’t sure if he could do it, but he showed me he does it easily, with no problem. … So I think he will do well with the Ravens.”
Moody was one of 17 undrafted free agents signed by the Ravens but the only safety of the group and will likely battle Omar Brown, Jeremy Miles, Brynden Trawick and Anthony Levine for two roster spots. Matt Elam will be back as a starting safety, while rookie third-rounder and former Florida State star Terrance Brooks and veteran backup Darian Stewart are expected to fight for the other starting safety position.
OTAs continue Monday in Baltimore, and the team’s mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 17-19. Rookies report to training camp July 21, and on Aug. 8 the team opens its preseason schedule against Tampa Bay.
Moody said star cornerback Lardarius Webb has started to emerge as his mentor and that he has gotten close to fellow rookies Brooks and Zach Orr, a linebacker from North Texas.
“All of the guys are really good to be around, and the rookies all get along great,” Moody said. “It’s a great feeling, knowing that I can come in and play football at the highest level.”