One of the Colts who couldn’t be happier to report to Terre Haute, Indiana this year for training camp is wide receiver Aaron Moorehead. For the past couple of seasons he has held down the number five receiver spot on Indianapolis’ roster behind Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley and Troy Walters. As a result, while he was a member of the 53-man roster, last year he was activated just twice as part of the game day 45-man roster.
That should change dramatically this year. Walters is now suiting up in a Cardinals uniform along with Edgerrin James. The number four receiver spot is Moorehead’s now, and he isn’t likely to relinquish it without a fight – especially after what he went through during this offseason and over the past few years battling his way up the depth chart as an undrafted free agent.
Moorehead was an unrestricted free agent, and just like the rest of the Colts who were in that position, Moorehead had no guarantees that the Colts would put up a contract tender to keep him in Indianapolis.
“I was actually a little nervous about it because of the receiver situation we had and some of the things they could have done, but they showed that they didn’t want me to leave,” Moorehead recently told ColtPower. “ I was really happy with that. I really wanted to come back to Indianapolis, I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
After learning that he’d be returning for another season, Moorehead had a big decision to make to ensure that he’d be able to give one hundred percent and not miss out on his opportunity to move up on the depth chart. He had been experiencing pain in his leg and lower back. Doctors discovered that he had a bulging disc that was putting pressure on a nerve that was creating the leg pain. He was going to have to consider surgery to correct the problem.
“I noticed late in the off-season. It had been bothering me but I figured it was no big deal,” he said. “We were rehabbing it for a little bit, but it never went away. And when it got to the point that it really started to hurt, we had to make a decision.
“Knowing the time frame, we had to choose whether or not to do the surgery then -- and I spoke with the doctors and the trainers and decided surgery would be the best option.”
Doctors shaved off the part of the disc that was hitting the nerve, and Moorehead walked out of the hospital immediately feeling better when he had walked in. But he still had a rehab period ahead of him. Moorehead dedicated himself to getting well, and doctors were impressed by how quickly he bounced back, noting that people usually don’t recover quite that fast.
Now the tall, personable wide receiver heads into training camp with more than a dozen receivers ready to take the field and put in their claim for one of what will likely be only five roster spots for receivers. Moorehead’s been in this position before, and he’s ready to fend off any challengers for his spot again.
“I don’t want these guys to just be able to take my spot,” he said. “I know those guys are hungry, but as much as I’ve accomplished in the league so far, I know there’s so much more for me to accomplish. I don’t want it cut short because of something I overlooked or because I assumed I was going to make a team.
”Being a walk-on in college then becoming an undrafted free agent in the NFL, then making a team, I’ve overcome so many different things it’s not that big of a deal for me to keep my mental toughness. In those situations if you’re not mentally tough you’re really going to be in trouble.”
In addition to moving up on the depth chart, Moorehead is also hoping to be in the huddle more often this year with the best quarterback in the game, Peyton Manning.
”It’s great playing with him, he’s a great leader. It’s nice to look in the guy’s eyes, because you can look at him and know nine times out of ten he’s going to put the ball exactly where it’s supposed to be,” he said. “He’s looking at you and he knows you’re going to catch the ball. But he has a look when you drop the ball -- and you don’t want that look -- so it becomes one of those things where you don’t drop the ball because he’ll give you that look that’s almost piercing.
”I think he brings the best out of all of us, and that’s part of the reason our receiving corps has been so good in the past. He brings out the best in us, and we bring out the best in him. If his ball is a little off, and we make a great play, it brings him up a little bit. And if our routes are a little off, he still puts the ball right on the money, which brings us up a little bit.”
And as training camp progresses, Moorehead will stay focused on the task at hand and will claim his spot. Because he knows that in doing so, he could set himself up for a really special experience this year.
“Being in the offense we have you never know when it could be your time. And when it is your time you can do a lot,” he said. “Being on a team that has a chance to win the Super Bowl every year is great. And at the same time I like the city, I like the fans -- it’s home for me which is a bonus because I get to see my family whenever I want to. It’s just a great situation and I’m glad to be here for another year.”