It was a scary moment for Blue Springs South graduate Briley Moore – one that could have ended his football career.
The University of Northern Iowa junior was playing against Youngstown State in the penultimate regular season game.
Moore went to make a block and he got off balance while his head was down. He missed the block and his head hit the back of a teammate, which gave him a stinger on his spinal cord. Once Moore’s head made contact, he felt his whole body go limp.
“For about a minute to a minute and half, I was legitimately paralyzed,” Moore said. “I couldn’t move my feet. I could hear people talk to me, but I couldn’t respond to them. It was by far the scariest moment of my life.”
Moore was carried off the field on a stretcher after trainers tended to him for about 10 minutes. He raised his fist as he exited the field. He was later diagnosed with short-term paralysis and avoided long-term damage.
After missing the final regular season game against Missouri State, Moore came back to play in Northern Iowa’s two playoff games, the last a loss to UC Davis on Dec. 1. The junior got to finish the best season of his collegiate career.
“I am very blessed to be able to walk away from the injury that I had,” Moore said. “It was pretty much a miracle. I am very blessed and thankful for that.”
This season, Moore overcame adversity and became one of the best tight ends at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
He made the first-team, all-Missouri Valley Conference list. The junior led the Panthers in the major receiving categories. He had 536 yards on 39 receptions and four receiving touchdowns.
He’s come a long way since playing at Blue Springs South. Moore was recruited as a tight end after spending his entire high school career as a wide receiver. With the Jaguars, Moore helped them win a state championship in 2015 – his senior year – and was an all-state player. He also helped the South basketball team to a state championship as a junior in 2015.
At the time, the talented high school prospect was 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. Things have changed drastically since then. Moore has packed on a lot of muscle and now weighs 255 pounds, an ideal weight for a Division I tight end. Sometimes he looks at old photos of himself in high school and is astonished with his progress.
“I cringe sometimes seeing how scrawny and skinny I used to be compared to now,” Moore said.
It wasn’t easy converting to his new position. Moore worked hard in the weight room to improve his build.
“It was a long process for sure,” Moore said. “It just took commitment to buy in to do everything a tight end needs to do. With the coaching staff and the people around me, they made it as easy as possible.”
The process included some Olympic-style weightlifting.
“Jed Smith is our main strength and conditioning coach, and he’s been an amazing asset to have in my corner throughout this process,” he said. “(The weightlifting) is all science-based and has been proven to work. I did a lot of basic lifting in high school like squats and bench press. Here we do a lot of Olympic lifting, so a lot of power clean, a lot of power snatch. Those things were new to me, but helped tremendously.”
He progressively got stronger as his college career went on. During his freshman year, he struggled to block during running plays. He rarely had to for the Jaguars, and that’s something he had to learn.
“I went from blocking on the perimeter in high school to blocking 285-pound defensive linemen in college,” Moore said. “It was frustrating at first. When I first started playing, I was around 220 pounds. Those guys had a minimum of 60 pounds on me.”
His sophomore season, he was mostly used in two-tight end sets during running plays. This year, he established himself as someone the Panthers could count on to block on running and passing plays as the lone tight end.
“This year, I truly felt I could go on the field and be the only tight end and run block and run routes on the same drive,” Moore said. “I felt like I could win each and every play no matter what the play call was.”
And it seems Moore is only going to get better. He’s set some lofty goals for himself. For his senior year, Moore wants to establish himself as the best tight end in all of college football, even among the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision players.
“I may not get there, I know that,” he said, “but I am going to do everything that I can to get there.”
If Moore can do that, he might even achieve a childhood dream he’s had since he was 4 years old – playing in the NFL.
“I am thankful to play at UNI to give me the possibility to reach those goals,” Moore said. “I only have one season. I am going to do everything I can to make my goals come true. I am just chasing my childhood dream.
“The reason I play football, is to use my platform for a bigger purpose. I want to be a role model for the kids, especially for the ones back home.”