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moreno's star keeps rising in athens..


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middletown south high coach steve antonucci remembers the first time he ever saw knowshon moreno.it was august 2001, and antonucci was given a tip by his defensive coordinator, a teacher at the local middle school, who told the coach he needed to come out and see this eighth-grade wunderkind who was running circles around the competition.

it didn't take him long to start getting excited.

"i remember he was just raving about him. he kept telling me how athletic this kid was," antonucci said. "even back then you could tell knowshon was going to be special. i certainly knew right away that he was going to be a definite asset to our program."

how right he was.

by the time moreno left his home in belford, n.j. for the rolling hills of northeast georgia, he had established himself as the second leading rusher in new jersey high school history (he's since been bumped to third) with 6,268 yards with a middleton south record 128 touchdowns.

georgia fans are now seeing that antonucci first discovered seven years ago: the kid can play.

"coming into the season, i just wanted to do whatever i could to help the team in any way possible," moreno said. "i just wanted to give them a spark here and there."

that spark has turned into a roaring flame.

moreno's 196-yard, three-touchdown effort against the trojans pushed him over the 1,000-yard, becoming just the first freshman since some guy named herschel walker ran for 1,616 yards in 1980.

back home in belford, n.j., mildred mcqueen marvels at what moreno has done.

mcqueen is no ordinary fan.hardly. mcqueen is moreno's grandmother, who raised the precocious youngster and watches with pride the accomplishments he's so far been able to achieve.

it's a resume that keeps growing by the week.

moreno's 80-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against troy not only jumpstarted the bulldog offense, but was the longest run from scrimmage since robert edwards had an 80-yard touchdown against kentucky in 1997.

the 196-yard effort was moreno's third-straight 100-yard effort, the first time a bulldog has done that since smith in 2002. if he can repeat the trick saturday against auburn, he'll be the first since verrnon haynes in 2001 to pass the century mark in four straight weeks.

his three-game total of 541 yards and six touchdowns on 87 carries is the best three-game total by a bulldog since 1992 when garrison hearst collected 590 on 63 carries with five touchdowns against georgia southern, vanderbilt and kentucky.

mcqueen said moreno continues to amaze even her.

"knowshon's always been very talented, but i really didn't expect this (success) to come so quickly," mcqueen said. "naturally, everybody here is thrilled. i just worry how he's going to handle everything that's been put upon him."

moreno smiled when told of his grandmother's concern.

"it's part of the job, i understand that," said the ever-humble moreno. "i know that i've still got a lot of work to do, but i've got great teammates and a great offensive line."

antonucci said that he and moreno have had several conversations about that.

"we've had this conversation from day one in high school, about the potential of what he could be and what he could become," said antonucci, who still talks with moreno regularly. "my concern has always been that he stays grounded and that's why it's been so great to see him be so humble and credit other people. when i talk to him, i do so as a father figure and always hammer him on this. " if not, moreno will have grandma to deal with.

"i'll get on him if he gets out of line," she laughed.

not to worry.

according to bulldog senior fernando velasco, when moreno talks about crediting teammates, it's not just lip service.

he means every word.

"as a lineman, you love to hear that kind of thing," velasco said. "he's always complementing the guys like that. it makes us want to work even harder."

the infectious ways in which moreno plays the game is not hard to miss, either.

the sight of moreno popping up off the ground following a tackle, or watching him sprint out of the lockerroom for pre-game warm-ups is something that's catching on at football fields all across northeast georgia.

during a recent youth league game in nearby oconee county, one youngster did his best moreno imitation by scrambling up off the turf, and running back to huddle before the rest of his teammates arrived.

"i think that's kind of cool," said moreno, when told about the story. "i realize i'm becoming a role mode to a lot of kids, and that's good. i'm not afraid of being that."

mcqueen laughed when told what happened.

"i think that's so sweet," she said. "i just never dreamed that knowshon would have this kind of impact. it really makes you feel good."

moreno laughed when asked about his antics.

"i think i'm hyper," he said.

antonucci said what bulldog fans are seeing in moreno is nothing new. he's playing with this kind of emotion and fervor for a very long time.

"he's done that his whole career. he did it in practice, he did it in games.

he just enjoys playing the game," antonucci said. "football is not a chore for him. he loves being out there, he loves running around. knowshon loves everything about the game. all the times he was running back to the huddle, he was helping to set the tone for our team."

football wasn't moreno's only sport.

like most kids in his neighborhood, moreno played basketball and baseball growing up, although mcqueen admits that baseball was always a "little too slow" for her taste. but that didn't mean that moreno approached that game any different than he does football, or anything else for that matter.

"everything to knowshon is a competition. he needs to be the guy who comes out on top. he's been that way since day one," antonucci said. "he will find a way win."

sec rivals of georgia are finding that out.

saturday against auburn, moreno will try to become the first bulldog to rush for 100 yards in four straight games since 2001. he currently ranks no. 2 in the nation for freshmen in rushing yards per game (111.4), trailing only pittsburgh's lesean mccoy (118.3).

he's already won sec freshman of the week honors three times.

sunday, auburn coach tommy tuberville compared him to former tiger star carnell williams, the sec's 10th all-time leading rusher with 3,831 yards.

"he's been a workhorse," tuberville said of moreno. "he's given them a new lease on life. he's a playmaker. he runs the ball inside and outside a lot like carnell. he's a very tough kid who's going to have a huge future in this league."

mcqueen joked that moreno's growing popularity is making it more difficult to get in touch with her grandson.

"i'm having a harder time getting through to him on his cell phone. his voice mail is always full," laughed mcqueen, who has attended four of her grandson's games oklahoma state, alabama, ole miss and florida.

she plans on traveling to atlanta later this month when the bulldogs play georgia tech.

antonucci and mcqueen aren't the only ones keeping

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when my friend talked about norwood all of the 05 season, i didn't pay much attention. when the falcons drafted him in 06, i said "who?". i couldn't be happier to have him on the team now.

and when he talked about moreno since the beginning of this year, i actually paid attention. one word: stud. he will be a first day nfl draft pick if he keeps up what he's doing.

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when my friend talked about norwood all of the 05 season, i didn't pay much attention. when the falcons drafted him in 06, i said "who?". i couldn't be happier to have him on the team now.

and when he talked about moreno since the beginning of this year, i actually paid attention. one word: stud. he will be a first day nfl draft pick if he keeps up what he's doing.

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when my friend talked about norwood all of the 05 season, i didn't pay much attention. when the falcons drafted him in 06, i said "who?". i couldn't be happier to have him on the team now.

and when he talked about moreno since the beginning of this year, i actually paid attention. one word: stud. he will be a first day nfl draft pick if he keeps up what he's doing.

yep i remember when uga was first going after him and his video was freaking awesome.. i just couldn't wait to see him be the man..

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when my friend talked about norwood all of the 05 season, i didn't pay much attention. when the falcons drafted him in 06, i said "who?". i couldn't be happier to have him on the team now.

and when he talked about moreno since the beginning of this year, i actually paid attention. one word: stud. he will be a first day nfl draft pick if he keeps up what he's doing.

yep i remember when uga was first going after him and his video was freaking awesome.. i just couldn't wait to see him be the man..

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