SANTA CLARA — Emmanuel Moseley will pass through two sets of double doors and turn right after 49ers buses arrive at Seattle Seahawks Stadium on Sunday morning. He will enter a huge locker room where the defense quarters are as tight as the galley kitchen.
They’ll inspire him when he wears his red and black cleats, and they’ll serve as a reminder about the ongoing COVID pandemic, which last killed his childhood friend, Luckia Rouse. She was only 26 years old.
“It certainly shocked me, as it hit home,” Moseley said Thursday, “but COVID was hitting so many homes around the world.”
Rouse’s portrait is featured on Moseley’s cleats as part of the NFL’s “My Cause My Cleats” campaign this week. She promised that tribute to her family last year, including her sister, Makala, Moseley’s best friend in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“When I was at home recently, I met him suddenly and told him again that I was going to do it. The family was overjoyed,” Moseley said. “When I got back home, we kicked it up a lot. Hitting, barbecuing and stuff like that. I’m definitely excited to honor him.”
His memories of “Kia” – as he called him – include playing on the Dudley High School basketball teams and “we encouraged each other to do well, every game.”
Moseley is a native of Greensboro, NC, as was Rouse, who served as the Guilford County sheriff’s deputy and courthouse bailiff. He passed away less than 24 hours after being admitted to a local hospital, having previously tested positive for COVID.
Moseley has linked his cause to COVID research at UC San Francisco, where this week his genomic sequencing detected the United States’ first case of the Omicron variant. He hopes to work with UCSF in the future, although he is already helping to bring more awareness to COVID safety.
“People are getting the vaccine, and there’s a booster that has come out,” Moseley said. “People are going about it the right way, and taking the right precautions, especially in California wearing masks.
“We’re trying to do our best but it’s tough because it can spread easily.”
Moseley is pleased that the NFL’s “My Cause My Clets” program allows players to “shed light on things other than football.”
Over 30 teammates are participating for a variety of reasons, and all with the same passion. For example, tight end George Kittel is again representing TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) in support of military families who have lost loved ones. Kittel said: “They pay the ultimate sacrifice to allow us to live our lives here the way we want them to live, so I think I can help and spread as much awareness as possible about TAPS.” And I try to do the best they do, all the time.”
Moseley plans to wear his cleats for the rest of the season, and he’s wearing them in practice this week to prepare him for the game. “A lot of players do it the Saturday before games, and I don’t know how,” Moseley said. “I run a lot and have to break my moves during the week.”
Moseley will draw arguably the 49ers’ toughest task on Sunday, when he will be covering wide receivers Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf.
According to ProFootballReference.com – Moseley has not allowed touchdown catches in 51 goals – but he did draw two pass-interference penalties in the end zone, setting up touchdowns in the October 24 loss to Indianapolis.
“E-Man has done a good job. He is one of our most consistent guys in the back end,” said defensive coordinator Demeko Ryan.
Despite the Seattle 3-8 record and offensive struggles, Moseley used the word “great” to describe many aspects of the Seahawks, saying it all starts with quarterback Russell Wilson.
About how he would approach the emotion-laden game, Moseley said: “It will be no different. Just go out, play my game and get the job done.”