Super Bowl a happy homecoming for Broncos' Moreno

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 28, 2014 at 2:42 am •  Published: January 28, 2014

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Knowshon Moreno still cherishes the weekly phone calls and texts from his high school coach.

After all, they've helped the Denver Broncos running back through some tough times and celebrated great moments in the years since he graduated from New Jersey's Middletown South High School. There have been plenty of both for Moreno, who is back home this week and preparing for the biggest game of his life.

And, of course, he can count on hearing from Steve Antonucci. Just like always.

"I told him from the moment he graduated from high school that I didn't care if he carried the football or not," said Antonucci, who won three state titles with Moreno setting records in his backfield. "I told him, 'I'm always going to be here. I'm not just your coach. I'm your friend.' He's always come to me.

"He's as much a part of my family as anybody."

Moreno, who was in and out of shelters and apartments with his father as a youngster, moved to the town of Belford in New Jersey with his maternal grandmother Mildred McQueen when he was 11. She raised him through his formative years, and did all she could to steer him in a positive direction.

By the time he got to high school, Moreno had dealt with more adversity than many adults. It's a journey upon which he reflects before every game, usually during the national anthem, and usually accompanied by tears — a pregame ritual that became a hot topic when TV cameras caught him crying before a game last month.

"It made me into the person that I am today," Moreno said Monday. "Just learning from my experiences, going in and out of doing what I was doing, shelters and things like that, that's part of life. Everyone goes through different things. It's how you battle back from that and see the positive in all the negative.

"I think I did a good job of that."

Moreno graduated from Middletown South as New Jersey's career leader in total touchdowns (128) and scoring (782 points). He also ranked second in state history with 6,268 career yards rushing and established himself as one of the country's most gifted football players.

"When I tell you that he was an ultra-competitor, he really was one," Antonucci said. "It didn't matter what game he was playing or what he was doing. He had to win. Just had to. He would compete at chess or volleyball or a bike race, or we'd play golf sometimes and it would become a competition."

Moreno followed that up with a terrific career at the University of Georgia, where he rushed for 2,734 yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons after redshirting as a freshman.

"When you watched him playing high school football games, you saw how dominant he was and the way he took games over," Antonucci said. "When he decided to go to Georgia and made that decision, what really stood out to me was he dominated the SEC for two years. When you talk to people about SEC football, they say it's the next-closest thing to the NFL."

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