Oklahoma signee Tramonda Moore told himself a scary truth when he arrived at Independence (Kan.) Community College.
After being named the No. 1 player in the state of Oklahoma in 2016 and earning recognition as one of the nation’s premier offensive linemen, he was down to one shot—one opportunity.
“Like man, this is my last chance,” he said. “This is the last go-around.”
In his native Oklahoma City, Moore and Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Justin Broiles were shining stars at John Marshall High School.
Moore rode his talent to an offer and a commitment to play at Oklahoma just a year after the Sooners earned entrance in to the College Football Playoff.
But his inability to meet NCAA initial-eligibility qualifying standards forced Oklahoma to pull its offer. He was mad.
“Looking back,” he said. “I should’ve made my decision way earlier knowing my qualification, and with everything else going on. It just turned out that Coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh was upfront with me. I gotta take the junior college route. I needed to grow as a person on the field and in the classroom. He told me they would be in contact, and they would just go from there.”
In anger, he signed with Oklahoma State in February 2016. He believed he could make himself eligible by retaking the ACT that summer.
But wasn’t able to reach the mark that would allow him to continue straight to Stillwater. He needed a new plan.
“My next thought was junior college,” he said, “and I didn’t know too much about JUCO because I wasn’t paying too much attention to it because I was really focused on Division I ball and what school I wanted to attend.”
The coaches at Independence couldn’t get a second glance from Moore during his recruitment, though.
“Independence was always at my school,” he said. “I wasn’t talking to them because I didn’t want to talk to junior colleges. But they were always there. So I said to heck with it. I’ll go there, grind my two years and then go to Oklahoma.”
So he took an unplanned detour to Independence, Kansas. When he arrived on campus, he expected to play right away and did. But he underestimated the level of competition he’d face not only during games but during practice.
“A lot of the players I played against were D1 athletes without question,” he said.
He quickly realized he wasn’t the only talented and skillful ballplayer trying to make his last chance the only chance that mattered. Even his roommate could flat-out play. He’s getting looks from Texas even now, according to Moore.
“He’s a baller,” he said, “and I went against him a lot in practice. It was tough, but it’s something you’ve got to get adjusted to.”
But playing JUCO football for Moore was easy. He determined to conquer the only obstacle that prevented him from playing big-time college football.
“I just wanted to fight hard in the classroom,” Moore said. “I know I can perform on the field. Just finish the classwork. Get the classwork done.”
One biology class kept him in Independence for the spring of 2018.
“It’s really just a lot of math,” he said. “It’s just a lot at once. It was a handful. But my tutor and me made a schedule, and we stuck to it.”
He’s back home now. Back in the city where he played his high school football and just leaving the gym. He stands 6-foot-5, 325 pounds to date, and will not say what kind of numbers he’s putting up during workouts.
“I can’t give all that,” he laughed.
Bedenbaugh told Moore that he’s planning to play him at right tackle, and then see how things develop.
“Coach (Bedenbaugh) has always been there,” he said. “Since I was junior in high school. He texted me every other day and always kept in contact with me. Coach (Bedenbaugh) is one of the realest coaches I’ve ever been affiliated with, and that made my decision a lot easier.”
Moore has a chance to vindicate Bedenbaugh, as well as family and friends who believed he was worth the effort. He’s going to be featured in season No. 3 of the Netflix original Last Chance U as the series tells the story of the players and coaching staff of the Independence Community College Pirates in July.