Dual Threat: a Q&A with Delran two-sport star R.J. Moten

Moten can supply power from the mound, at the plate, and on both sides of the ball on the gridiron. Could he possibly play both baseball and football at a Division-I college?

R.J. Moten, a junior, has his sights set on playing both baseball and football at a Division-I college. Mission impossible? Not if you know Moten. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

It’s a baseball cliche, but sometimes cliches exist for a reason: the sound of ball meeting bat is just different for certain players.

For a moment, a reporter had his head down during the action at Triton High School in Runnemede for the first round of the Diamond Classic on a recent afternoon, with the Mustangs hosting Delran High School. Perhaps he was checking his notes, his phone, or the photos on his camera.

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But he was suddenly brought to attention. THHHW-WAAAAAACK!

The ball probably traveled over 300 feet before it found a place in the center fielder’s glove, but R.J. Moten had supplied plenty of power behind his swing.

It’s the same power he delivers on the mound when he’s pitching, and that he uses to issue bruise-inducing tackles as one of New Jersey’s top safeties in football, and that he takes advantage of to break through tackles on the offensive side of the gridiron, too.

Moten, a junior, has his sights set on playing both baseball and football at a Division-I college. Mission impossible? Not if you know Moten.

“R.J.’s a different kid,” Delran baseball coach Jim Goodwin said. “When he gets done baseball practice, he’s in the weight room. Then he’s doing something for football. Then he’s doing something for baseball at night. Then he does his schoolwork. He’s a 4.0 student.

“That’s the type of kid (he is), you need to have that level head to be able to manage your time, and he has that. And he has that drive that no one can tell him he can’t do something. Whether it’s long nights in the library or early morning practices, he’s going to get it done. I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Moten spoke with South Jersey Sports Weekly following a 3-1 loss to Triton.

Delran High School junior R.J. Moten warms up under the watchful eye of coach Jim Goodwin before a game at Triton. In addition to pitching, Moten is a star center fielder for the Bears. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

South Jersey Sports Weekly: I feel like every day I’m seeing on social media that you’re getting an offer from someone. UPenn, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Cincinnati, Michigan, West Virginia, Purdue, Richmond, Virginia Tech, Yale. Who am I leaving out?

R.J. Moten: Kentucky, Boston College, Rutgers, Syracuse, Buffalo. Tulane, Temple. There are more, but I’m forgetting.

SJSW: What has this process been like, to have that much interest, with what seems like any option you’d like? Has it been fun, nerve-wracking, a little bit of both?

Moten: I mean I’m just blessed, that’s all it is. My dad was in this position (30 years ago), so I’m just blessed, I’m taking it one day at a time, I’m narrowing my schools down. I’m just visiting schools, seeing who is best for me, you know?

SJSW: Right. I know your dad (Ron Moten) played with the Eagles. Where did he play in college?

Moten: Florida.

SJSW: Is that a school on your radar?

Moten: I mean, I just got Kentucky before (this game), shoot.

SJSW: So SEC schools are interested.

Moten: Yeah.

SJSW: I know you want to play both sports. In this day in age that sounds challenging, especially at Division-I, where one sport is like having a full-time job on top of classes. What makes you think you can make it work?

Moten: Playing sports for me right now is a full-time job besides school, so, it’s part of my life. If I’m not at school, I’m doing something with sports. If I’m not hanging with my girlfriend, I’m doing something for sports. Every day I’m doing something to get myself better.

SJSW: What’s your favorite thing to do on a baseball field? Playing center, pitching, running the bases, hitting?

Moten: Just playing, being out here with my teammates. That’s it, really. Not only the game itself, but I have a great group of teammates here supporting me. So just playing every day, coming to practice.

Moten claps his hands at second base, cheering on a teammate. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

SJSW: I saw Yale and UPenn are among your schools, so I’m assuming you do pretty well in classes? Is that something you take pride in?

Moten: Yeah. Definitely. My mom (Pat Brown) is a teacher, she teaches social studies so she’s always pushing school and pushing me. I can’t have lower than an 85 on my report card. School is a big part of my life.

SJSW: What kind of advice has your dad given you?

Moten: That it’s a good stress. He always tells me that it’s a good stress, to be happy you’re in the position you are. Some kids would die for all of these offers. So at the end of the day, it’s where I’m going to school, who I’m playing for, whatever school feels best. So I’ll always have the last say.

SJSW: What’s your third favorite sport?

Moten: [Laughs]. Probably lacrosse. My little sister (Madison) plays lacrosse, she’s highly ranked. And my girlfriend plays lacrosse.

SJSW: If push comes to shove with baseball vs. football, are you ready to consider that?

Moten: No, not at all.

SJSW: I read Richmond is offering both …

Moten: There are a bunch of schools that are saying I can do both. Duke, Pitt, Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota.

SJSW: Who is your favorite athlete in South Jersey to watch?

Moten: Baseball or football?

SJSW: Sure, or basketball, any sport. It can be any athlete you admire.

Moten: I’d have to go with Nick Senior from Bishop Eustace.

Moten is the rare two-sport athlete who is talented enough that Division-I schools (including Duke, Michigan, and Pittsburgh) are offering him the opportunity to play football and baseball in college. Moten profiles as a college center fielder and free safety. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

SJSW: Favorite pro athlete?

Moten: Jalen Mills.

SJSW: Favorite college athlete?

Moten: He’s not in college anymore but Marcus Allen from Penn State, he’s now with the Steelers.

SJSW: Delran has a strong baseball history. What’s it like to be a part of that?

Moten: It’s a blessing, playing for one of the best baseball teams I think in South Jersey. I think we can hang with anyone, no matter where you’re from, how hard of a team it is, we’re always down for a challenge.

SJSW: Who would you consider your funniest teammate?

Moten: Probably Nyon Barnes.

SJSW: How about smartest teammate?

Moten: Probably Alex Madera, he got a 1350 on SAT, something like that.

SJSW: OK, finish this sentence. In December of 2022, R.J. Moten’s name will be in a headline for a story about  __________.

Moten: Playing college football, winning the Heisman trophy.

SJSW: That’s pretty bold. I like that.

Favorite TV show?

Moten: “Martin.”

SJSW: Favorite movie?

Moten: Probably “The End Game,” I just saw it yesterday with my girlfriend. 

(RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)
Ryan is a veteran journalist of 20 years. He’s worked at the Courier-Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Delaware County Daily Times, primarily as a sportswriter, and is currently a sports editor at Newspaper Media Group and an adjunct journalism instructor at Rowan University.
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