Oct. 19, 2006
By Jeremy Wu, Sports Information Student Assistant
In January, when then-prep running back Emmanuel Moody announced that he would attend USC to play football, many publications paid to analyze such decisions referred to it as a surprise. However, this tailback knew where he wanted to be all along.
'I always wanted to come to USC, but then Texas started to grow on me,' said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound true freshman. 'I felt comfortable with Texas. But then USC started coming harder. I went to my visit out here, my first time in California and I got to see what it was all about. I just followed my heart and stuck with USC.'
From Coppell, Texas, where he claims the barbecue is superior, Moody started out as a cornerback at Coppell High, but soon proved that he had the ability to be a game-breaking running back. During his junior and senior seasons, he rushed for 2,728 yards and 26 touchdowns with the Cowboys.
Moody's high school coach, Mike Fuller, said 'Emmanuel is a great kid and very athletic. The thing that was great about him was that he wasn't afraid to get in the weight room and work hard. He would do the same thing on the track to work on his speed during the off season. He always stayed late and put in extra work.'
A multiple-sport athlete, Moody likes to take his opponents off the dribble on the basketball court and run past the competition in track meets, but his gift is football. He opened the eyes of his high school coaches on one particular night.
Coach Fuller recalls the play that made everyone in Coppell notice the spectacular running back. 'His junior year, we were trailing at halftime of a game, so we onside kick the ball and got it back at midfield. The first play of the second half, we ran a toss to the left and Emmanuel took the ball outside the numbers on the left and then cut back across the field and got outside the numbers on the right. By the time the play was over, he had scored in the left corner of the end zone. Basically, he went from sideline to sideline and back to the other sideline all on one run. Every person on defense had a chance at him and he made them all miss and basically got to the end zone untouched.'
Only four games into his college career, Moody leads the team in rushing yards (423) and is averaging a team-best 6.4 yards per carry. He has also scored two touchdowns. Moody, who has started the last three games, ran for a season-best 130 yards at Arizona and broke off a season-best long 48-yard run at Washington State. He has led the team in rushing in three of the first four games.
'I'm excited about what he's doing right now,' USC coach Pete Carroll said. 'In the Arizona game in particular, we wanted to get him the ball 20 times just to see if he could break some runs and we got 21 times and he broke a couple runs.'
Moody has experienced early success much to the surprise of many Trojan fans but his quick involvement surprised even Moody himself. 'During practice, they had me running play after play. I thought they were just making me run because we had a of couple injuries,' he said. 'When game time came, they just gave me a lot of carries and I could see why they gave me all those carries during practice.
'Before a game, I always imagine that I'm going to make big plays. It's just preparation, that's what they teach us. I'm going to come out and imagine myself having a great game.'
Moody's thirst for competition and to be the best of the best has always driven him on the field. He came to USC as part of the top collection of prep running backs in 2006, never shying away from the challenge to earn playing time.
'It's good competition,' Moody said. 'It's healthy. If you can handle it, it's only going to make you better.'
Said Carroll about his running style: 'He's very explosive at the point of attack. He's got great quickness and suddenness about him. He's got a real nice finish ability to his style that will allow him to break some runs when other people think that they have got him down. It's very positive so far--nothing but good stuff for Emmanuel.'
Moody credits the defense he faces every day in practice for helping his game improve and also has great respect for all of his older teammates. 'The veterans have been encouraging me and telling me to stay strong,' he said. 'They tell me to not let the next level change my game and stay confident.
Moody was born in 1987 in a still-divided Germany, the son of an African-American father serving in the U.S. Army and a Korean mother.Moody identifies strongly with his Korean heritage, having been raised mostly by his mother and uncle after his parents divorced when he was 5 years old.
Although his humble attitude keeps him from seeking the spotlight, Moody embraces his role as a bi-racial athlete and credits Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers for bringing attention to athletes who are part Asian. He says that he is glad to have the opportunity to positively affect people in the same way.
Moody is very close to his uncle, Michael Chang (not the tennis player), and talks to him almost every day. Only separated by eight years, Chang is like a brother to Moody.
'Emmanuel is a very humble and religious individual,' Chang said. 'Emmanuel has a lot of faith in God. God has blessed our family and truly blessed him with strong faith.'
Said Moody: 'My faith is the most important thing. That's what keeps me going. That's what keeps me alive. God inspires me, just knowing who I'm living for and the reason why I'm playing. That's the purpose.'Cognizant of the rich history of Tailback U., Moody hopes to fall right in line with the USC tradition.
'Coming in, everybody wants to be great, especially at tailback. USC has a great history at tailback and I came in here with the mindset that I want to be just like that.
'I'm really starting to love my school and love the cardinal and gold. To the Trojan fans out there, I'm glad that they're there for me and that they're really accepting. I'm from Texas but they still give me love.'