HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Zack Moss is closing in on Utah football history. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound senior is just 569 yards away from surpassing Eddie Johnson as the program’s all-time leading rusher. He’s also in position to become the first Ute to rush for 1,000 yards in three seasons, something he can do in consecutive years if all goes well this fall.
Not everything, though, has gone smoothly for Moss. Days before Utah’s 32-25 win over Oregon last November, he aggravated a pre-existing knee issue getting into bed.
“I got stuck pretty much. It locked up and I couldn’t move it,” Moss said. “It was bent at like a 90-degree angle.”
The situation left no doubt that something was wrong. Although it had happened three or four times earlier in the year — including twice in games and a couple of times in practice — this one was different. It didn’t release itself after two or three minutes like the previous times.
There was no pain, just a knee that was locked up. His girlfriend took him to the hospital that evening, where he checked in around 3 a.m.
“Once I realized, I was like, all right I’ve got to do something about this because I’m not going to be able to go to sleep like this,” Moss recalled. “It won’t release through the night.”
Moss noted that the injury, which wound up sidelining him for the rest of the 2018 season, definitely put things in perspective.
“When you can’t do something any more you realize that you were very fortunate to be able to do those things,” he explained. “When I have a chance to get back out there on the field I’m going to take it a lot more seriously and differently than I did the last few years.”
So much so, in fact, that Moss is vowing to take a “first time like I ever played the game” approach.
When you see something like this you don’t pass up on it. I mean, you can go to the NFL, you can make millions, and that’s going to be there. But having a chance to go win a Pac-12 championship, win a Rose Bowl, have a chance at the College Football Playoffs, it’s not going to always be there. – Utah senior running back Zack Moss
Although Moss had an opportunity to pursue an NFL career, he ultimately opted to come back to Utah for his senior season. He noted it was a combination of things that factored into his decision.
“School was definitely one thing that was very important that I believe needed to be done at the end of the day,” said the communication major, who is scheduled to graduate in December.
The team, he added, was also a reason for his return. Utah won the Pac-12 South for the first time last season and reached the conference championship game, losing to Washington 10-3.
The latter didn’t sit well with Moss and the Utes. They’re confident the program has something “very, very special.” The Pac-12 media agreed, picking Utah to win the division and conference title in its annual preseason poll.
“When you see something like this you don’t pass up on it. I mean, you can go to the NFL, you can make millions, and that’s going to be there,” Moss said. “But having a chance to go win a Pac-12 championship, win a Rose Bowl, have a chance at the College Football Playoffs, it’s not going to always be there.”
The experience, he acknowledged, is even more special since he’s joined by a couple of friends from back home in Florida — quarterback Tyler Huntley and wide receiver Demari Simpkins.
“Being able to do another year with those guys is very special,” said Moss, who also expressed gratitude to be with the entire team again — especially the 2016 group.
“I think our class is one of the best classes that Utah has every had in my eye, just because of the things and the talent we have,” Moss said while reeling off several names.
Personally, Moss is eager to leave his mark. Team goals are his primary focus, but he also has an appreciation for individual accolades.
“If we accomplish the things that we need to accomplish as a team I already know that all those personal goals will fall right underneath that,” Moss said. “So I don’t put those above my team goals.”
He’s a very determined kid and if he has the type of year that we hope he has, he’ll leave here hands-down as the leading rusher in Utah football history. That says a lot. – Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, on Zack Moss
In 32 career games with Utah, Moss has rushed for 2,651 yards and 23 touchdowns on 477 attempts. He’s averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
“He’s a very determined kid and if he has the type of year that we hope he has, he’ll leave here hands-down as the leading rusher in Utah football history. That says a lot,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We’ve had some good runners come through here. For him to be able to have the chance to be the most productive of all of them, that speaks very highly of him.”
Besides Johnson, who ran for a school-record 3,219 yards from 1984-88, Moss is closing down on the next two guys on the list — Tony Lindsay (2,995 yards from 1977-80) and Devontae Booker (2,773 yards from 2014-15).
“I definitely want to put name in the record book and etch my name into history at the university and be remembered,” said Moss, who also has his eye on single game and single season marks. “So that one day, when I bring my kids back, I can show them what I was able to accomplish here.”
Utah football all-time rushing leaders
3,219 — Eddie Johnson, 1984-88
2,995 — Tony Lindsay, 1977-80
2,773 — Devontae Booker, 2014-15
2,651 — ZACK MOSS, 2016-present