Of all the recruiting tricks Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh has up his sleeve, just one involves grabbing a baseball bat from the back of his office and showing off his swing.
Hey, it worked on R.J. Moten.
Moten is a special case. The Delran High senior is the son of a former Eagles linebacker and a two-sport star who is determined to play football and baseball at the college level.
That was fine with Harbaugh, who told Moten during a recruiting visit that he could roam the outfield for the baseball team in the spring after spending his fall on the football field for the Wolverines.
“He said straight up, ‘You can play both,’ and then went in the back room and grabbed his bat and started swinging,” Moten said.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Moten has 31 scholarship offers. He committed to Michigan in late July after narrowing his choices to 10 schools, including Notre Dame, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State, Maryland, Kentucky, Pitt, Rutgers and Purdue.
“I went there and I just knew it was right for me,” Moten said of Michigan. “It felt like home.”
Ron Moten, who played at the University of Florida, was a sixth-round draft choice by the Eagles in 1987, the same year the team took Jerome Brown with its first pick. Moten’s NFL career ended in 1991, thanks to injuries to both knees.
After football, Ron Moten slept on a friend’s couch and worked low-paying jobs for a couple of years. He enrolled at Rutgers-Camden, earned a degree in psychology, joined the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office as an intern, and steadily rose through the ranks to chief of detectives before retiring last year.
“His story is different,” R.J. Moten said of his father. “He tore up both knees and ended up homeless, basically. He’s taught me my whole life to be humble and be thankful for the people around you.”
Ron Moten accompanied his son on recruiting visits to Penn State, Pitt, Boston College, and Michigan.
"We’re just so fortunate,” Ron Moten said. "I’ve told R.J. so many times that there are so many kids in the country who haven’t been blessed with the talent you have, or the opportunities that you’ve had.
“It’s important for him to understand that.”
R.J. Moten has been a two-way star on the football field. Last season, he rushed for 1,306 yards with 20 total touchdowns and had five interceptions for a team that went 8-2. He also threw a pair of touchdown passes.
“He can throw it,” Delran coach Garrett Lucas said. “He plays all over, backfield, slot receiver, flexed all the way out. We need him to get the ball.”
Offensive coordinator Frank Holmes, a longtime health and physical education teacher at the school in Burlington County, said Moten is the best athlete to attend Delran since Team USA soccer star Carli Lloyd, who graduated in 2000.
In baseball, Moten is a two-time, first-team All-South Jersey selection by The Inquirer. He batted .514 as a sophomore and .508 with six home runs in 23 games as a junior and played center field for Burlington County’s Carpenter Cup-winning team in June at Citizens Bank Park.
Moten said he has played football and baseball for most of his life. He is reluctant to give up either sport.
“Without one of the two, I would feel empty or not complete,” Moten said.
Ron Moten said R.J. Moten told him his friends compare him to Bo Jackson, who played football and baseball at Auburn and also at the professional level.
“I tell him, ‘I played against Bo Jackson. Son, you’re not Bo Jackson,’ ” Ron Moten said with a laugh.
R.J. Moten said he often is asked if he prefers one sport over the other.
“Whatever I’m playing, I love the best,” Moten said. “I like football because you can hit kids, but then I like hitting home runs and diving all over the place. I guess you could say I love them both.”
With his speed and power on the baseball field, Moten projects as a possible early-round choice in the major-league draft next June.
“I talked to Michigan about that, and they understand,” Moten said. “If it’s big [early-round signing bonus], I would probably go, but I really want to experience college football.”