When the nation halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Cathedral Catholic defensive end Jaxson Moi held no Division I college football offers.
Fast forward less than a year, Moi has risen his stock to be the No. 2 strongside defensive end in the 2022 recruiting class on the West Coast, No. 3 in the West region, and No. 35 nationally according to 247Sports evaluations.
He’s also a key Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers target with offers from both schools, along with 15 others including UCLA, Arizona, Boise State, Washington State, and more.
But Oregon has a family tie-in hard to ignore.
Jaxson’s older cousin Jonah Moi was an Oregon outside linebacker from 2015-2017 totaling 6.5 sacks, 10.0 tackles-for-loss, and 45 tackles in 22 games played.
Jaxson and Jonah hadn’t met until Jaxson’s seventh-grade year and that was when his older cousin began showing the USC Trojans fan what it’s like to be a Duck.
“When we meet each other… I was in seventh grade but you know he gave me the Oregon gloves,” Jaxson Moi told NBC Sports NW. “He just told me about how much he loves the program. How it’s truly home.”
Jaxson did not need that first-hand account to understand what Oregon could offer him as a program. He grew up during the height of Oregon football while Chip Kelly led Oregon to four consecutive BCS Bowl appearances, much to the detriment of his father’s alma mater.
“Growing up, my Dad played at USC so I grew up a big USC fan,” recalled Moi. “Both of my cousins were huge Oregon fans. Oregon would be beating us and I’d be like ‘Man! I hate Oregon!’”
The Trojans legacy has had one FaceTime call with USC defensive line coach Vic So’oto, but it’s been Oregon who has put in the work to develop its relationship with the fast-rising three-star recruit.
“Oregon separated themselves by... being consistent in reaching out to me,” said Moi who explained “a good handful of [schools] that have separated themselves”, including Oregon.
“Every time I’m on a call, I am talking to multiple coaches and it lets me know I am not just being recruited by one coach. It just makes you feel wanted over there and that they’re excited about me.”
Who’s the coach running point on Moi’s recruitment, however?
“I’ve been talking to Coach Joe [Salave’a]… Coach Joe has been consistent with always checking up on me and just texting me and just making sure I’m in.”
Moi and Salave’a have been in communication since “early fall, late summer” along with “a few zoom calls with Coach Cristobal,” but those early discussions were without an offer on the table.
That changed earlier this month on February 4th, even if the execution left a bit to be desired.
“I was talking to Coach Matt [Coombs] and he was talking to me about [the scholarship program] and he said ‘Congratulations’ and I think he might have ruined the surprise,” recalled Moi. “I was thinking like, ‘What?’ and then I was like ‘Congratulations? Maybe he’s congratulating me on all my offers or something.’”
The Oregon defensive analyst did in fact spoil the surprise but the offer still meant the world regardless.
“I was talking to Coach Joe later and [he said] ’Well, Coach Cristobal is about to give you some good news,’ and then Coach Cristobal was like ‘Jaxson, I want to say we’re excited about you and we’re offering you a full-ride scholarship to the University of Oregon.’
“It was crazy and all so surreal. Truly a blessing to be offered by such a great school academically and athletically. Very honored and blessed.”
Shortly after announcing his offer via Twitter, he heard from fellow San Diego edge-rusher and 4-star Oregon commit Gracen Halton.
“Me and Grayson go way back,” explained Moi. “We’ve played against each other since sixth grade in youth football and we actually go to rival high schools but we’re good friends, great player.
“He reached out to me the other day just congratulating me on my offer and just said ‘Let’s get 2022 rocking’. He’s a great player, he’s a great person so it’d be great to play with him.”
Halton told NBC Sports NW he wants to help bring the Oregon Ducks 2022 recruiting class together which has already begun by him wanting Jaxson to join the Ducks family with him.
But, Moi knows from second-hand experience what could be awaiting him in Eugene. His older cousin has been one of Oregon’s promoters while the younger Moi mulls over his decision on where to play college football.
“As I started going to high school as a freshman, sophomore... He just kept promoting Oregon to me. Just being like ‘Man, you need to be a part of this family. We need another Moi at the Ducks!’
“He’s just always said nothing but great things and a great time and a great experience at Oregon.”
While Jaxson does have a family tie-in to the Oregon program, Mario Cristobal and other staff members have additionally already begun treating him like one of the family, not just a football player who can help the team win games.
“[Oregon] just feels like a place where the students are more than just athletes. You take football out of the picture, the coaches will still care about them.
“Coach Cristobal introduced me to his wife and kids, it just felt like a place where they’re going to be hard on me and they’re going to be demanding of me but at the same time they're going to love me just as much. Just feels like a great environment. I’m just really excited.”
While the Ducks football program will value Moi as more than just an athlete, the edge rusher has described the resources available to Oregon student-athletes as a major selling point.
“Honestly, all the resources,” answered Moi when asked what appeals to him about the Ducks football program. “Athletically, they have so many resources that help me stay healthy longer with the pool and all the extra stuff they have.”
While Moi has not been on campus due to NCAA recruiting restrictions, he has an idea of what to expect.
“We went over the football facility. I took a virtual zoom tour, it was amazing.”
So far, Oregon has done an excellent job selling Moi on the culture around the program, but he does not expect to make a final commitment anytime soon.
“My parents told me to definitely wait... for all my options. Wait until I can get on campus and get a feel for the environment and community. I think once I’m able to get on campus, visit those schools I think I’ll be able to find where home truly is.”
What will home feel like?
“Where I want to be community-wise, the people I’m surrounded with: Faith-based community because I try to live every day under God even though I am far from perfect but if there’s other like-minded people around me.
“Coach Cristobal and Coach Joe, they both mentioned to me that they’re both believers in Christ so that’s also a plus. Just being around that community of like-minded people within God. Those are just great things.”
Moi, an inspiring journalist, hasn’t gotten into the details about the journalism program at Oregon but it has been a selling point for previous recruits such as Kayvon Thibodeaux.
“[I want] a great education that supports my major. I’m looking to major in journalism because I am really into writing and expressing my thoughts through writing.”
But, most of all, Moi wants to attend a college that will turn him into a better person.
“A place that will make me better than when I came in.”
Will that place be Oregon? We’ll have to wait and find out.