ATHENS, Ga. -- Every superhero has an origin story. Superman's home planet exploded.
In the Peach State, any self-respecting football fan knows the origin story of Georgia's greatest football superhero. Disgusted that his son watched so much television, a Wrightsville, Ga., man told the kid that if he wanted to keep watching, he would have to do push-ups and sit-ups during the commercial breaks. Several million push-ups and sit-ups later,
Georgia's next superhero may be the one Bulldogs fans call "Special K." Mild-mannered -- and
And this might be his origin story.
"He waved his hand," Bigos said, "like, 'Now come get me.' "
So they tried. For 45 seconds, the patio turned into a Three Stooges film as 25-30 eighth graders slammed into poles and one another trying to grab Moreno. Even when they seemed sure they had him, they came up clutching air.
"He made every kid miss," Bigos said. "He was running around poles. He was dodging, spinning and moving. He went from end to the other, and nobody came close to getting to him. It was like two-hand touch, and nobody got a hand on him."
Bigos immediately called
Bigos, the defensive coordinator at Middletown South, has a few hundred more Moreno stories. He said some of the best runs came at practice, because never once in four years did Moreno slack on a play. But the patio run at Bayshore will always stay fresh in his mind, even if Moreno himself doesn't recall the exact details.
"(My coaches) always tell that story," Moreno said. "I slightly remember it. I don't talk about it, really."
Like all good superheroes, Moreno is reluctant to discuss the talent that helped him become Georgia's most successful freshman back since Walker gained 1,616 yards in 1980. As a potential Heisman Trophy candidate and the primary offensive weapon on a loaded team that should begin the 2008 season ranked in the top three, Moreno will receive plenty of attention. But he would rather give credit to anyone else.
Too many people have the wrong idea about him anyway. They may have seen Moreno get dragged down by four Florida defenders, pop up and slap five with unwitting Gators safety
Even Moreno's own teammates didn't know what to think of him at first. While Moreno redshirted in 2006, he played on the scout team, running opponents' plays against the Bulldogs' first-team defense. Some of the defenders thought the youngster wanted to show them up in order to kiss up to the coaching staff. Not true, Ball said.
"That's him working on his game," Georgia running backs coach
Finally, a peace of sorts was brokered. If you don't like it, coaches told the defensive players, then tackle him.
That, as SEC defenders learned last season, is easier said than done. "He can make you miss. He can outrun you. He can run you over," Bigos said. "It all depends on what kind of mood he's in on each play."
If Moreno has a superpower, it's that his legs never stop moving. On the play that resulted in the low five with Florida's Joiner, at least one Gator had Moreno cornered behind the line of scrimmage. Moreno spun, then somehow came out of the spin moving faster than he was before. He surged forward before two Gators grabbed him. In their grasp, he spun again and gained three more yards before two more finally latched on and took him down after a 9-yard gain.
Before his tacklers could rise, Moreno was up. Bigos said he noticed Moreno trying to pop up before defenders during Moreno's senior season in high school. Last year, Georgia offensive guard
Now, Georgia players assume Moreno will remain on his feet after the first, second and third hits. And they know that after the play, Moreno will beat the defender to his feet. "I've started to never expect him to be down," Bulldogs quarterback
Following a freshman season in which he rumbled for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns, everyone will be watching Moreno in 2008. Moreno knows this, and he thinks he knows how to keep from letting the attention go to his head. Just as Batman leans on Alfred the butler, Special K leans on Ball for sage advice in times of strife. "[I need to] just work on the little things that Coach Ball emphasizes," Moreno said. "Don't take anything for granted. ... Little things get you beat. That's what [Ball] says."
Clearly, Moreno has taken his coach's words to heart. A few minutes later, Ball shared similar sentiments when asked how he intends to keep Moreno grounded and focused.
"He likes to work, but he's like any other 20-year-old young man," Ball said. "If, as a coach, you don't keep challenging him while keeping him focused on the little things, he gets careless. He gets sloppy. It goes back to us as coaches. We can't create the wrong environment for him, and we can't overlook the little things."
Ball coached Moreno and Georgia's other backs on those little things in a drill last week. While keeping a ball lodged in the crook of their left arms, they had to hop 10 yards using only their right hands and right feet. The other backs, elite athletes all, traveled those 10 yards in herky-jerky hops. Moreno covered his 10 yards in a few fluid bounces, then exploded back to his feet. Ball shook his head and laughed. For a moment, it seemed Superman wasn't the only one who survived the explosion of Krypton.
Moreno already seems poised to join the Justice League of former Georgia ballcarriers that includes
"The only thing that separates us now," Walker said, "is the Heisman and the national championship."