Published: May 21, 2013
ENGLEWOOD - What's the first thing that comes to mind when the subject is Rahim Moore?
After close observation at Dove Valley, here's my answer: class.
Tremendous class. And toughness.
When the Broncos hustled onto the practice field this week, the most memorable performance came from the player forever linked to the worst play in Broncos history.
It wasn't Chris Harris returning an interception for a touchdown, or Peyton Manning firing a pass to Wes Welker. Both those things happened.
It was Moore, talking about the Mile High Mistake. Just 23, he owned it, again.
Moore showed why a man shouldn't be judged by his failures, but by his response afterward.
"Every time I wake up I'm fueled. I've been like that since I was born," Moore said. "That particular play, it makes it even more (that way). That's my persona.
"Where I come from, what I've faced throughout my life growing up, I have no choice but to be that."
It's not often that Wes Welker, the NFL's most prolific receiver over the past six years, is treated as a sideshow.
On Monday, Welker became an afterthought.
Just as Welker was about to address media after the team's first day of organized team activities, Moore stepped out of the weightroom. Half the media contingent ditched Welker to hear what Moore had to say.
Here's what he said:
"It's Year 3 (in the NFL). It's time to get it going and be that player they drafted me to be. I love this game. I love my teammates. I love this organization."
He smiled and added, "I even love our grass. I love our owner. I love the things we do here. I couldn't imagine being nowhere else. Why not come out here and put in my blood, sweat and tears for this organization? Why not?"
I do two things well: Catch fish and spot frauds.
Moore is no fraud.
His character is for real.
"I'm not one of those guys that gets beat down," he said.
It seems like a small thing, but how an athlete responds to media questions after a forgettable moment often shows what he's made of.
Some ballplayers go 0-for-5 and hide in the showers. Others clank a key free throw and race to the team bus.
On that frigid night after the Broncos lost to the Ravens, Moore looked us right in the eye and relived the football pain.
He did again Monday, the first time since January he has stood in front of cameras and digital recorders, for the sports world to see and hear.
Feel free to question his vertical leap or his depth perception. His toughness is off-limits.
Moore said he wants the Broncos to sign free agent Charles Woodson, another safety.
"I hope that we get him. I'm all about competition," he said. "I never run from it, ever."
I tend to think Moore's mistake was a product of arrogance more than a miscalculation.
A supremely confident athlete, Moore tried for the highlight-reel interception instead of trusting the fundamentals that got him to the NFL.
He whiffed. Moore also assumed too much of the blame that could have been directed toward Manning's offense or coach John Fox, if you are into the blame game.
But here's the important part: Moore didn't run and hide when the going really got rough.
Back in February, a pair of sports psychologists told me an athlete could be haunted for years from a moment like that.
I thought: Playing in Colorado, the scene of the football crime, Moore will never be right again.
If his play on the field is as strong as his character off it, I was wrong.
"The fans, that's what they're supposed to do," Moore said of critics. "They pay all their money - their hard-working money - to come see us. They want to see greatness. I don't fault them at all. This year we're going to do all we can to put smiles on their face."
For the Broncos, Moore is a central figure in their defense, a young safety with Pro Bowl aspirations.
For those of us more interested in the human element of sports, he is a case study.
What I have seen from Moore was enough to tell me two things: The mention of Joe Flacco's toss still strikes pain in his soul, and he's dealing with it the only way he knows.
By pushing forward.
"Just move on," Champ Bailey said. "That really shows what type of character you have."
Kids, model your quarterbacking after Manning. But take a cue from Moore.
How does an athlete move on from a play so painful he can't bear to watch?
He accepts there are greater issues in life, real tragedies that don't involve a ball.
"The main thing is that it's all about what God says," Moore said. "He's a forgiving God. I cast all my cares to him. Once I do that, I'm fine."