IRVING, Texas – Some players on the verge of making their first start might try the "play it cool" approach when asked about nerves or excitement.
Oftentimes, they'll give you the "it's just another start" mentality. Well, Kellen Moore knows he can't exactly play that card for one obvious reason.
"It's not another start because I haven't had one," Moore said Wednesday when surrounded by reporters near his locker. "But I think it will be good. It will be exciting. You've got a lot of good guys on this offense left. Unfortunately, we're not playing for a playoff game, but we're still playing for something and we're excited about the opportunity to play a game."
Some might argue with Moore about "playing for something," but from his standpoint, this is a moment he's waited a long time for. After a 50-3 collegiate record as a starter at Boise State, Moore went undrafted in 2012, but made the Lions' roster, spending three seasons as the third quarterback – inactive for every game.
Moore was released in September and quickly signed by the Cowboys, reuniting with Scott Linehan, who coached him in Detroit for two seasons as the Lions' offensive coordinator. After spending several weeks on the Cowboys' practice squad, Moore was signed to the roster, released, sent down to the practice squad again and then added back to the 53-man roster after Tony Romo suffered his second collarbone injury.
Now, with two games to play, Moore is driving the Cowboys' bus that is just trying to wrap up this season on a positive note. But on a personal level, getting the chance to start for America's Team, even if the game has no playoff implications, is a milestone achievement.
"Obviously, it means a lot. Not many people get these opportunities, so I'm very thankful for it and excited for it," said Moore, who hadn't suited up for a game until this season and has learned to be patient. "It's never easy, but at the same time, you're going to get opportunities one way or the other, whether it's been in the preseason in the past or this past week. You've got to be ready for those opportunities and you have to take advantage of those when they come."
That opportunity is finally here, but at least the people surrounding him have an idea of what he's going through. From quarterback coach Wade Wilson and head coach Jason Garrett, to Matt Cassel and Tony Romo – all of them have been a backup quarterback at some point and finally got their chance to start.
"Yeah, obviously Coach Garrett has been in similar situations," Moore said. "He's been around this league for a long time, Scott (Linehan) as well. Wade. Even Matt. Tony. There're a lot of guys around here who've been in these situations, and so you want to utilize those resources and ask the questions and soak in anything they have."
And like all players, each of those guys had different challenges facing them. With a generous listing of 6-0 on the Cowboys' roster, Moore knows his lack of height forces him to play the game different than others. He also knows it's one of the reasons he's been doubted for most of his playing career.
But he shrugged off the notion that he's playing this game to prove his critics wrong.
"Kind of used to the deal," Moore said of the doubters. "I'm not the biggest guy and it's kind of been that way for a while. Did it in college. I'm used to it. It's not something that's going to cause me issues. I understand there are times I have to move in the pocket to see things … not all of us are all 6-5. Some of us shorter guys find ways to get it done."
To get it done against the Bills, Moore isn't concerned so much about what he'll do, but focused more on what not to do.
"I don't know about statistical things. Obviously the No. 1 thing is you've got to avoid the turnovers as much as you can," said Moore, who threw three interceptions last week in his NFL debut. "That's something that has happened a lot, and certainly too many of those last Saturday, but that will be a focus. At the same time, you've got to be able to make plays and not be too conservative that you're not giving guys opportunities down the field, but try to balance that out and eliminate (turnovers) as much as possible."
When it comes to balance, Moore found some in his press conference, treating his first start with high importance, yet not getting too worked up about it.
Maybe he can find a similar approach when the game starts Sunday.