John Shearer: Former Chattanoogan: Baylor Graduate Blake Moore Writes Book About NFL Career
Thursday, April 9, 2015 - by John Shearer
When Blake Moore, Jr. was a center on some outstanding Baylor School football teams under E.B. “Red” Etter in the mid-1970s, he had a tall physical frame, but had not filled out in terms of weight.
And while a solid contributor and standout, he also did not have quite as large a collection of press clippings as some of his teammates like backs Robert Hays and Jeff Aiken and all-state fellow offensive lineman Clay Crumbliss.
However, Mr. Moore soon filled out not only in muscle and size as he moved on to play football at a Division III school, the College of Wooster, but his list of personal accomplishments also grew.
In fact, he became a small college star and played six years in the National Football League, using the brains and discipline that helped him become the class salutatorian at Baylor to maximize his physical potential.
And he did not stop there, later joining another hard-to-enter club – Harvard Law School – as a student before enjoying more than two decades of work as lawyer and later as an investment manager.
“I look back on my life, and I can’t believe the amazing experiences I have had and the wonderful people I’ve been able to meet and work with,” he said recently.
His life has been such a storybook journey that he decided to chronicle it in the recently published Outskirts Press book, “Through a Pigskin Prism – An Unlikely Journey To and Through the NFL.”
In the memoir, he chronicles how a professional football career became a reality, despite being unplanned and even unexpected.
The book is written in an open, honest and vulnerable way, and readers will likely feel as if they know Mr.
Moore quite well when finishing the book after he recounts the highs and lows of his life on and off the field.
Chattanooga readers will be especially interested to hear of his memories of attending and playing sports at Bright and Baylor schools and Signal Mountain Junior High, and of growing up on Signal Mountain.
As Mr. Moore talked over the telephone recently from his home in Florida before moving back to New York as head of Americas with UBS Global Asset Management,
he said the book evolved simply from orally telling his story over the years.
“People would say, ‘That’s a really interesting story. You ought to write a book,’ ” he said. “So a few years ago I decided to sit down and write one.”
He added that the story is told in his voice, exactly the way he would tell the story orally.
As a high school student at Baylor after attending eighth and ninth grades at the then-Signal Mountain Junior High, Mr. Moore was finding his voice as a good student, and slowly finding his place on the football field, too.
A center from the eighth grade on, he remembers being so skinny that he was the punch line of a joke from the quick-witted offensive line coach Fred Hubbs when they were watching film of a previous game.
“He said, ‘Moore, quit turning sideways. We can’t see you,’ ” he recalled with a laugh of the man featured in his book. “But he was a great coach to have in high school. He was pretty patient.”
After filling in for the injured regular center and later splitting time with him his junior year, Mr. Moore went on to be the starting center his senior year at Baylor, when the Red Raiders were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state.
But in the first round of the playoffs with an injured Jeff Aiken, Baylor lost to McMinn County, which was led by future Tennessee Vol star Hubert Simpson and coached by future legend Benny Monroe.
At Baylor, Mr. Moore did get some standard letters of interest from large schools like Tennessee and Auburn, and Middle Tennessee State offered him a scholarship during some practices for the state all-star East-West game. But he had pretty much made up his mind to play at the smaller College of Wooster in Ohio, where three previous generations of his family attended.
It was a decision he did not regret, as he was able to develop his skills even more and become a big fish in a little pond.
“It all worked out,” he said. “I loved playing Division III football. It is the way college athletics is supposed to be played.”
Wooster also liked having him play, as he won the Gregory Award as the top offensive lineman in the Ohio Athletic Conference his junior and senior years and was a Little All-American.
The college was also good to him off the field, as he met his wife, Cynthia Weiler, there.
Through the sports information director at Wooster, Ernie Infield, he was introduced to NFL coaching legend Paul Brown, who was then team president of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Although he had multiple undrafted free agent offers, he chose to sign with Cincinnati. The Bengals were implementing a new system under new head coach Forrest Gregg, and he figured he would be on the same level as everyone else in terms of familiarity.
He played there for four years before joining the Green Bay Packers for two.
Also joining Cincinnati in 1980 as a rookie was first-round draft pick Anthony Munoz.
“We were on two opposite ends of the spectrum,” said Mr. Moore of him and Mr. Munoz, the father of former Tennessee football player Michael Munoz. “But he never acted like he was a first-round draft pick.”
Among his other teammates during his four years with the Bengals were two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, Pete Johnson and future NFL TV commentator Cris Collinsworth.
Mr. Moore called the experience of playing pro football amazing. It was obviously grinding physically, he said. But it was also challenging mentally, as it required discipline, persistence, never giving up and being able to perform during every practice, game and play. And in that area, Mr. Moore tried to make up some ground on the more talented players, even though he found the experience tough as well.
“It was the most intense thing I’ve ever gone through,” he said. “Guys were more athletic than I was, but couldn’t take the daily mental pressure.”
A highlight included the Super Bowl after the 1981 season, when the team had to beat San Diego in the memorably cold AFC championship game to get there.
Mr. Moore remembered all the hype associated with the Super Bowl and was even interviewed for ABC’s “Nightline” during the week. But the loss to quarterback Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers in a close game was a disappointment that remains with him.
“It is such a bittersweet memory,” he said. “Being able to play in the Super Bowl is wonderful, but losing will always be with me.”
While never a regular starter, Mr. Moore was able to contribute some and start some in the NFL. And at Green Bay, where he played in 1984 and ’85, also under Coach Gregg, he caught two touchdown passes while lining up in goal line tackle eligible plays.
Just getting to play at historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay was also memorable, he recalled.
“There is no other place like it in the NFL,” he said of the stadium that was always full and had no luxury boxes at the time. “I loved playing there and loved the fans. You could smell the brats cooking in the parking lot at 9 in the morning for a noon game.”
After the 1985 season, he met with Coach Gregg, who encouraged him to play another year. But since he had prepared himself financially to attend law school and was not guaranteed he would make the team the next year, he decided to retire from football, saying it was the best step for his family.
He had previously been accepted at Duke University School of Law and had received waivers while he continued to pursue football, but he later on had decided with his wife’s encouragement to apply to Harvard Law School.
He was accepted and attended there for three years. He then moved to San Diego as an attorney before becoming an investment manager. After 16 years in San Diego, he was in New York City for seven years, and in Toronto for three before moving to Palm Beach Gardens in Florida in 2014.
He recently moved back to New York.
Through all the changes, he has had one constant – his wife, Cynthia. They have now been married 34 years, he said, and have two grown children, Lauren, who was an outstanding water polo player at Pomona College in California, and a son, Hudson, who was a high school basketball player. Mr. Moore is also now a grandfather.
“Life is good,” he said.
In looking at the NFL today, he said the problem of concussions is a real issue the league needs to address.
“The speed, size and violence of the game have increased dramatically,” said Mr. Moore, who is donating a portion of the proceeds from his book to help support brain trauma research. “And the use of the head has also increased.”
He is thankful he finished his playing career without serious injury. And he has continued to enjoy blessings since then.
He also relishes the past as well, saying he has not forgotten his old high school days at Baylor. In fact, he drives through the school whenever he is in town visiting family.
“So many memories go through your head, and you think of all the things that have happened to you since high school,” he said.
“When I was at Baylor playing football, I never imagined I’d be playing in the Super Bowl or in New York running a business.”