GAINESVILLE — Carl Moore arrived at Florida from a California community college three years ago with dreams of becoming a big-time Division I-A football player.
As one of the most coveted junior college recruits in the Class of 2008, Moore was expected to make an immediate impact as a pure, steady-handed receiver for the Gators. But life has a way of altering expectations and derailing dreams. After averaging 13.1 yards on receptions in 2008, Moore missed the 2009 season with a bulging disc that eventually required surgery to shave it down.
"It's tough when you train hard and then something like that happens right before the season starts," he said. "But there was nothing I could do. All I did last year was train and try to get back, just kept working to get my back right so I could get back this year."
Now in his final season, Moore, 21, is concentrating on turning those old dreams into a new reality.
But the focus is no longer so much about the native of Rancho Cordova, Calif., as it is about his team.
"I'm definitely motivated," Moore said. "I'm more motivated for team success, though. I'm more concerned with us winning a national championship, especially with this being my last year. I want to go out there and try to win on top."
With a first-year starter at quarterback and few experienced receivers, Moore is being counted on heavily to be a major part of the Gators' rotation. Riley Cooper and David Nelson have left, and Florida needs another go-to receiver to partner with Deonte Thompson.
"He's made quite a few big catches (in fall practice)," UF quarterback John Brantley said. "He comes out there to work every day and he works hard."
First-year receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who arrived in December, said he has seen a monumental change in Moore in that time.
"He's really buying in now," Azzanni said. "He's doing everything I ask him to do, and he's got a great attitude right now. It's really helping the young kids, too. I don't know (what inspired it). He triggered it, I guess. Me and Carl have built a pretty good relationship. That's my job, to get him to perform and get him to buy in, and he has. I've just got to keep that going. He's doing a nice job for us right now."
Moore had 73 receptions for 1,068 yards in his sophomore season at Sierra. He was rated the No. 2 juco player that year. His back troubles began during the offseason in 2009. By the time the Gators began practice in August, the situation was worse.
"Over time it was sore, and then we got it checked out and it didn't get better," Moore said. "With disc bulge, you don't necessarily have to get surgery, but it just kept hitting my nerve and my nerve kept firing up, so it got to the point where I needed to get surgery."
The surgery repaired his back; his mind was another story. Moore returned to practice in the spring but struggled with personal issues that temporarily affected his football. He abruptly left a spring practice then missed the next two days before returning. Neither Moore nor the coaching staff ever explained his absence.
He says now he was "just dealing with some personal issues on my own." He says it had nothing to do with on-the-field issues and he never considered leaving the team.
But his coaches realize the frustration Moore has endured during the past year has taken a toll. Ultimately, they believe, it has put him back on the right path.
"You know how it is. You appreciate what these guys go through," offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. "High expectations, buildup, injuries, disappointment. They're still kids. They're young and sometimes they don't handle those things always exactly textbook, but they bounce back and they learn and they grow from it. And Carl's come back, and to me he's come back with a great attitude, a great outlook, and I like where he's headed right now a lot."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.