SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When the work day ended for the Panthers on Tuesday, a plethora of players hopped in their cars and headed home in anticipation of their day off. Cornerback D.J. Moore was able to put his feet up quicker than the rest, but it had nothing to do with putting his pedal to the metal.
Moore is a native of Spartanburg, and he's enjoying his first training camp in his hometown. Moore, who played his first four NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears, spent much of his summer leading up to training camp in Spartanburg.
"It's weird, kind of, when you think back to growing up. But with all the hard work I've put in to get here, it just seems right," Moore said. "I'm just hoping as a team that we can pull through and bring some excitement to South Carolina and North Carolina."
Many of Moore's teammates sign autographs for fans following training camp practices at Wofford College, but Moore also has taken it upon himself to sign autographs before practice most days. Tuesday, when the Panthers invited a group of military to watch practice from the sidelines, Moore invited a serviceman who was planning to watch practice from the hill to join him on the field before practice to toss a football.
"If I'm not a fan favorite, I'll be upset," said Moore, who has displayed a comedic brand of cockiness during his interactions with the Panthers media. "It's good when the fans call your name; you kind of know who they are. You kind of know the people's voices.
"In Chicago, it was kind of like they were talking about a jersey number, but here it's like friends and family, so it's good."
Moore is hoping to find a home in Carolina's crowded but clouded secondary picture. With the Bears, he primarily came off the bench in the nickel role the last three seasons yet still managed to intercept 10 passes.
With the Panthers, he finds himself in the running for the nickel role, right along with a familiar face. Moore and Captain Munnerlyn were friendly rivals when Moore was at Vanderbilt and Munnerlyn was at South Carolina, and now they're vying for the nickel role. Moore also is seeking a role at cornerback - where Munnerlyn started last year and could again this year – and he also has some skills that could translate to safety.
"D.J. gives us some great flexibility," head coach Ron Rivera said. "The young man has the opportunity to play corner, nickel and safety for us. In the situation where you can only have 53 guys on your roster and 46 on game day, when you have a guy that can play that many different positions, he might be invaluable."
Moore certainly thinks he is. He's not shy about patting himself on the back but does it in an endearing way, joking that he doesn't feel any added pressure playing close to home because "when you're good, you're just good."
And the day after safety Charles Godfrey said he had set a personal goal of eight interceptions for this season, Moore just had to respond.
"I just want the most," he said. "If he wants eight, I want nine. If somebody says they want 10, I want 11.
"Competition is good for the secondary. Everybody wants to one-up everybody."
But at the end of the day, what Moore really wants is success for his hometown team now that he's a Panther.
"For me individually, it's about just making plays and helping the team win," he said. "I feel like if you make plays but they are not to help the team win, then it's not really a successful season."