Jason Negro, coach at St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, has worked with some superb football players in his 18 seasons. He sent wide receiver Bryce Treggs to Cal and mentored Josh Rosen, who played at UCLA and later in the NFL.
He’s never had a player quite like Ieremia Moore, a defensive end prospect who signed a national letter of intent with Cal on Wednesday.
To be precise, Negro has never actually coached Moore in a game.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Moore has a rugby background but has never played in a high school varsity football game. He moved to the United States and enrolled at Bosco in September 2019, only to be told by the CIF that he would not be allowed to play varsity football his first year as a transfer from another country.
So Moore played junior varsity football in the fall of 2019. And, of course, no one in California played high school football this past fall.
Even so, Moore’s camp experience and what he’s shown in practice, has been “remarkable,” according to Negro. He was voted Most Valuable Defensive Lineman at the SoCal National Preps Showcase at Santa Clarita in November.
“I’ve never experienced someone being this raw to the game coming in,” Negro said. “We’ve seen student-athletes of his caliber in terms of explosiveness, size, strength and his ability to pick up the game. It certainly translates to the Division I level.”
That tantalizing potential may never have surfaced except that Moore accepted a friend’s invitation back home to check out a camp for American football.
Moore loved it. “I was balling out,” he said. Most of the guys at the event were 18 or 19 years old. “They asked me for my details at the end,” said Moore, who admitted he was just 15.
Word of Moore’s performance spread to a friend of the family in the U.S. “It was a blessing after that,” he said.
Barely a year later, at 16, Moore came to California. Due to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moore hasn’t been home to see his family in a year-and-a-half. “I miss them a bunch.”
He is staying with the family of a Bosco teammate, but Negro says the whole team has embraced Moore. “We’re kind of his family right now,” his coach said. “He’s an amazing kid. So kind, so gentle. He’s a neat and unique person.”
Now 18, Moore takes a big-picture view of the move he made. “I had big aspirations,” he said. “You have to make sacrifices to achieve your dreams.”
Moore compartmentalizes those ambitions. Short-term, once he arrives at Cal, he intends to maintain a steady work ethic. “As long as I give my best effort every day I’m going to get the best outcome,” he said, adding that he hopes to record at least 12 sacks one season for the Bears.
Moore says he picked Cal over offers from Duke and UCLA because Berkeley’s academic offerings would allow him to pursue a degree in biology or psychology. He’d like to someday work with abused children.
And the NFL? “Of course, that’s a long-term goal,” Moore said. “Surely I’ll get there if I stay humble and work hard.”
Cal coach Justin Wilcox, in announcing Moore’s formal signing, called him “an interesting prospect who has special physical tools that are difficult to find.”
Moore pronounces his first name “year-a-mia,” but goes by the nickname Iele, pronounced “yell-a.”
Still, there are many things we don’t yet know about Moore, starting with his size. Cal is listing him at 6-foot-3, 265 pounds, but Negro suggested he weighs around 245. Moore says he’s 6-4, 266.
Whatever the details, Negro says Moore’s strengths go beyond the measureables.
“First of all, his learning curve has been incredibly rapid. We’ve been shocked weekly by how he’s been able to pick up the game, understand the nuances in terms of positioning,” Negro said.
“Coming from rugby, he’s physical, explosive, very powerful — all the attributes you need. The games (of football and rugby) are very translatable. He’s so untapped in terms of his ability and they’re really going to be able to develop him over the next couple years.”
Wednesday’s signing day was the next step for Moore, who came nearly 7,000 miles for this opportunity.
“I’m fortunate it all worked out,” he said. “I want to make sure I have a great career at Cal.”
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo