Theodore native C.J. Mosley has had a storybook football career.
At Alabama, he was a freshman All-American, Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year, winner of the Butkus Award (signifying the top linebacker in college football), a two-time national championship player and a major contributor to 38 wins against only four losses.
That career led him to become a first-round NFL Draft pick, going 17th overall to the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.
As a pro, he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, then again in three of the four succeeding seasons. Those four Pro Bowls in five seasons earned him a five-year, $85 million deal with the New York Jets before last season.
Now healthy after an injury-shortened season in 2019, Mosley is eager to get back to work. He was kind enough to join me for my podcast last week to discuss his upbringing in Theodore, his time as a leader of the Crimson Tide, his best accomplishments so far as a pro and even compared the seafood tradition in Baltimore to what he loved growing up on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
But through our half-hour conversation, we went in depth on only one game. It wasn’t an Iron Bowl, an SEC title game, a national championship showdown or even an NFL playoff game.
No, the only time Mosley raised his voice and got animated was when he recalled the night of Oct. 24, 2008 at Theodore’s C.A. Douglas Field. The Bobcats were 6-2 and headed toward another playoff appearance. But on that night Theodore lost a heartbreaking 24-21 overtime decision to bitter rival Alma Bryant.
The Hurricanes scored the winning touchdown on the last play of overtime on a touchdown pass into the back of the end zone. So far into the back of the end zone that the receiver was clearly out of bounds when he made the catch, according to Mosley.
“I’ve got two memorable plays [from my high school years],” Mosley said. “We went to Charles Henderson and I ran a 95-yard fumble recovery back. So, that was a pretty cool moment.
“And we had a home game against Bryant, which we lost. It was a bad call by the refs by the way. The guy caught the ball at the end of the game at the back of the end zone and his whole footprint was out of bounds. We’ll save that for another time. A few plays before that I ran in the backfield. I got the running back and I super-bombed him. I just picked him up and just slammed him. That was a pretty cool moment and the whole crowd went wild. I definitely remember that cool moment.”
Never mind that Theodore went 3-1 against Bryant during Mosley’s high school career. The one he remembers is that one loss to the Hurricanes that he can’t do over and never forget.
“That one hurt, especially losing to Bryant,” Mosley said. “We never wanted to lose to them in anything.”
It’s so easy to think that when people become super successful in any walk of life, they suddenly become different. But their memories don’t begin when they cash that first $1 million check.
Despite playing in big games at Alabama and in the NFL, Mosley is still as impacted by that loss to Alma Bryant as are his teammates who now do shift work or have gone on to become first responders, accountants or lawyers.
If anything, those experiences with your childhood brothers (sometimes, literally, as in the case with C.J. and his brother Jamey) are even more important.
In an odd twist, former Theodore running back La’Mical Perine was selected by the Jets in the most recent NFL Draft. So the Theodore connection to the Jets will soon be getting stronger.
“That’s really cool,” Mosley said of Perine joining the Jets. “He might be that next guy that kids in Theodore look up to. Kids can look at us and say, ‘If those guys both make it and they’re on the same team, then why can’t we?’”
To hear the full podcast with Mosley or any of my previous guests including Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney; the voice of the Auburn Tigers, Andy Burcham; Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy; former Auburn running back Ronnie Brown; ESPN journalist Jeremy Schaap; South Alabama basketball coach Richie Riley; and — at the risk of relegating my other awesome guests to the level of “the Professor and Mary Ann” from the opening of “Gilligan’s Island” — the rest.
Randy Kennedy, who has been a leading voice on the Gulf Coast sports scene for 18 years, writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. His sports talk show airs weekdays on the new Sports Talk 99.5 from 7-10 a.m.
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