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D.J. Moore keeps getting better, and the nation’s taking notice

The junior was Maryland’s leading receiver a year ago, but he’s on another level now.

NCAA Football: Towson at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland receiver D.J. Moore is one of the more reserved stars you’ll ever come across, but you’d never know it from his performance on the field.

A former three-star recruit from Imhotep Institute Charter High School in Philadelphia, Moore has appeared in every game in his three-year career in College Park. He’s made 25 straight starts, dating back to his freshman season in 2015, and has a catch in 23 consecutive games—the longest streak by a Terp since Torrey Smith’s 30-game streak from 2008 to 2010. It only took him two games to earn a starting spot in Randy Edsall’s lineup in 2015, and he’s gotten better every year since then.

As a freshman, he was tied for the team lead with three receiving touchdowns, and his 357 yards and 25 catches were both second on the team. Those three touchdowns were the most by a freshman since Stefon Diggs. His second career score, a 52-yard bomb against No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus, was his “I’m here” moment. It also prompted this silly tweet from freshman me:

His sophomore year, with Perry Hills still at the helm, was more than an “I’m here” moment. It was an “I’m here” season. He started all 13 games, leading the team with 637 receiving yards, six receiving touchdowns and 15.5 yards per catch. Moore’s 15.3 yards per play led the entire Big Ten.

His ridiculous, toe-tap touchdown catch against Indiana last season showed his spectacular play ability, but it was his 92-yard catch and run against Nebraska a few weeks later that showed the world the tackle-breaking, big-play-making D.J. Moore we’re so used to seeing now.

Moore led Big Ten receivers in open-field broken tackles last season, and hasn’t missed a beat in 2017. His explosive plays have been key to Maryland’s outstanding offensive output this season. He’s already scored touchdowns of 20, nine and 34 yards through the air, and found the end zone one absurd, 21-yard rush.

“There’s two parts to the whole play for me,” Moore told reporters Tuesday. “There’s the play that we actually get it, and then if the ball comes my way—if I catch it—then the next play starts for me, to go execute and go score on the play and not get tackled because I don’t really like going down.”

Offensive coordinator Walt Bell made sure to point out a couple weeks ago that Moore is bigger than running back Ty Johnson, who’s made some noise of his own, scoring on long plays quite often. It’ll be a point of emphasis going forward to get the ball in Moore’s hands in any way possible, be it throwing, passing or snapping the ball to him.

“The biggest thing will be as the season goes on and everybody figures out what we already know, and that’s he’s pretty good, the harder and harder it will be to get him the ball,” Bell said Wednesday. “At the end of the day, if he’s got the ball in his hands, typically really good things are going to happen.”

Moore, who’s happy with the ball in his hands no matter how it gets there, has made the most of passing plays this season, leading the country in yards per route run, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s got more than a yard on the next closest competitor, making him arguably the most dangerous receiver in the country.

Although he’s got a quiet demeanor, his competitive nature can’t help but show, even in relation to his own teammates. Moore said Tuesday that there’s a friendly competition among the receivers as to who can knock down the most defenders this season. Surprisingly, he’s not winning—Jacquille Veii is.

“It’s funny to watch on film,” Moore said with a big smile.

“And it’s not funny,” he continued with the straightest of straight faces, “cause I’m losing.”