TAMPA — Dre Moore is the quintessential late bloomer.
In fact, the Bucs likely wouldn't have had a chance Sunday to trade up in the fourth round to take the mammoth Maryland defensive tackle had it not been for a chance meeting in his high school hallways.
Moore, a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder, said he was always "too heavy" to play youth football and it wasn't until his junior year at Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High that coach Tommy Knotts convinced him to join the junior varsity.
One year later, Moore and former Florida quarterback Chris Leak led the school to a state title, sparking a whirlwind recruitment over the one-time diamond in the rough.
Said Moore: "I feel like I've gotten better with time."
So do the Bucs.
"I really like the size, the middle pass rush," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "(He is) a guy we think can collapse the pocket. When he's on, he's really on."
After a redshirt season and two as a reserve, Moore elevated his stock with a strong senior year, earning all-ACC first-team honors with 81/2 tackles for loss, an interception of third overall pick Matt Ryan and six sacks.
He likely will compete right away at under tackle, with the Bucs liking his blend of strength (36 reps of 225 pounds) and speed (4.8-second 40-yard dash).
Moore, projected by some as a second-rounder, said he didn't expect to drop this far. His biggest knock, other than his late start, was whether he took plays off with the Terps, a criticism he attempted to address shortly after getting drafted.
Moore said detractors didn't understand Maryland's scheme, which often dropped the tackle into coverage or used it as a spy.
The Bucs believed Moore was worth giving up picks No. 120 and No. 158 to the Bears to move up five spots, netting a sixth-round pick (Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes) in the process.
"By the end of my rookie year," Moore said, "31 teams will be shaking their head."
Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith @sptimes.com