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Moon, Warren 1956–

Warren Moon 1956–

Football player

For seventeen seasons Warren Moon was a starting quarterback in the National Football League (NFL), most of that time for the Houston Oilers. Following his retirement in 2000, he became a radio announcer and analyst for the Seattle Seahawks. In 2006 he became the first African American to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His personal life turned rocky in 2007 when he was arrested on two separate occasions for suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

Made the Best of His Childhood

A native of Los Angeles, California, Moon was the middle child and only boy of seven children. Warren was seven when his father died while waiting for a liver transplant. His mother, a nurse, raised the family by herself. Leigh Montville of Sports Illustrated wrote, “The boy learned to cook and sew and iron and clean house. To this day he cannot do the [stereotypical] ‘man’ things, working under the hood of a car or fixing plumbing or electrical problems, but he can bake three dozen cookies with ease.”

The Moon family lived in a rough neighborhood, but their mother worked hard and saw that they were provided with educational and cultural advantages. Warren grew up with strong moral values. Montville noted that the youngster “decided that he could play only one sport in high school because he had to work the rest of the year to help the family, and the sport would be football. Quarterback would be the position. He had discovered that he could throw a football longer, harder, and straighter than anyone he knew. He would take that arm all the way to the pros. That was his goal.”

Using the address of one of his mother's friends, Moon enrolled at Hamilton High School, a mixed-race school in a middle-class section of Los Angeles. There, he worked hard in his studies and tried out for the football team. He saw little playing time until his junior year, when he took over as varsity starting quarterback. In his senior season, Hamilton High reached the city playoffs, and Moon was named to the all-city team. However, college recruiters showed little interest in him because he was only five-eleven and 165 pounds. Eventually, Moon gave up his quest for a place at a four-year school and instead enrolled at West Los Angeles Junior College. His freshman year football exploits there gained him some attention, and he was named Western State Conference Player of the year in 1973.

Recruited by the Washington Huskies

His performance caught the attention of University of Washington coach Don James (1932—), who offered Moon a chance to transfer to a school with a stronger football program. Moon went north, despite his apprehension about attending a college that had experienced racial tension under a previous coach and where fewer than four percent of the students were African American. As a University of Washington sophomore, Moon warmed the bench. However, by his junior year he had become the starting quarterback, and the Huskies stumbled to a 5-6 record. Moon was booed unmercifully by his own fans. Sometimes, the jeers took on racial overtones. As Montville put it, “amid the bad feelings it became easy to put Moon's face on the team's failure.” Showing great restraint, Moon refused to acknowledge the heckling, and when the boos turned to cheers, he accepted the praise without bitterness.

His tenacity was rewarded in 1977, when the Huskies won their conference championship and met the University of Michigan in the 1978 Rose Bowl game. The underdog Huskies won the Rose Bowl under Moon's leadership, and he was named Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player and the Pacific-8 Player of the Year. Overall, Moon passed for 3,277 yards and 19 touchdowns in his collegiate career.

Even though Moon managed to win over Washington's fans, he failed to convince skeptical NFL scouts of his playing ability. His Rose Bowl performance notwithstanding, he was rated just the tenth-best quarterback in the 1978 draft. “The stereotype was that he was a black quarterback and he was going to run around like a madman, but he wouldn't be able to throw very well,” former Edmonton Eskimos and Houston Oilers coach Hugh Campbell told the Los Angeles Times. So, once again, Moon decided to prove himself elsewhere by signing with the Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

During Moon's six seasons in Canada, he established an amazing record: 21,228 yards passing and 1,700 yards rushing. He had back-to-back five-thousand-yard passing seasons. His 5,648 yards passing over 16 games in 1983 remains an all-time high for professional football. In addition, the Eskimos won five straight Grey Cup trophies as CFL champions from 1978 to 1982.

Joined the Houston Oilers

By 1984 Moon had nothing left to prove. When his contract with Edmonton expired, seven NFL teams sought to sign him as a free agent. Moon initially leaned toward the Seattle Seahawks, which would allow him to return to his college town, but he eventually chose the Houston Oilers, the team that had hired Campbell, his former Edmonton coach. The Oilers tendered a five-year, $5.5 million contract that, at the time, made Moon the highest-paid player in the NFL—before he even played in a league game.

When Moon joined Houston, it was the worst franchise in the NFL, having won only three games in the previous two seasons. “One of the challenges of Houston was to be part of a growing situation,” Leigh Steinberg, Moon's agent, told the Houston Post. “He knew it would take longer [to be on a championship team], but when it came, he knew he would be an instrumental part of the building process.”

At a Glance …

Born on November 18, 1956, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Harold and Pat Moon; married Felicia Hendricks, 1981 (divorced 2001); married Mandy Ritter, 2005; children: (with Hendricks) Joshua, Chelsea, Blair, Jeffrey; (with Ritter) Ryken. Education: West Los Angeles Junior College, 1974-75; University of Washington, BS, 1978.

Career: Edmonton Eskimos, quarterback, 1978-83; Houston Oilers, quarterback, 1984-93; Minnesota Vikings, quarterback, 1994-96; Seattle Seahawks, quarterback, 1997-98; Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback, 1999-2000; Seattle Seahawks, radio announcer, 2002—.

Awards: Most Valuable Player in the Canadian Football League (CFL), 1983; National Football League (NFL) Rookie of the Year, 1984; NFL Man of the Year, 1989; Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 1990; CFL Hall of Fame, 2001; NFL Hall of Fame, 2006.

Addresses: Office—Seattle Seahawks, 800 Occidental Ave. South, Ste. #200, Seattle, WA 98134.

In 1984 Moon was a rookie sensation. His six years in the CFL gave him a wealth of experience, and he threw for 3,338 yards during the season. Still, the Oilers went 3-13, finishing last in their division. The next season, after the club won just five of its first fourteen games, Campbell was fired and Jerry Glanville (1941—), a defense-oriented coach, took over. “Those early years [in Houston] were really hard for me to deal with at first,” Moon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There were some uncertainties about my career here because of the coaching change. That left me disenchanted…. Plus, I think most of the people looked at the amount of money I was paid and just decided I must be a star all of a sudden. I didn't respond well to it.”

Moon faced enormous pressures because at that time he was the only African-American starting quarterback in the NFL. “The stereotypes are there,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “The opportunities haven't been given. But I think I've been accepted pretty well throughout the league. As I improved, you started not to hear the word black put in front of quarterback all the time. And now I'm pretty much recognized as just another quarterback in the league.” The fans were harder to win over, however. More than once Moon's wife and children were accosted in the stands during football games by disgruntled spectators who hurled racial epithets and complained about Moon's performance.

Gradually, Moon made his presence felt with the Oilers. Between 1987 and 1993 the team made the playoffs every year. Twice Moon was rated among the NFL's top-five quarterbacks, and twice he started in the Pro Bowl, the league's all-star game. Glanville was fired after the 1989 season and replaced by Jack Pardee (1936—), a college coach known for helping design the run-and-shoot offense, a system based on speedy receivers and a strong-armed quarterback. Moon had finally found the right coach for his talents, and the 1990 season was one of his best.

That year Moon threw for 4,689 yards—the fifth-highest total ever in the NFL at that time. He was named the league's top offensive performer of the year by the Associated Press. “People tend to say Super Bowl quarterbacks are the great ones,” Moon told Sports Illustrated that year. “If I get there, I don't think anyone could argue with my play.” The Oilers seemed to have a chance of “getting there” in 1990 until Moon was injured in the next to the last game of the season. He sat on the sidelines during the playoffs as the Oilers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Moon was well on his way to establishing a Houston Oilers passing record, but those all-important playoff victories failed to materialize. Perhaps the most disappointing playoff game for Houston was the 1992 wildcard match between the Oilers and the Buffalo Bills. The Oilers led the Bills 20-3 at halftime, but Buffalo roared back and took the game to overtime, winning it 41-38. In 1993 the Oilers endured another bitter playoff loss, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs. Moon, for all his perceived talent, had failed to advance his team into Super Bowl contention. And time was running out for him as he edged toward forty.

Traded to the Minnesota Vikings

In a 1990 poll by the Houston Post, Moon was voted the most popular athlete in Texas, even beating out baseball legend Nolan Ryan (1947—). Unfortunately, Moon's popularity eroded as the Oilers failed to advance in the playoffs. In 1993 he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, where he signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract. “This might be the fresh start I needed at this stage of my career,” Moon told the Sporting News. “You can look at my age and say, ‘Well, he's 37.’ But you just need to watch me play, and that will let you know what I'm all about. As far as winning a Super Bowl … that's the thing that's left for me to do. That's what I want to accomplish before I'm done.”

Moon's first season with the Vikings was promising, as he passed for 4,264 yards and led his team to the playoffs with a 10-6 record, where they were defeated by the Chicago Bears. Even though he passed more than forty-two-hundred yards in the 1995-96 season, the team finished with an 8-8 record and failed to obtain a spot in the playoffs. He was invited to play in the NFL Pro-Bowl in both 1994 and 1995, marking his seventh and eighth appearances. Moon's performance declined during the 1996-97 season, and he missed most of the season due to a broken collarbone.

The following year, the Vikings' management decided to replace Moon as starting quarterback with Brad Johnson (1968—), a ninth-round draft pick for the Vikings in the 1992 season who had served as Moon's backup during the 1994 and 1995 seasons. The Vikings offered Moon the chance to stay with the team and a pay reduction from $4.3 million to $500,000, but Moon elected to seek a spot on another team as a free agent.

Became a Free Agent

The period surrounding his transition from the Vikings was a turbulent time for Moon, whose personal life mirrored the instability of his professional career. In 1996 police responded to a call of domestic abuse at his home and found Moon's wife, Felicia, showing signs of physical abuse. Both Moon and his wife testified that the altercation was mutual, and Moon was eventually acquitted by a jury in February of 1996. Even though Moon and his wife initially reconciled, they eventually decided to get a divorce in 2001.

Moon signed a two-year contract to play as a backup for the Seattle Seahawks in March of 1997 and remained with the team for only one season before electing to move on when the Seahawks management declined to allow him to return in 1998 as a starting quarterback. Despite dissatisfaction with his position on the Seahawks, Moon set a new record for completions (313) and scored 3,678 passing yards to win his ninth invitation to the Pro Bowl, which he declined due to injury.

Moon signed a contract to play with the Kansas City Chiefs for the 1999 season and remained with the team until 2001. In the two years that he served as a backup for the Chiefs, he played in only a handful of games. In 2001 he announced that he decided to retire.

Recognized for His Skill

Even though Moon never achieved his goal of winning an NFL Super Bowl, his record was more than sufficient to place him in the annals of football's greatest stars. In 2001 he was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in acknowledgment of his performance during four seasons with the Canadian organization, including 144 touchdowns and over 21,000 yards in passing.

Since his retirement, Moon has been a radio announcer and analyst for the Seattle Seahawks. In 2006 he became the first African American to be inducted into the NFL's Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was also the first Hall of Fame inductee for both the NFL and the CFL. In his enshrinement speech, Moon graciously accepted the honor of being the first African-American inductee but also acknowledged all the players who came before him. Of his role as an African-American athlete, Moon said in his speech, “I always had that extra burden when I went on that field that I had a responsibility to play the game for my people. That extra burden I probably didn't need to go out on the field with, because I probably would have been a much better player if I didn't have that burden. But you know what, I carried that burden proudly.”

In 2007 Moon's personal life took a turn for the worse. In April of 2007 he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol after a patrol car stopped him for driving erratically. Further information revealed that he was below the legal alcohol limit at the time of the arrest, so the charges were reduced to negligent driving. Moon was sentenced in August of 2007 to forty hours of community service, a $350 fine, and alcohol abuse awareness classes. In December of 2007 he was pulled over for an expired license tag. When the police officer smelled alcohol on Moon's breath, he determined that Moon was driving under the influence of alcohol. Moon refused a breathalyzer test, so he was arrested. He was expected to enter a plea in February of 2008.

Sources

Periodicals

Akron Beacon Journal, November 1, 1990; January 10, 1991.

Houston Post, December 25, 1987; March 13, 1988; November 13, 1988; April 8, 1989; July 29, 1990.

Jet, December 28, 1998; May 17, 1999.

Los Angeles Times, November 18, 1989; November 3, 1990.

New York Times, February 23, 1996; February 22, 1997; March 8, 1997.

Rocky Mountain News, November 18, 1990.

San Jose Mercury News, November 8, 1987.

Seattle Times, December 2, 1990.

Sport, February 1994.

Sporting News, May 23, 1994; November 24, 1997.

Sports Illustrated, November 5, 1990; December 24, 1990; September 27, 1993.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 1990.

USA Today, January 26, 2008.

Online

“Warren Moon's Enshrinement Speech Transcript,” Pro Football Hall of Fame,http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/release.jsp?release_id_2179 (accessed January 30, 2008).

“Warren Moon Enters Hall of Fame,” CBC Sports Online,http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2006/02/04/hall_of_fame_nfl060204.html (accessed January 30, 2008).

—Mark Kram and Micah L. Issitt

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Moon, Warren 1956–

Warren Moon 1956

Professional football player

A Man Among Women

A Long Apprenticeship

A Change of Scenery

Sources

For more than ten years Warren Moon has been a starting quarterback in the National Football League, most of that time with the Houston Oilers. Now in the twilight of his playing career, Moon has achieved the status of respected elder statesman in the NFL. Having long ago overcome questions about his talentbased on his size and subtly, on his race as wellhe brought the Houston Oilers into playoff contention and possibly earned himself a future place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 1994 Moon signed a two-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings in search of the one laurel that has eluded hima chance to play in the Super Bowl. Sporting News contributor Bob Sansevere notes that the citizens of Minnesota are behaving as if Warren Moon is the second coming [of Christ] Vikings fans have been so eager for so long for a miracle-working quarterback that they think Moon is capable of just about anything, including turning Gatorade into wine. Moons talents may fall short of that mark, but he has certainly proven himself to be a gifted quarterback and a capable leader on the NFL level.

At the outset of his professional career, Moon was not even considered a candidate to play in the NFL. Despite the fact that he came out of the University of Washington with a Rose Bowl victory and a wealth of individual awards, he was passed over until the late rounds of the 1978 college draft. Disappointed, but still confident of his ability, Moon decamped for the Canadian Football League, where he became a championship winner with the Edmonton Eskimos.

Moon told the Rocky Mountain News that from his high school years onward he always had to work harder to gain the positions he deserved. Ive had to kind of take that extra step at every level just to show what I can do, whether it be junior college or Canada before I got a chance to play in the NFL, Moon said. Ive been told all my life that I didnt have what it took. It was the people who told me I couldnt do things that kept me going. I have a lot of confidence in myself.

A Man Among Women

A native of Los Angeles, Moon was the middle child and only boy of seven children. Warren was seven when his father died while waiting for a liver transplant. His mother, a nurse, raised the family by herself, and young Warren was expected to be the man of the family. In Sports Illustrated, Leigh Montville wrote: The boy learned to cook and sew and iron and clean house. To this day he cannot do the [stereotypical] man things, working under the hood of a car or fixing plumbing or electrical problems, but he can bake three dozen cookies with ease.

At a Glance

Born Harold Warren Moon, November 18, 1956, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Harold (a laborer) and Pat (a nurse) Moon; married Felicia Hendricks, March 8, 1981; children: Joshua, Chelsea, Blair, Jeffrey. Education: West Los Angeles Junior College, 1974-75; University of Washington, B.S., 1978.

Professional football player, 1978. Quarterback for Edmonton Eskimos, 1978-83, Houston Oilers, 1984-94, Minnesota Vikings, 1994.

Selected awards: Named Pacific-8 Conference Player of the Year, 1977; named Most Valuable Player in the Canadian Football League (CFL), 1983; named National Football League (NFL) Rookie of the Year, 1984, and NFL Man of the Year, 1989; named Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 1990.

Addresses: Office c/o Minnesota Vikings, 9520 Viking Dr., Eden Prairie, MN 55344.

The Moon family lived in a rough neighborhood, but their mother worked hard and saw to it that they were provided with educational and cultural perks. Warren grew up with strong moral values. Montville notes that the youngster decided that he could play only one sport in high school because he had to work the rest of the year to help the family, and the sport would be football. Quarterback would be the position. He had discovered that he could throw a football longer, harder, and straighter than anyone he knew. He would take that arm all the way to the pros. That was his goal.

Using the address of one of his mothers friends, Moon enrolled at Hamilton High School, a mixed-race school in a middle-class section of Los Angeles. There he worked hard in his studies and tried out for the football team. He saw little playing time until his junior year, when he took over as varsity starting quarterback. In his senior season, Hamilton High reached the city playoffs, and Moon was named to the all-city team. But college recruiters showed little interest in him because he was only 511 and 165 pounds. Eventually Moon gave up his quest for a place at a four-year school and instead enrolled at West Los Angeles Junior College. His freshman year football exploits there raised some eyebrows, and he was named Western State Conference Player of the year in 1973.

That strong performance caught the attention of University of Washington coach Don James, who offered Moon a chance to transfer to a school playing big-time football. Moon went north, despite his apprehension about attending a college that had experienced racial tension under a previous coach and where fewer than four percent of the students were black. As a University of Washington sophomore, Moon warmed the bench. As a junior he became starting quarterback, and the Huskies stumbled to a 5-6 record. Moon was booed unmercifully by his own fans. Sometimes the jeers took on racial overtones. As Montville puts it, amid the bad feelings it became easy to put Moons face on the teams failure. Showing great restraint, Moon refused to acknowledge the heckling, and when the boos turned to cheers he accepted the praise without bitterness.

His tenacity was rewarded in 1977, when the Huskies won their conference championship and met the University of Michigan in the 1978 Rose Bowl game. The underdog Huskies won the Rose Bowl under Moons leadership, and he was named Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player and the Pacific-8 Player of the Year. Overall, Moon passed for 3,277 yards and 19 touchdowns in his collegiate career.

A Long Apprenticeship

Although Moon managed to win over Washingtons fans, he failed to convince skeptical NFL scouts of his playing ability. His Rose Bowl performance notwithstanding, he was rated just the tenth best quarterback in the 1978 draft. The stereotype was that he was a black quarterback and he was going to run around like a madman, but he wouldnt be able to throw very well, former Edmonton Eskimos and Houston Oilers coach Hugh Campbell told the Los Angeles Times. So, once again, Moon decided to prove himself elsewhere, signing with the Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.

During Moons six seasons in Canada, he put up some stunning numbers21,228 yards passing and 1,700 yards rushing. He had back-to-back 5,000-yard passing seasons. His 5,648 yards passing over 16 games in 1983 remains an all-time high for pro football. In addition, the Eskimos won five straight Grey Cup trophies as champions of the CFL from 1978 to 1982.

By 1984 Moon had nothing left to prove. When his contract with Edmonton expired, seven NFL teams sought to sign him as a free agent. Moon initially leaned toward the Seattle Seahawks, which would allow him to return to his college town, but he eventually chose the Houston Oilers, the team that had hired his former Edmonton coach, Campbell. The Oilers tendered a five-year, $5.5 million contract which, at the time, made Moon the highest paid player in the NFLbefore he even played in a league game.

When Moon joined Houston, it was the sorriest franchise in the NFL, having won only three games in the previous two seasons. One of the challenges of Houston was to be part of a growing situation, Moons agent, Leigh Steinberg, told the Houston Post. He knew it would take longer [to be on a championship team], but when it came, he knew he would be an instrumental part of the building process.

In 1984 Moon was a rookie sensation. His six years in the CFL gave him a wealth of experience, and he threw for a then-Houston-record 3,338 yards on the season. Still the Oilers went 3-13, finishing last in their division. The next season, after the club won just five of its first 14 games, Campbell was fired and a defensive-oriented coach, Jerry Glanville, took over. Those early years [in Houston] were really hard for me to deal with at first, Moon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. There were some uncertainties about my career here because of the coaching change. That left me disenchanted Plus, I think most of the people looked at the amount of money I was paid and just decided I must be a star all of a sudden. I didnt respond well to it.

Moon faced enormous pressures because he was the only black starting quarterback in the NFL at the time. The stereotypes are there, he told the Los Angeles Times. The opportunities havent been given. But I think Ive been accepted pretty well throughout the league. As I improved, you started not to hear the word black put in front of quarterback all the time. And now Im pretty much recognized as just another quarterback in the league. The fans were harder to win over, however. More than once Moons wife and children were accosted in the stands during football games by disgruntled spectators who hurled racial epithets and complained about Moons performance.

Gradually Moon made his presence felt with the Oilers. Between 1987 and 1993 the team made the playoffs every year. Twice Moon was rated among the NFLs top five quarterbacks, and twice he started in the Pro Bowl, the leagues all-star game. Glanville was fired after the 1989 season and replaced by Jack Pardee, a college coach known for helping design the run-and-shoot offense, a system based on speedy receivers and a strong-armed quarterback. Moon finally found the right coach for his talents, and the 1990 football season was one of his best.

That year Moon threw for 4,689 yardsthe fifth highest total ever in the NFL at the time. He was named the leagues top offensive performer of the year by the Associated Press. People tend to say Super Bowl quarterbacks are the great ones, Moon told Sports Illustrated that year. If I get there, I dont think anyone could argue with my play. The Oilers seemed to have a chance of getting there in 1990 until Moon was injured in the next-to-last game of the season. He sat on the sidelines during the playoffs as the Oilers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Moon was well on his way to establishing a Houston Oilers passing record, but those all-important playoff victories failed to materialize. Perhaps the most disappointing playoff game for Houston was the 1992 wild card match between the Oilers and the Buffalo Bills. Moon and the Oilers led Buffalo 20-3 at halftime, but the Bills roared back and took the game to overtime, where they won it, 41-38. In 1993 the Oilers endured another bitter playoff loss, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs. Moon, for all his perceived talent, had failed to advance his team into Super Bowl contention. And time was running out for him as he edged toward 40.

A Change of Scenery

In a 1990 poll by the Houston Post, Moon was voted the most popular athlete in Texas, even beating out baseball legend Nolan Ryan. Moon had established a residence in Houston and had spent much time and money on charitable causes in that region; his Crescent Moon foundation sent 82 children to college on scholarship in 1993. Unfortunately, Moons popularity eroded as the Oilers failed to advance in the playoffs. In 1993 he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, where he signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract. This might be the fresh start I needed at this stage of my career, Moon told the Sporting News. You can look at my age and say, Well, hes 37. But you just need to watch me play, and that will let you know what Im all about. As far as winning a Super Bowl thats the thing thats left for me to do. Thats what I want to accomplish before Im done.

Warren Moons legacy is not yet complete. If it were, he might be considered a great but unlucky quarterback whose Oilers teams failed six straight years to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. Moon himself hopes to see a Super Bowl start at least once before he retires. I dont want to see the festivities anymore, he told Sport magazine. I want to be there the way youre supposed to be there. He added: Even though my career would not be unsuccessful if I ended up without a championship, it would definitely not be complete. If I could go out on top, I think it would be a great ending to a great story.

Sources

Akron Beacon Journal, November 1, 1990; January 10, 1991.

Houston Post, December 25, 1987; March 13, 1988; November 13, 1988; April 8, 1989; July 29, 1990.

Los Angeles Times, November 18, 1989; November 3, 1990.

Rocky Mountain News, November 18, 1990.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 1990.

San Jose Mercury News, November 8, 1987.

Seattle Times, December 2, 1990.

Sport, February 1994, pp. 36-40.

Sporting News, May 23, 1994, pp. 34-5.

Sports Illustrated, November 5, 1990; December 24, 1990; September 27, 1993, pp. 62-74.

Mark Kram

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Kram, Mark. "Moon, Warren 1956–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1995. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Kram, Mark. "Moon, Warren 1956–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1995. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871000054.html

Moon, Warren

Warren Moon

1956-

American football player

Although Warren Moon was overlooked time and again throughout his career, his perseverance led to an unusually long and extremely successful stint as a quarterback in the National Football league (NFL). In addition to having to fight against the perception that he didn't have what it takes to lead an NFL team, he also had to fight against prejudice in a league that had few black quarterbacks. After being passed over by the NFL, Moon went to Canada and led his team to five Grey Cups before being the subject of a bidding war among NFL teams. He would play professional football for twenty-three years and become the first quarterback to pass for over 60,000 yards in his career. Moon was the first forty-year-old to throw five touchdowns in a game and pass for 400 yards. He is also the oldest player in NFL history to score a touchdown. Although he never accomplished his goal of winning a Super Bowl, Moon's distinguished career earned him the respect of his teammates and a place in the record books.

Born Harold Warren Moon, November 18, 1956, in Los Angeles, California, he was the middle child in a family of seven children. His father died of liver disease when Moon was seven years old. He was raised, along with his six sisters, by a mother who insisted on providing her children with all the perks of the middle-class. A serious young man, Moon decided early on that football would be his sport and quarterback his position. He even went as far as enrolling, under a false address, at Hamilton High Schoolwhich had a better academic and athletic reputation than his neighborhood high school.

Struggle and Strength

Without the size or speed for football, Moon's secret weapon was his arm strength. It impressed his high school coaches enough to make him the starter on the varsity team in his senior year. He led his team to the city playoffs and was named to the all-city team in 1973. Despite his performance, he was overlooked by college recruiters and enrolled at West Los Angeles Junior College. Moon excelled immediately and began sending game tapes to major universities. The tapes got him in the door and on the field at the University of Washington. Moon had to wait for an opportunity and got it in his junior year when he was named the starting quarterback. He took the brunt of the fans' frustration after a 5-6 season but turned it around the following year. Moon, in his senior season, led his team to a Rose Bowl victory over the favored University of Michigan in 1978.

Canadian Success

He was overlooked by the NFL and signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL). In Canada, Moon didn't feel the prejudice he did as a black quarterback in America. He played six seasons in the CFL and became a star. He led his team to five Grey Cup championships and his 5,648 passing yards in 1983 set an all-time record for professional football. His success was finally noticed by the NFL and he was soon the subject of a bidding war between NFL teams. He signed with the Houston Oilers in 1984 after they made him the highest paid player in the league.

Pressure and Prejudice

Before Moon there were very few black quarterbacks in the NFL. He and Doug Williams, of the Washington Redskins, were among the first to find real success. His longevity and reputation for professionalism and success were factors in his eventual acceptance in the league. He and his family, however, were subjected to racist jeers by fans throughout his career when things were not going well for his team. Moon never succumbed to the pressure and always handled himself with discipline and pride.

Chronology

1956 Born November 18 in Los Angeles, California
1973 Leads high school team to city playoffs
1973 Named to all-city team
1977 Leads University of Washington to conference championship
1978 Leads team to Rose Bowl victory
1978 Wins first of five consecutive Grey Cup trophies in the CFL
1983 Named MVP of CFL
1984 Joins the Houston Oilers
1987 Leads Houston to NFL playoffs
1988 Named All-Pro
1994 Signs with the Minnesota Vikings
1997 Signs with the Seattle Seahawks
1997 Becomes oldest starting quarterback in NFL history
2001 Retires as a Kansas City Chief

While with the Oilers, Moon was never able to advance his team past the second round of the playoffs and became a scapegoat for the team's mediocrity. Although he set many team records and his personal performance was continually recognized, he was traded after ten years to the Minnesota Vikings where he believed he would have a more legitimate shot at the Super Bowl. In Minnesota, however, Moon was no more successful. Always a contender and never a winner, the Vikings and Moon suffered a similar fate as his Oilers had in the first ten years of his NFL career. His stay in Minnesota ended after the 1996 season. Injuries limited his abilities and his backup Brad Johnson asserted himself as the quarterback of the future.

Longevity and Retirement

Moon's desire to win a championship kept him from retiring and he signed as a backup with the Seattle Seahawks in 1997. It was with Seattle that Moon would prove he still had something to offer despite his age. After the starter was injured in the first game of the season, Moon became the oldest starting quarterback in NFL history at the age of forty-one. His performance that season would lead to an appearance in the Pro Bowl where he earned the Most Valuable Player award. Moon retired as a Kansas City Chief in 2001.

His excellence on the field was matched by his reputation as a family man. In 1995, he was arrested after a domestic dispute between him and his long time wife. His wife didn't press charges and he was never convicted. They ultimately divorced in 2001, after nineteen years of marriage.

Career Statistics

Passing
Yr Team Att Com Yds COM% TD INT SK RAT
HOU: Houston Oilers; KC: Kansas City Chiefs; MINN: Minnesota Vikings; SEA: Seattle Seahawks.
1984 HOU 450 259 3338 57.6 12 14 47 76.9
1985 HOU 377 200 2709 53.1 15 19 46 68.5
1986 HOU 488 256 3489 52.5 13 26 41 62.3
1987 HOU 368 184 2806 50.0 21 18 25 74.2
1988 HOU 294 160 2327 54.4 17 8 12 88.4
1989 HOU 464 280 3631 60.3 23 14 35 88.9
1990 HOU 584 362 4689 62.0 33 13 36 96.8
1991 HOU 655 404 4690 61.7 23 21 23 81.7
1992 HOU 346 224 2521 64.7 18 12 16 89.3
1993 HOU 520 303 3485 58.3 21 21 34 75.2
1994 MINN 601 371 4264 61.7 18 19 29 79.9
1995 MINN 606 377 4228 62.2 7 9 19 68.7
1997 SEA 528 313 3678 59.3 25 16 30 83.7
1998 SEA 258 145 1632 56.2 11 8 22 76.6
1999 KC 3 1 20 33.3 0 0 0 57.6
2000 KC 34 15 208 44.1 1 1 5 61.9
TOTAL 6823 3988 49325 58.4 291 233 458 80.9

Awards and Accomplishments

1973 Named to all-city team at Hamilton High School
1978 Named Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player
1978 Named Pacific 8 Conference Player of the Year
1978-82 Grey Cup trophy
1980 Named Grey Cup Most Outstanding Offensive Player
1982 Named Grey Cup Most Outstanding Player
1983 Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy
1988 Named to NFL's All-Pro team
1990 Named NFL's Offensive Player of the Year
1997 Named to ninth NFL Pro Bowl
2001 Inducted to Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Fame

Moon overcame the obstacles of prejudice and paved the way for black quarterbacks in the NFL. A Super Bowl was the only thing Moon failed to achieve. He was active in his community and the winner of popularity polls during his time in Texas. Moon's arm strength, endurance and mental toughness carried him through a career that exceeded expectations.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Contemporary Black Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994.

Newsmakers. Detroit: Gale Group, 1991.

Periodicals

"Age is Only a Number for NFL Star Quarterback Warren Moon." Jet (November 2, 1998): 48.

"A Waning Moon." Sports Illustrated (September 11, 1995): 74.

"Blacks Star as Quarterbacks." Jet (November 13, 1995): 46.

"Father Moon." Sports Illustrated (September 27, 1993): 60.

"Felicia Moon, Wife of Ex-NFL Star Warren Moon, Files for Divorce." Jet (March 5, 2001): 14.

"Is Moon the Man?" Sporting News (May 23, 1994): 34.

"The Moon Also Sets." Sports Illustrated (October 25, 1993): 64.

"Texas Jury Acquits Football Star Warren Moon of Assaulting his Wife." Jet (March 11, 1996): 51.

"The Tribulations of a Mean Season." Sporting News (November 1, 1993): 9.

"Vikings Star Warren Moon Apologizes for Assaulting Wife." Jet (August 14, 1995): 49.

Sketch by Aric Karpinski

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Moon, Warren

Warren Moon (Harold Warren Moon, Jr.), 1956–, African-American football player, b. Los Angeles. Moon quarterbacked the Univ. of Washington Huskies to a Rose Bowl title in 1978, but he went undrafted by the National Football League, whose scouts were wary of Washington's rollout offense and an African-American at quarterback. Urged to change positions, Moon instead signed with the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos. Starting quarterback there from 1980, he led the team to four straight Grey Cup games (1980–3), winning three times (1980–82). Moon joined the NFL's Houston Oilers in 1984, and his all-around skills at quarterback were well displayed in the run-and-shoot offense the Oilers adopted two years later. Moon was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1994, and joined the Seattle Seahawks in 1997; he finished his career as a backup quarterback with the Kansas City Chiefs (1999–2001). Moon, a pioneering African American quarterback in the NFL, ranks second in professional football (NFL and CFL combined) career passing yardage (70,553).

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