Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018
Before Sunday, Mo Alie-Cox couldn’t tell you the last time he scored a touchdown. He knows it wasn’t a reception.
“I don't think I ever caught a touchdown pass before actually,” Alie-Cox, the Indianapolis Colts tight end, said Tuesday. “One year, maybe seventh or eighth grade, I played H-back, so I had a rushing touchdown but never a receiving touchdown.”
His first NFL score — a leaping, one-handed grab in the Colts’ 42-28 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday — likely will be easier to remember.
“Oh, definitely. I’ll probably never forget this one,” he said. “This will stick with me for a long time, especially the type of pass I caught.”
Alie-Cox’s path to the NFL has been widely chronicled: He stopped playing organized football at 14 to focus on basketball, and eventually earned a scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University, where he played from 2013-17. His 6-foot-5 frame and 7-foot-1 wingspan drew the attention of NFL teams, and he signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent in April 2017.
His touchdown Sunday came on the game’s opening drive. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed three straight passes to move Indianapolis into Oakland territory, and a trio of rushes by running backs Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins put the Colts on the 26. On first-and-10, Luck faked a handoff to Mack, looked downfield toward Alie-Cox and tight end Jack Doyle, and lofted a pass for Alie-Cox, running toward the front left corner of the end zone.
“The play is for [Jack] to get open but there’s probably a chance I will get open also,” Alie-Cox said. “I had one-on-one over the top and when I stuck my foot in the ground [to break] I created a little bit of separation and it was just enough for Andrew to get the ball over the top. I just went up and tried to make a play on the ball.”
Alie-Cox, one of the Atlantic 10’s most athletic post players while at VCU, left his feet, rotated in the air and wrapped his big right hand around the nose of the ball before stumbling into the end zone for his first professional score.
“I was going to try and get two [hands] up, but my shoulder pads are kind of bulky so I don't know — if I went up with two I don't think I would have gotten it,” Alie-Cox said. “I just tried to get my hand up there. Once it touched my hand, I knew I had it; I just didn't know I scored a touchdown. We're playing on the road, it got dead silent.
“I got up and I was like, ‘Dang, I’m in the end zone.’”
It was a highlight-reel play, said Colts tight ends coach Tom Manning, and even drew comparisons to another famous one-handed touchdown catch by New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014.
“Mo came to the sideline and I said, ‘I don’t think you realize what you just did,’” Manning said. “It was something special. What stood out to me on that play was the amount of body control that it took. He just made an incredible play on the football.”
Just like that, Mo Alie-Cox was a household name in the NFL.
“Andrew put the ball in there, and I’m like, ‘Damn!’” Colts tight end Eric Ebron told the Indianapolis Star. “Next thing I see is Mo’s Giganticasauarus Rex arm come out of nowhere and grab that thing!”
Twitter, predictably, went nuts. The editors at Ram Nation, a fan-run VCU basketball news site, created a photo illustration comparing the catch to Alie-Cox’s VCU playing days.
“It's been crazy on social media,” Alie-Cox said, laughing. “NFL page posted it, then Randy Moss on Monday Night Football, ‘You Got Mossed.’ He was my favorite player growing up. He’s the reason I wear No. 81. It was like, ‘Wow, Randy Moss noticed it.’ I didn’t even play football in college.”
Alie-Cox is believed to be the first VCU graduate to appear in an NFL game. He has four receptions thus far during his rookie season, a year in which he has shuttled between the Colts practice squad and the active roster. He caught his first career pass Sept. 30 against the Houston Texans and had two receptions for 41 yards in games earlier this month against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
All that was prelude to Sunday, and a touchdown catch for the memory books.
“It’s a moment I’ll treasure,” Alie-Cox said. “Hopefully it’s the start of something great.”