Photo and story by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders are four weeks into the season, and there has been no appearance on the field from senior safety Jovante Moffatt. Moffatt has spent this season sidelined with an injury that occurred at the beginning of the 2017 season.
The Blue Raiders start conference play this weekend against Florida Atlantic and winning the conference championship is a season goal. Within the first three weeks, the Blue Raider defense has struggled. However, Middle Tennessee could be at ease with the return of their senior leader on defense.
Moffatt has not played a game of football since MTSU’s Camilla Bowl victory on Dec. 16, 2017, against Arkansas State. Moffatt suffered a torn 360 labrum on the right shoulder in the first game in 2017 against Vanderbilt. He also suffered a 180 tear on his left shoulder during summer camp.
Although he suffered this injury, he continued to play through it. Moffatt still finished with a career-best 101 total tackles. He also earned the team’s Grinder Award for safeties by becoming a tackling machine for his team.
“It was a lot of work. I was in the training room for almost four to five hours a day, so it became a toll,” Moffatt said. “But I was in the training room consistently trying to get better to play the next week and make it to the end of the season.”
At the end of the season, Moffatt underwent surgery that has kept him from seeing action in 2018.
While he is recovering from his injury, Moffatt has become a coach off the field. Through the first three games, Moffatt could be seen on the sideline with a headset on, interacting with other players or calling out the defensive play call.
Kendricks Gladney Jr. is a junior college transfer that has listened to critiques and defensive tips from Moffatt. Gladney weighed in on the impact Moffatt has had on him since becoming a part of this team.
“He’s the dominant leader of our secondary,” Gladney said. “He knows the playbook in and out. He’s a leader that will bring you up, but at the same time, he will get on you if you’re wrong.”
Middle Tennessee is hoping that the return of their defensive leader brings back a firepower that is appreciated by coaches and teammates.
Now in his final year, Moffatt has played alongside former MTSU players Kevin Byard, Richie James and Charvarius Ward. Those players showed elite caliber talent and earned themselves a spot in the NFL.
Defensive back coach Steve Ellis spoke about the challenges in Moffatt’s career.
“I’ve never had a player that had labrum tears in both shoulders,” Ellis said.
Moffatt had the chance to see and develop skills from his former teammates. Ellis mentioned that Moffatt’s leadership is uncoachable and has been an asset for the Blue Raider defense.
“He is a true student of the game. It’s a comfort level that those guys feel when they see him out there. He is the quarterback of our defense,” Ellis said.
A fight back to game day is an issue that Moffatt is dealing with as a competitor on a daily basis.
“Watching everybody play is the most challenging. I’m finally being able to get back out there and get in the groove of things,” Moffatt said. “I just have to get my mind right. (There are) a lot of things I need to work on, but it’s coming slowly.”
Moffatt could return to the field Saturday night in MTSU’s annual blackout game versus Florida Atlantic. Moffatt is currently listed as day-to-day, according to head coach Rick Stockstill, but he is not being ruled out for the game.
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