Lets all welcome my man from toledo and a great addition to the steelers @LanceMoore16— Bruce Gradkowski (@bgradkowski5) March 21, 2014
Lance Moore and Bruce Gradkowski were the big men on campus in the Glass City.
A decade later, the duo could be teammates again in the Steel City.
Back then, Gradkowski and Moore stood beside each other on a "Top Gun" style poster, posing next to a rocket outside the Glass Bowl in promotion of the team's 2004 season. Their No.1 and No.7 jerseys were top sellers in the school's book store and rivaled the "See You at the Game" T-shirts given to each freshman on their first day on campus in popularity.
The duo helped Toledo reach new heights during their time together. A Pittsburgh native, Gradkowski engineered an upset of No.9 Pitt at home in 2003. After trailing 24-14 at halftime, Gradkowksi and Moore took control. Gradkowski threw for 461 yards on 49-62 passing that included the game-winning touchdown pass to Moore with just 43 seconds left. In a showdown of two future NFL receivers in Moore and Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald, Moore pulled down 15 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Gradkowski and Moore compiled 193 pass receptions in 2003 and '04 for 2,383 yards and 23 touchdowns. Moore caught 14 of Gradkowski's 27 touchdown passes in 2004 as the Rockets won the MAC Championship. After erasing a 20-point halftime deficit against rival Bowling Green in their final home game together, the two hooked up for three touchdowns in the Rockets 35-27 win over Miami (OH) a week later in the MAC Championship Game. Gradkowski threw for four touchdowns in all while completing over 70 percent of his passes for the second consecutive year.
The duo had an unspoken connection on the field. So many times the ball would be in Moore's hands so fast opposing defenses would be left on the heels, watching Moore scream past them down the sideline. They mastered the bubble screen so well that opposing teams often employed six defensive backs in vain efforts to stop the play. The two also had impeccable timing on crossing routes and end zone fade patterns that stymied a slew of opposing defenses.
A decade later, the two have compiled solid NFL careers. Moore spent eight NFL seasons with the Saints and caught a pivotal two-point conversion to help New Orleans win Super Bowl XLIV. He became one of Drew Brees' most dependable targets while going over 1,000 yards receiving in 2012. At 5'9 and just 177 pounds, Moore has certainly proven the skeptics that said he was too small to produce in the NFL wrong.
Gradkowski has enjoyed a fine career as well. He has started 20 games over his NFL career that included a 308-yard, three touchdown performance in a win over the Steelers as Oakland's starting quarterback back in 2009.
The two have also remained friends and have even run free football clinics for schools in the Toledo area.
The Steelers could certainly use the services of Moore, who is currently a free agent talking with several teams, including Pittsburgh. A possession receiver that can also stretch the field, Moore could fill the void left by Jerricho Cotchery, whose departure along with Emmanuel Sanders leaves Antonio Brown as the team's lone top returning receiver. Moore has never been one to gripe about passes or playing time; he's a consummate team player that would fit well with the Steelers and how they operate. He would be a ideal second or third receiver to flank Brown who could also mentor the team's younger receivers.
Moore's arrival to Pittsburgh would add another veteran presence with playoff and Super Bowl savvy. Gradkowski could also work with Moore and Ben Roethlisberger to help them learn each others playing habits and tendencies.
His arrival would also mean a reunion for two of the best players Toledo has ever produced, and the chance for Gradkowski and Moore to again show the magic that so many Rockets fans remember.