When Lee Moses lived with his grandmother in the rough Hartford Housing Projects in Providence, she had just one rule for her young grandson to follow.
“You only had to follow one rule. Just one. Stay out of trouble.,” he recalled. “She always said “stay out of trouble. Go play football.””
Moses obeyed his grandmother’s rule.
His focus on football led to an outstanding career at Bishop Hendricken High School where he one of the best athletes to emerge from the all-boys school in Warwick.
Moses was three-sport All-State athlete who excelled in both track and football and led the Hendricken football team to four consecutive state championships. The result was a Division I football scholarship to the University of Massachusetts.
A 6-1, 200-pound cornerback, Moses is one of a small handful of Rhode Islanders playing Division I college football.
“He was one of the most talented players we have coached. Fast, athletic and physical. He could impact a game on any side of the ball, but made his mark as a defensive back and one of the most electric and feared kick returners in the state,” said Hendricken coach Keith Croft.
He’s had a solid career at UMASS, which has gone by – in his words- “in the blink of an eye.”
“There was a lot of transition and learning in the beginning. Practice, film, travel, studying. It is is a lot of work,” said Moses. “Hendricken and the coaching staff did a great job preparing me for playing at this level. How Hendricken approaches practice and a game is business-like. That helped me a lot when I got to this level.”
“Lee is a tremendous leader among our young men and he has the utmost respect of all the players and the entire coaching staff,” said UMASS Coach Mark Whipple. “He is an important part of our defense and a key member of our secondary. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the remainder of his senior season.”
Moses has seen significant playing time since his freshman year and earned a starting position at corner which he’s held since his junior year.
As a junior, he started all 12 games at cornerback. He finished the season with 40 tackles, including 1.0 TFLs, six pass breakups, and four interceptions.
He began that junior campaign with a career high-tying eight tackles and a pass breakup versus Hawaii. He notched five stops and a pass breakup against Old Dominion and added his second eight-tackle performance of the season at Mississippi State.
Moses went on to make five stops, broke up two passes and returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown during the Fenway Gridiron Series victory over Maine. He later returned his fourth interception of the year for 13 yards, broke up another pass attempt with a diving, finger-tips deflection in the endzone and made one solo tackle during a UMASS win at BYU.
Now a senior, he’s begun his final season as the starting cornerback for the Minutemen.
Moses,who is a Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Second Team Cornerback, started and made five tackles in a victory against Duquesne and logged six more stops in a loss at Boston College. He was a selected as the Game Captain for the first two games of the season.
The wins have been far less frequent for Moses on the college gridiron than they were at Hendricken.
As his senior year begins the Minutemen are 1-3 overall. UMASS has been dominated in three straight losses on the road and they return home on Saturday when they’ll host Charlotte.
“It’s very tough to lose. I just focus on what I can do to help our team get better,” said Moses. “As a player, I have to have to focus on how I can get better and help the program. I have to stay positive and help the team. Everything will fall into place.”
Moses is as focused on his academics as he is on football. A sociology major, he plans to one day become a lawyer.
“Being a student-athlete is very important to me,” he said. “I work hard on academics. I learned to balance my schedule. When I free you can find me studying, reading or writing. School is very important to me.”
Of course, his overall goal is to play in the NFL. It has been since he was a little boy staying out of trouble in the Hartford Housing Projects by keeping busy playing football. That dream hasn’t faded. But for now, Moses is focusing on the present, his final season at UMASS.
Croft thinks he can play on football’s biggest stage.
“Lee was one of the nicest, hardest working kids we have coached. He was the type of athlete everyone pulled for. His teammates had tremendous respect for him,” said Croft, who was in attendance when UMASS played BC earlier this season. “We are so excited for him and look forward to him having an opportunity at the NFL level,”
Moses was back on the Hendricken field this past summer, volunteering at the Fourth Annual Will Blackmon Football Camp.
The free camp is directed by 11 year NFL veteran, RI native and Hendricken alum Blackmon. A former Boston College All-American, Blackmon is now an analyst on the NFL Network. He lives in California, but still calls Rhode Island home and returns every summer to host his free youth camp. This year, he added a combine for high school athletes.
“What he has done to help Rhode Island youth with his camp is unbelievable, “ said Moses “Will really cares about the players from RI. When I was at his youth camp I was watching the kids and thinking what an unbelievable opportunity Will has created for them. They are so blessed. (Hendricken senior) Xavier Truss was at the first camp. Now he is going to play at Georgia.”
“Will has always been a mentor to me. He has always been there for me,” said Moses.. “He is like that with all the players from RI. He is always reaching out to RI players. That is definitely something I want to do, too….help young players from Rhode Island.”
For now, he’s focusing on his final collegiate season.
“Playing for UMASS has been an unbelievable experience for me,” he added. “I have gotten to travel to places like Hawaii and play in stadiums that I watched on TV as a kid. It’s been amazing. They say college flies and it does. I can’t believe I only have seven games left in a UMASS uniform. In a blink of an eye it’s my senior season. In this last season, I’m just going to stay positive and focus on what I can do to get myself better and help the team get better. That is the immediate goal.”