There is a lot to know about Curtis “Moody” McNeal. And all of it is important. The 1,000-yard rusher is currently the backbone of the Trojans’ run game.
Let’s break it down:
- Career stats: 151 carries, 1,038 yards and six touchdowns
- 2011 stats: 145 carries, 1,005 yards and six touchdowns
Notice anything? Most of the upcoming senior’s production was logged last year. He was sort of a non-factor, another name on the mile-long list of USC tailbacks, until something happened last season.
That something was more a series of events than a one-time epiphany.
The boy called Moody (because, quite frankly, he was pretty moody) grew up in the Pueblo del Rio housing project in South Los Angeles. It had much of what you would think a housing project would have—the things you don’t like to think or talk about—but it also had McNeal’s sister working to make sure that the rest of her siblings were fed and safe.
McNeal's sister, who raised the family after their father suffered a stroke, made sure to send him to a magnet school away from most of the trouble.
His friends looked after him, too, because they knew he had a future the rest of them didn’t. But some doubted that 5’7” tailback could make it to a place like USC.
Not only did he make it, he contributed a little.
But then things changed. Like the coaching staff. And the structure.
And his mood.
Maybe USC wasn’t for him?
By January of 2010, he had struggled academically and now was struggling with almost a complete upheaval of the program. So he talked to Lane Kiffin. And Kiffin talked right back. It didn’t fix everything overnight, but sure enough, Moody came around, and so did his grades.
Fast forward to 2011, when his game decided to make an appearance.
In a single season, he went from just another name on a list, to starter, to 1,000--yard rusher. Alright, maybe it didn’t happen in a single season, but 2011 was surely the catalyst that got this young man to where he is right now—on the verge of history.
This season is going to be difficult. He knows he has to stay healthy and make sure what some would call his “undersized” body doesn’t take too much of a beating. He hasn’t actually had a full season as the starting tailback, so no one really knows if this is possible.
McNeal has a target on his back. The element of surprise is gone. People know he’s fast, evasive, determined and nearly impossible to tackle on some days. Every defense USC sees is going to try to be prepared for that.
But he seems like the type of kid who is up for an extra challenge. You could even say he’s "in the mood" for it.