SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Before Kenny Moore's senior season at Wake Forest, he could have been labeled an afterthought.
Then, when Moore got the opportunity to shine, he turned on the afterburners.
That's the kind of happy ending Moore is hoping to repeat now that he's running with the Panthers' first team in training camp in place of injured wide receiver Steve Smith.
"I got an opportunity at Wake Forest going into my senior year, and this situation here is an opportunity for me," Moore said. "It's important for me to take full advantage of it and just put all of my efforts into it.
"I'm improving every day, and this is a chance for me to get better as a receiver, going against the ones on the defense."
Moore caught 139 passes for 1,458 yards and seven touchdowns over four seasons at Wake, but the lion's share came over the course of one special season. As a senior in 2007, Moore set an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 98 receptions while gaining 1,011 yards and hauling in five TDs.
He also scored three of his five career rushing touchdowns and his lone kick return for a TD as a senior on his way to first-team All-ACC honors.
Moore made just nine receptions over his first two seasons with the Demon Deacons. In his first two seasons with the Panthers, Moore has a single catch.
But based on his first-team role opposite Dwayne Jarrett while Smith recovers from a broken arm, Moore appears to be catching on.
"Steve is pretty much my best friend on the team, so it's hard to see him out, to see him get hurt like that. Nobody wants to step up off somebody's misfortune, but at the end of the day, it is an opportunity for me," Moore said. "He understands that, and he's my best supporter right now, making sure I'm on top of things and taking advantage of every rep I get."
Moore, who made a couple of eye-catching receptions on opening day at training camp Thursday, also is trying to improve his lot by contributing on special teams. He excelled as a return man in college and had a solid showing over 10 kickoff returns last season – highlighted by a 55-yarder that sparked a comeback against Washington – but he fumbled one of his two punt return attempts.
"I'm still trying to get them to believe in me a little bit more," said Moore, who starred at Butler High School in the Charlotte suburb of Matthews. "I had a little bit of a mishap last year, but I really think I can return that rock in punt returns and kick returns. It really just comes down to what (special teams coach) Jeff (Rodgers) and the other coaches decide.
"I think I can make an impact there, but you've got to take advantage of an opportunity when it comes. Hopefully, it will come again, and I'll be ready for it."
While Moore currently is running with the first team, his first goal is making the team. Smith, Jarrett, rookies Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards appear likely to grab roster spots, with former North Carolina receiver Wallace Wright considered a favorite to make the team for his special teams prowess.
That could leave Moore in a scramble with fellow third-year receiver Dexter Jackson, second-year wideout Charly Martin and rookies David Gettis, Trent Guy and Oliver Young for roster inclusion.
"Last year, at the beginning we only kept four. That always can be in your head, but at the end of the day, you've just got to make plays," Moore said. "You've just got to play and believe your best is good enough.
"If I just continue to take advantage of my opportunities and compete every day, hopefully, that will be enough for the coaches."