DALTON, Ga. — Matt Land remembers the moment clearly, and knowing what he knows now, it shouldn't have been so surprising.
The Dalton Catamounts were beginning summer camp at Jacksonville State University three years ago and one player kept catching the coaching staff's attention, though it had nothing to do with any kind of raw physical presence.
"We kept seeing this little 145-pound freshman zipping around making plays like it's nothing," Land recalled. "He made us notice him, and a few weeks later he was starting at linebacker."
Such was the legend of Eder Mora born.
He finished that first season with more than 100 tackles. Today, right at 6-foot and 180 pounds and playing his more natural safety position, the junior is a multiple threat who possesses that rare combination of physical ability, intense competitiveness and intelligence to stay ahead of his opponent.
"In 21 years of coaching, Eder is the most competitive person I've been around in my life," Land said. "I've never seen anyone so conscientious with not only their performance, but the quality of their performance. I mean, Friday night, we were up 49-0 and Eder is in there at halftime upset because he had dropped two interceptions."
Averaging more than a dozen tackles a game, lining up at safety or inside or outside linebacker or even defensive end, Mora does have excellent instincts. But his coach says there's more to his productivity than that.
"That's very easy to say that he's always in the right place at the right time, but I know why he's in that right place," Land said. "He studies film and he watches what goes on out there. He's a very cerebral player. He pays attention to spacing and splits, whether the back is on one side or the other, even when the quarterback places his right hand on top under center or his left hand. It's not luck."
Mora, who is getting interest from universities such as LSU and North Carolina, also is nationally ranked as a top-100 soccer player. He said the correlation between the sports is a simple one for him: Find the ball and go get it.
"You've got to get used to seeing the plays develop in both sports," he said. "Even in soccer, I want to get to the ball at all times, and it's the same way in football. I want the football, so I go after it."
And when he gets there, as Land says, somebody is going go be on the ground.
"Hitting is my biggest thrill in football," Mora said with a smile. "I mean, you can legally hit somebody and it takes all of life's frustrations out of you. When you hear that pop you know it's a good hit. It's the crack when you have that collision, and the best part of it is ending up on top of the other person and seeing that look in their eyes."
Mora, the cousin of former Dalton all-state kicker Adrian Mora, isn't ready to pick a sport for college. He'll worry about that next year, though if he had his wish ...
"I would play both, no question," he said, not joking. "I'll just decide on the best opportunity, but thankfully I don't have to do that right now. I just want to keep helping my team win."
And the legend will continue to grow.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...