Adam Cushing saw an opening and pounced.
The end result of his fast acting and the Eastern Illinois’ staff’s relationship-building skills led to EIU’s National Signing Day addition of Dominic Moore, its most heralded recruit of its 2019 class and the highest-rated player to sign with the Panthers this decade, according to the 247Sports Composite. Moore had four FBS offers, including Illinois, but chose to head to Charleston.
“He’s a special individual, certainly, talent-wise,” Cushing said Wednesday.
The real story, though, is how exactly he and his staff pulled it off in just over a month.
Moore, a three-star defensive lineman at Chicago’s Perspectives Charter School, became the first athlete from the school to receive a Division I offer since NBA All-Star Anthony Davis. By the end of his senior season, he accumulated FBS offers from Central Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico and Wyoming. He had visited the Illini for a game and also tripped to CMU.
When Cushing became EIU’s head coach on Dec. 9 and began assembling a staff, Moore was soon brought to his attention from a couple connections he has at Perspectives.
“There were three or four points of contact there that told us his process wasn’t done yet and that there was work to be done,” Cushing said.
Cushing has a long-standing relationship with head coach Terry Jones. Additionally, he knew Perspectives assistant Craig Knoche from Knoche’s time as a University of Chicago assistant. They told him that Moore’s recruitment was still open and EIU could slide in and enter the picture, even with less than two months left until signing day.
“Their ability to say to us that he’s open to it and their ability to speak to the character of the staff I think matters a lot when you’re in that type of situation where it’s just building a relationship in a 30 or so day matter of time,” Cushing said.
“I think it really came down to the people.”
EIU set out quickly to start that work. Quarterbacks coach Chris Batti was the first to reach out to Moore, though Cushing and defensive coordinator Chris Bowers did most of the work in diving deep into building a relationship with Moore and his mother, Denise. They determined he was an easy fit. Moore, meanwhile, liked the new staff’s energy and younger makeup. On Jan. 22, Bowers drove to Chicago to conduct an in-home visit with the family for over an hour.
“He’s an electric man,” Moore said. “Without football, that’s a great guy. Overall, I was impressed.”
Moore announced he had received an EIU offer that day. He took an official visit to EIU from Feb. 1-2. While there, he met with current players, spent more time with the coaching staff and, before leaving, gave EIU his verbal commitment.
“I told them I’m happy to be a Panther and couldn’t wait,” Moore said.
Moore said Central Michigan and Wyoming had stopped recruiting him. Illinois and New Mexico, though, continued to stay in touch. He said EIU’s FCS affiliation never mattered to him when compared to FBS opportunities.
“I’m trying to play Division I football at whatever level I can,” Moore said. “I don’t really think of FBS vs. FCS. I really didn’t care about it.”