ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – ** While Rahim Moore and T.J. Ward have been teammates for just over seven months, their relationship goes back much further than that.
The two have known each other since before they went off to college as Ward's sister was dating Moore's best friend. They are both well-acquainted with each other's families and have stayed close throughout the years.
While they went their separate ways in college, football remained a bonding agent that held them together as Ward headed north to Oregon and Moore committed to UCLA. The Pac-10 connection helped them as they discussed common opponents.
"We always used to share our knowledge in college," Moore said. "What USC was doing, what Arizona State was doing, what Arizona was doing. We always just talked football and we both respected each other."
Ward is three years older than Moore and began his career with the Ducks in 2005 as a walk-on and redshirted his freshman year. He worked his way up from a scout team member, a special teams standout to a starter. His junior year with the Ducks, Ward led the team in tackles and was extremely valuable to the team's defense his senior year despite missing nearly half the season with an ankle injury.
Moore watched Ward as he rose through the ranks at Oregon and describes his teammate as "the best in our conference" at the time.
"When he left, I kind of took over the torch a little bit."
While they played in separate states, the two would talk on the phone about football for "hours and hours." Watching each other on film, they worked through their mistakes together. It was a unique kind of friendship that allowed them to improve. Moore would call and ask Ward for advice on a consistent basis.
The friends faced off twice in college. During their first showdown, Moore had two solo tackles. Ward led both teams with 11 total tackles and laid a devastating hit on UCLA receiver Terrance Austin. On the play, the ball hit Ward's helmet and it was intercepted by his teammate. In 2009, in Pasadena, despite UCLA outgaining the Ducks in the air 145-82, Oregon prevailed again.
"They beat us every time. Every time," Moore said. "It wasn't good. He had a better game than me those two games, but I don't want to live in the past. It was ugly."
Both were drafted in the second round of their respective drafts. While they went to different professional teams, they kept in touch. Whenever their paths crossed and they were in the same city, they met up.
"We always communicated and stayed in touch with each other, and when he came here, it was like second nature," Moore said. "Like on the field, we're laughing between plays. Me and him I think rely on each other a lot. We always bag on each other, but then when the ball is snapped, it's all focus."
When the Broncos signed Ward in March, Moore immediately texted Ward telling him he wanted the two of them to be the best safety tandem the team has ever seen.
While years have gone by since their friendship began, they still enjoy poking fun at each other.
"I'm always talking trash, and so is he," Ward said. "So it doesn't just limit itself to the field. It's all day, pretty much with us."
Ward said there is never a dull moment in the defensive backs room and said his longtime relationship with Moore is "something we can build off of."
Moore is currently in his fourth NFL season and Ward in his fifth. There's no ego or pride as they work together and try to improve. Moore said the role of teacher and student can change by the day.
"So we love one another and we respect each other and we watch so much film together, and share each other's notes, it's not even funny," Moore said.