It wasn’t long ago Ieremia Moore traded rugby boots for a football helmet – now he has earned a full-scholarship to a top US college.

Two years ago, Ieremia Moore was playing rugby on a paddock in Hamilton with his mates and had loose dreams of playing representative rugby.
On Monday, the Porirua-born 18-year-old announced his commitment to attend the University of California, Berkeleys football program on a full scholarship.
Its a big step, but at six-foot-three and 122kg Moore has never treaded lightly. In the 16 months hes been stateside, hes had to learn a new game, make new friends and assimilate into a new culture.
But so far he has excelled, forcing his way on to the radar of scouts from universities across the country. He was named the Defensive Line MVP at the SoCal National Preps Showcase in November last year, and came out of high school with a three-star (out of five) rating.
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All made more impressive by the small, but not insignificant, technicality that he has never played an organised game of American football in the US.
Dont get me wrong, I love rugby, but everything felt right, it felt like this was my calling, Moore said.
Theres no firmly established pipeline for young players from New Zealand, so those who have made it have often had to forge their own path.
Moore was set on that path in 2019 by some Mormon missionaries from the US who spotted him at a small football camp in the Waikato. They told him he had the skills needed to succeed on the gridiron, but would have to move to the US to chase that dream. In September of that year he made the move.
He was ineligible to play for his first 365 days in the US, because his parents were not able to accompany him. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit and it became evident he wouldnt get out on field at high school level.
Yet coaches at UC Berkeley saw enough in him both athletically, academically and personally to hand him a full-ride scholarship. Its nothing to sniff at in a sport where every metric is measured to the decimal place. And with his combination of size, speed, agility and endurance his natural gifts were too much for coaches to pass up.
Theyve also been spurred on by his natural aptitude for the sport.
Ieremia Tui, one of his high school coaches, said in an interview with Bear Sports in the US that Moore was a clean slate with no bad habits for his new coaches to mould.
He took everything in that we taught and from other coaches and just honed it and developed it, Tui said.
In one year of learning the game, hes taken three years of learning … and compiled it into one.
Ieremia Moore at training at St John Bosco High School.
But that doesn’t surprise his mum Soteria, who instilled a strong work ethic and self belief in her son from an early age. Yes, there is respect and humility, but then theres also your voice making sure you’re heard, she told Stuff. You need to teach kids to question and to believe in their own voice and their own convictions.
That voice and self-belief was evident when Moore popped up on TVNZs Breakfastthis week and proclaimed to a national audience that he not only wanted to play in the NFL, but wanted to make it to the Hall of Fame the sports top echelon of players. Unlike the usual deference and embarrassed humility that many kiwi teens harbour, Moore has a firm belief in his ability to reach his goals.
Working for it isnt the hard part, Ive always had a good head on my shoulders, so I just put my head down and worked hard, Moore told Stuff. It was 9.30pm in Los Angeles at the time, and he had just returned home from his third training of the day.
But the training is only part of his commitment. In his senior year he has maintained a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) thats the equivalent to an A or above- to make sure he ticked all the boxes.
When he first arrived, the grading system was a bit of a shock, with every small test or quiz contributing to his GPA. It left him sitting on a B average at first. That wasnt good enough in my eyes, so I really had to put in the work to get it up to where I wanted it.
Nathan Chapman trains players at Prokick Australia.
Its determination and strength of character that many coaches look for in those they recruit, Pro Kick Australias Nathan Chapman told Stuff. He runs a recruitment academy out of Melbourne, Australia, where he has helped more than 150 hopefuls get scholarships to US colleges.
Chapman said there was knack to creating a real package to make it enticing for the colleges to decide to put money into recruits.
You dont just get the scholarship because youre big and strong, you get it because youre big and strong and have the grades to go, Chapman said.
And Moore has needed that strength of character as he has had to navigate the pandemic in one of the most Covid-ravaged cities in the US. In LA, someone is contracting the virus about every six seconds and around one in every 17 people is suspected of being infectious. Moore has managed to steer clear of the virus so far, but thats because he’s barely been in contact with other students.
He hasnt been physically at school since April last year and has had to do all his schoolwork online.
The isolation has been tough, especially since he hasnt been able to come home to New Zealand since he left.
I miss the freedom [of New Zealand], he said. We don’t even have that right now and its a bit of a bummer.
I miss my family, I miss my friends. I miss my steak and cheese pies, I miss peanut slabs.
But Im blessed and Im just happy to be doing what Im doing and to be alive.