Dylan Moses isn’t old enough to have a learner’s permit or take his first high school class, but twice in the past year he has become the biggest school-age sensation in Louisiana this side of 9-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis.
Moses made national headlines last summer — the summer before he began his eighth-grade year at University Lab School, mind you — when he received a scholarship offer from LSU.
Last week, he became a trending topic again when he picked up another offer, this time from Alabama after a recent visit with his father to Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“A lack of exposure certainly won’t be his problem,” said U-High football coach Chad Mahaffey, who has yet to coach Moses for even one snap.
Quite the opposite. Mahaffey worries that overexposure will turn Moses into a target for criticism.
“Every time he goes out there, people are going to expect to see this LSU football player when he’s a freshman in high school,” Mahaffey said. “It puts a lot of expectations on him. But, obviously, it’s a great honor to have schools like (LSU and Alabama) interested in you.”
For now, at least, Mahaffey and Moses’ parents are sheltering him from talking to the media.
For now, at least, the Moses family is enjoying the recruiting process, though Edward Moses Jr., a Baton Rouge attorney, said his son hasn’t received any other scholarship offers yet.
“I hope he does get recruited,” Moses said. “I expect people to come watch him even more. You can’t just plant a seed in the ground and have it grow. You have to water it. I’m excited.
“I’m sure he’ll get tired of it at some point, but this is the world he finds himself in. He’s trained all this time to be a scholar-athlete. He has found himself early. It’s something we’ll have to adjust to very slowly.”
Dylan attended several LSU football camps before that fateful day last summer.
“I thought it was business as usual,” his father said. “He was working out with other kids, getting their conditioning in. But it was a different day for us that day.”
LSU coaches timed Moses at 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash and measured his vertical leap at 34 inches.
Edward Moses said LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson then put Dylan on the field with players like St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette, the top prospect in Louisiana for 2014, and a group of high school defensive backs.
“He defended some of the best wide receivers in the area,” Edward Moses said.
A scholarship offer soon followed.
“Was it ever out of left field,” Edward Moses said.
There were no workouts at the Alabama junior day Moses attended Feb. 23. But according to Moses, coach Nick Saban’s staff rolled out the Crimson carpet for his son.
“They embraced him like they were waiting for him to get there,” he said. “I was shocked, really.”
A conversation with coach Nick Saban soon followed.
“He told (Dylan that) he and his staff felt he could be the best player in the nation in 2017,” Moses recalled. “He said he didn’t usually offer scholarships to young athletes but that he feels he has the potential to be the No. 1 athlete in the nation.”
Moses transferred from Broadmoor Middle to University at midterm of his seventh-grade year. Mahaffey said the transfer from outside U-High’s geographic area made Moses ineligible to participate in varsity football last fall.
Moses ran in his first varsity track meet for U-High last week — his father said Dylan will run a combination of sprints and relays — and will take part in spring football drills in May as a prelude to the 2013 season, when he projects as a running back and linebacker.
“Physically, he stands out,” Mahaffey said of Moses, who looks well beyond his 14 years at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds. “He’s a very gifted athlete, very talented. I think he’ll prove worthy of all those things.”
Highlights of Moses already abound on YouTube, one with more than 550,000 hits. The 4-minute, 17-second video shows clip after clip of Moses using his man-sized body to bounce off, run over and spin past other middle school boys — who really do look like boys.
One snippet of Moses playing defense is particularly startling: He extends both arms into the chest of a would-be blocker from St. Aloysius and sends the lad flying helmet over cleats.
“I’ve seen players who were advanced,” said St. Aloysius coach and athletic director Jerry Guillot, “but not that combination of size and skill.”
Guillot added that a player of Moses’ size would be confined to playing an interior lineman spot in his team’s league.
“Obviously, he’s very much advanced for his years physically,” Guillot said.
Recruiting analyst Shea Dixon of 24/7 Sports said though Moses’ offers from LSU and Alabama seem unusually early now, they may become the norm for top-level prospects. You only have to look at LSU’s most recent commitment to see that trend taking shape.
“Look at the Ed Paris commitment,” Dixon said of the pledge LSU received Monday from the New Orleans-born cornerback, now ranked by 24/7 Sports as the top prospect in Texas out of Arlington Timberview. “LSU offered him coming out of his ninth-grade year. And LSU took a commitment last summer from Kevin Toliver (a cornerback from Jacksonville, Fla.), who is considered one of the best in Florida for 2015.”
Dixon acknowledged there are risks for schools like LSU and Alabama making early offers and taking early commitments from prospects who look impressive but may not pan out.
“But the bigger risk is not offering a kid early,” Dixon said. “If you identify him as an elite prospect at that age, he’ll get a lot of big offers. The problem is, can you keep a kid committed until his senior year?”
Moses is the latest in an assembly line of highly regarded national prospects for U-High. In February, Alabama signed Cubs defensive end Tim Williams, ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 prospect in Louisiana for 2013. U-High’s top prospect for 2014 is guard Garrett Brumfield, ranked No. 64 on the 24/7 Sports Top 247.
Brumfield blocks for running back Nick Brossette, who is being touted as one of Louisiana’s top players for 2015.
Then comes Moses, who may eclipse them all.
“People will come to see him, and if he isn’t this finished product, there will be negative things said,” Mahaffey said. “He’ll have to deal with that.”
Then again, maybe he’ll grow big enough to be heavily recruited in something other than football. Edward Moses said Dylan had a bone age scan done to project his eventual potential height.
“They said he could grow to be 6-foot-6,” Moses said.