Ardmore native Jeff Moser earns a spot in Southeastern Athletics Hall of Fame
Jeff Moser knows football.
More specifically, he knows how to succeed on a football field.
Despite not fitting the bill of an imposing prototypical quarterback, he possessed that “It factor,” and he had it in surplus.
Before he ever stepped on campus at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, he was slinging the ball around for Ardmore High School where he helped guide the Tigers to a 5A State Championship as a senior in 1992.
“Going through Ardmore in that time was a special time for athletes,” Moser said. “Athletics in small towns in Oklahoma is a big deal. That’s all we did. That’s how we lived.”
He shared the field that season with a handful of athletes who would continue their playing careers collegiately, including some that would move on to the Division I level.
"We had eight or nine guys go play college football off that team," Moser said of his senior class. "And there were a handful of them that went DI that were just exceptional athletes. Some that could have went and played but didn't. But there was not a specialty position on the field that didn't have an exceptional player in it.”
But despite quarterbacking a powerhouse team to a state title, Moser did not receive the same level of interest to play collegiately.
"There were lots of DI coaches coming through for a number of players on that team," he added. "I was not a highly recruited kid at all. I don't fit the mold for the 6-1, 220-pound quarterback. I didn't throw it 70 yards down field. And honestly, I wasn't really fast. There were a lot of boxes that I did not check.
“I didn't have any high expectations for post high school, high-level DI type football," he continued. "I felt fortunate to be recruited by not only Southeastern, but I did talk to East Central a little bit, as well. And those were my two schools, and that was it. Coming out of Ardmore and going to Southeastern, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t have the mindset that I was going to be the guy as soon as I showed up. I just wanted to go play.”
Southeastern provided that opportunity to play and it didn’t take long for Moser to show why he always found success, even if the coaching staff didn’t expect it to happen.
"He said he didn't have a lot of high expectations, and I would echo that on our side," said current Director of Athletics Keith Baxter, who served as the offensive coordinator during Moser's tenure at quarterback. “I don't think we had a lot of high expectations for him to come in and step in, but we had some situations that occurred over the offseason. And I do remember this, and I won't take credit for one pass he threw, or one play Jeff made during his great career here. But, I will say, I remember coming into the coach's office after one of the first practices and I said 'That guy from Ardmore, there's something special about him. He's got a knack. He's got, as coaches say, that it.' And just the way he handled himself. The way he adjusted to what we were doing.”
Southeastern opened the 1993 season 1-1 with a pair of close contests against Arkansas Tech and Langston.
Facing another tight matchup in week three, the Savages would find themselves turning to a true freshman quarterback as Moser came in to take the snaps following an injury to the starter.
Unfortunately, this was not the movies and Southeastern would drop that contest 21-12.
The next week was not much better as he took over starting duties in a 21-7 loss to Southern Arkansas.
But then it started to click.
In week five of the season, Southeastern would down Ouachita Baptist 34-29 and go on to close out the season winning five of their last six with Moser under center leading the way.
The crown jewel of that season would be the final contest when the Savages would hand East Central a 28-14 loss, claiming not only bragging rights in the long-time series, but also claiming an edge on the eventual NAIA National Champion in 1993 as the Tigers would win the title that season, despite the Savages getting the better of them to end the year.
"We handed them that loss," Moser said. "And they did it to us later to hurt us. I think, for me, I always knew that I just had to do what I needed to do in order to execute the simple things, in order to be successful. That's how I played the game. It was always get a little here, get a little there, and play the game smart. As a quarterback, I learned to block out the crowd."
That set the stage for a big 1994 season.
That squad would post an 8-2 record suffering a narrow loss to Ouachita Baptist and a loss at the hands of the eventual national champion in Northeastern State.
But that season also featured a 30-29 revenge win for Moser over Harding following the freshman year loss in his first appearance.
It also had another thrilling 34-28 win over rival East Central to close out the season.
And while that season did not end in the playoffs as had been the goal, it was punctuated by Southeastern's second trip to the Aztec Bowl.
In 1989 and then 1994, SE earned berths and would hop on a plane, many players making their first flights ever, and fly to Mexico City to take on a Mexican All-Star team.
"It was an experience for sure," Moser said of the trip. "A fun one. But I don't know if you've ever been to Mexico City, on an airplane, with a whole group of people, but it is absolute chaos. Everything about it. We show up and they treat us like we're NFL players. Earnest [Hunter] was with us that year, and they all knew about Earnest. We're in the airport, and they've got signs for Earnest Hunter. You would have thought he was leading the NFL in rushing. It was a lot of fun. They treated us great. We got on the field and I would say there were probably 30 thousand people. It's a big deal down there."
Southeastern would play the Mexican All-Stars to a 24-24 tie that season.
A year later, as a junior, with Hunter gone from the back field, the game returned to the air as Moser would put together his biggest passing season of his career.
Over the 1995 season he would piece together a 2,814 yard passing season which still ranks as the fifth best single season in Southeastern history, and was the second-best mark ever when his set it. It would stay in second for 19 seasons.
The squad would finish that 1995 season at 7-4, despite big wins over national contenders Northeastern State and Southwestern Oklahoma State.
While the season ended after the regular season, the work Moser had been putting in would not be missed as he took home NAIA All-American honors for the 1995 season.
"I never saw that coming," Moser said of the award. "We got on the field and did what we did. I don't really know who I was up against and it's one of those things I never really thought about. I just got out there and played. Some of that stuff came, and yeah it's fantastic and it's nice to see now, but in the moment, you just get out there and play and do your thing. There were a lot of good athletes out there, so it's an honor to be included in something like that as well."
It was that "do your thing" attitude that likely helped him not only excel personally, but lead the way during one of the most talented eras of Southeastern football.
He owns the career passing record with 7,969 yards, and both the career passing attempts and completions mark.
Moser was a 1995 All-American and earned all Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference honors three times, and as a starter for the Savages he would win nearly 70 percent of his games.
Over his four seasons he would share the field with 10 other players who would earn All-American honors, including two, Jonathon Polson and Pete Spratt, who are joining him in the 2021 Hall of Fame Induction Class.
That number nearly triples when listing players who earned All-OIC recognition.
Putting together four-straight winning seasons, and maybe best of all, owning rival East Central to the tune of a 3-1 record over those seasons.
And while he may not have been hotly recruited and his expectations may have been low despite his high school success, Moser clearly had the mindset and approach to the game to be the right quarterback at the right time to lead that talented group of Savage football players.