Steve Bynum’s first year at Quitman was Tarvarius Moore’s ninth-grade year, and it didn’t take long for the young defensive back to make an impression.
“I remember telling everyone that first year that I was going to start him at corner because he had unbelievable speed, great feet and hips,” Bynum recalled. “He started four years for us in the secondary, so it didn’t take long. He was one of those kids that you looked at immediately and knew he had something special about him.”
After Moore graduated from Quitman in 2014, he played two seasons at Pearl River Community College and two years at Southern Miss before being drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He and San Fransisco will take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV Sunday evening in Miami.
Bynum, who is now defensive coordinator at Petal, said Moore wasn’t merely a gifted athlete when he trained him as head coach of Quitman’s football team. He was also one of the smartest players on the field, and that contributed heavily to his production.
“His junior and senior year he probably led us in tackles at the safety position,” Bynum said. “I remember third round of the playoffs his senior year, we were playing Purvis, and they were driving down the field on us with an extremely good field goal kicker.”
That was in the second round of the Class 4A postseason, and the Panthers were holding onto a 14-13 lead. Moore made a play that would forever remain in Bynum’s memory, and it’s a play he said encapsulated Moore’s value to the team.
“They had used all their timeouts and were probably 10 to 15 yards from their kicker’s range,” Bynum said. “They threw a quick out, and Tarvarius pulled the guy down inside the playing surface so he couldn’t get to the sideline and stop the clock — and that was a huge kid (Moore tackled). They ran out of time, and it was just a heads-up play of him knowing the situation.”
Moore has played in 16 games for the 49ers this season and started in three of them. He enters the Super Bowl with 16 total tackles, nine assisted tackles and three pass deflections. Bynum said he’s kept up with Moore throughout the season, though his former player did help break his heart several weeks back when the 49ers beat the Saints 48-46 in Week 14. Bynum is a Saints fan and was in attendance in New Orleans, and Moore made yet another head’s up play that stood out to Bynum.
“New Orleans tried to take a punt, and Tarvarius planted the guy out of bounds,” Bynum said. “Everyone around me wanted a flag, but the rule is that he’s not considered a regular receiver. That tells you how smart he is. He just understands the game. I remember watching that game and laughing at all those commentators because they wanted pass interference.”
Seeing Moore have success at the professional level makes Bynum swell up with pride, he said.
“For a kid to come from a small town in rural Mississippi like that and get four years of an education paid for and play in the Division I scene, and then get drafted and play for the Niners, it’s special,” Bynum said. “It makes the whole community swell up with pride like when (former NBA forward) Antonio McDyess came through. I 100 percent believe he’s going to get better as he continues to play.”
Moore is listed at second on the depth chart behind starting free safety Jimmie Ward, and Bynum said playing alongside guys like cornerback Richard Sherman will go a long way in his development.
“I know what kind of person Tarvarius is, and whatever work ethic that’s made Sherman so good, Tarvarius is soaking every bit of that up right now. I firmly believe in a year or two he’ll be the starting safety or at least the starting nickleback in the 49ers’ defense.”
Kickoff is slated for 5:30 p.m. Sunday in Miami.