Warren Moon is one one of the best professional football players in history. A star at the University of Washington, he lead the Huskies to a 1978 Rose Bowl win over Michigan, then went to Canada and won 5 straight Grey Cups for the Edmonton Eskimos. After that, just for kicks and grins, he went on to have an NFL Hall of Fame career with the Houston Oilers, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Seattle.
Moon will be honored on Tuesday, November 13, by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company as part of the Hometown Hall of Famers program, with a special ceremony and plaque presentation in front of his friends and family and the students and staff of Hamilton High School as his great football career is celebrated.
As part of this program, we were able to talk to the former NFL and Vikings great. I hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting the interview.
So tell me about the All State Hometown Heroes program and how you got involved. (You can learn more about the Hometown Heroes program right here).
Moon: Like you mentioned, it's a program sponsored by All State and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They're honoring hall of famers back in their hometown, where their careers started. You get presented with a plaque, and you get to address the student body of your old high school. I get to talk to them about what it took to become successful, and give them tips as far as where they're going in their lives right now, because they're trying to make decisions on where they're going and what they want to do, and where they want to go to college. I can share some of that knowledge--what my process was like, the different types of adversity I went through, and I'll be able to share that message. It's a great program that All State and the Hall of Fame put together, because it not only honors myself, but it honors the high school I went to and my hometown of Los Angeles.
You've had a fantastic football career--Rose Bowl champion, Grey Cup Champion, CFL and NFL Hall of Famer---where does this honor rank among all of your other accolades? [ed note: The only two people inducted in both the CFL and NFL Hall of Fame are Warren Moon and Bud Grant. BOOYA!]
Moon: It ranks right up there because for one, it is coming from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and two, it takes me back to my roots, where all of my dreams and my goals started at Hamilton High School. My high school coach, Jack Epstein, and Ron Price who will be there tomorrow, they saw something in me that a lot of other people didn't. They told me as a junior they wanted me to be their starting varsity quarterback, and right there, that gave me the inspiration and motivation that I had the chance to really do something in high school and get a college scholarship. I knew if I was going to go to college, it was going to be because of my athletics, because my mom was a single mom and she wouldn't be able to afford to send me to college.
You talked a little bit about the adversity you faced, and I'd like to get into that. You had to fight a lot of prejudice and pre-conceived notions about African-American quarterbacks back in the 1970's, both in getting to a big time college and then the NFL. Did you ever seriously consider switching positions just to get in the NFL, or was there a defining moment or person that you can recall where you said that you were going to prove people wrong?
Moon: You just have to really know me as a person. I'm really stubborn, very confident, I knew how hard I worked, and I was a pretty good judge of talent around me among my peer group. So I knew I could play with the best players, and every level that I ever played at, I played as good as or better than the best players at that time. There was only one reason why it wasn't happening for me, so it was just a matter of me sticking to my guns and someone giving me that opportunity. Instead of high school to a major college I went to a junior college so I could prove myself more.
Then instead of the NFL, I had to go to Canada to prove myself a little bit more, because there were doubters about me being able to play this position, and it wasn't because of my ability. I knew that, and I understood that. I love football, and I love the position of quarterback, and I didn't think I was good enough to play another position, so I wasn't going to change positions, or I probably wasn't going to be playing football anymore. My philosophy was keep working hard and improving, and when that door finally does open, just jump in and be prepared.
You were thought of by a lot of fans and experts to be the missing piece for the Vikings to make a serious Super Bowl run, but Houston was still very good in their own right. The trade to Minnesota came as a surprise to a lot of people. How did it come about, and what was your reaction to it?
Moon: They told me I was going to get traded because of the salary cap. The cap came into play that year, and they had a lot of money tied up in the quarterback position. The backup was a guy they were grooming for the future, and they were paying both of us a bunch of money. They had to trim somewhere, and they felt with me at my age (37 at the time) they weren't sure how much longer I could play at a high level. So they decided to trade me and go with the younger guy. I understood the philosophy in that, but I also knew how I felt physically and how well I was playing at that time. They were going off of what had happened in the past, because a guy's ability tends to go down at that age.
I'm glad it was the Vikings that I got a chance to go to, and they told me that's where it was going to be, and if I approved of that or not. I did, because like you said, the Vikings were just missing a quarterback, but they had lost a lot of their defense during that off-season during free agency, and weren't the same football team that they were before, and that's where we lagged a little bit.
Your time in Minnesota was brief, but prolific. You threw for over 4,200 yards in both '94 and '95, and tied your career best for TD passes with 33 in 1995. What were some of your best memories as a Viking?
Moon: I loved Minneapolis. It was a really nice city to live in, and me and my family felt really welcomed there. I had a chance to play with Cris Carter, so I had a top flight wide receiver to throw the football to. He was big, physical, and a guy that wanted the football all the time. He practiced hard all the time, and that was one of the things that I loved about him. And I loved Denny Green as a coach. He was a very good motivator, really took good care of the players, and had a really good program to take care of older players like myself. He didn't try and wear me out in practice, because I was on a 'pitch count' as far as how many throws I would have, and we'd get a day off every now and then.
Not sure what's better--Moon's throw, CC's catch and run, or Dave Wannstadt's 'stache
In Minnesota, at the time did you realize you were playing alongside three guys that are or will be in the Hall of Fame with you in John Randle, Randall McDaniel, and Cris Carter? Or was it something that you didn't really think about?
Moon: I didn't think a lot about it at the time, because they were still relatively young players when I got there. They played a lot longer after I left. In those years that I was there is when they started to take off as players. Randall (McDaniel) started winning multiple Pro Bowl awards, John Randle just continued to keep getting better, and Cris Carter wasn't much of a name, but then all of a sudden after I got there, he sets the single season record [ed note: for receptions, in 1994 with 122. Also, CC should be in the Hall of Fame, too] and then comes back the next year and does it again. And after I was gone, he still continued to have big years, so all those guys were on that pace when I got there, but you never know until how long a player goes and how consistent he is over a long period of time.
As a Seahawks radio broadcaster, you got to see the Vikings a couple weeks ago. Granted, it wasn't the best day for the Vikes, but give me your thoughts overall on the team, and do you still keep tabs on them?
Moon: Yeah, I was very torn that day. I still cheer for the teams that I play for, the Vikings being one of them. But I work for the Seahawks, so obviously that's where my main focus is. I still follow the Vikings very closely, though. I've come there and I've talked to their rookies and had some symposiums with them. I've talked about what it takes to make it in the National Football League, and I still know a lot of people in that organization.
I still care a lot about the Vikings organization, and they have a very good young football team that needs a few more pieces added, and I think they'll get them in this off-season. It's amazing what Adrian Peterson's able to do after surgery to lead the NFL in rushing with well over 1,000 yards, he's just a phenomenal player, and I think Christian Ponder is going to have a really good career as well.
And finally, what's the one thing that's changed for the best in the NFL, and one for the worst, since you played?
Moon: The best thing is the way they're protecting players now. Trying to get rid of the head to head hits, and all the other things that will make the game safer for the players. Not only will it maybe make their careers a little bit longer, but also after their careers are over they won't have to worry about some of the things (retired players) have to worry about now.
I think probably the worst thing is the media exposure. There's just too much of it out there. They shouldn't allow guys to Tweet at all, because that can be interpreted so differently depending on who's reading it, and I think it just gets guys in trouble for the wrong reasons. That would be one thing I definitely wouldn't allow if I was a coach in the National Football League--my players would not be allowed to Tweet.
You don't think the union would try and make you rescind that, would you?
Moon: (Laughter) Well, I'm sure they would, but that would be my preference, and I would probably have to fight a battle with them, but they do have rules right now that they can't Tweet during games (laughs), which is something they had to put a stop to. Guys were actually (Tweeting) during the games, which I thought was the craziest thing in the world, and that's where the game has gotten kind of out of whack. Players have gotten too media savvy and too media hungry, and they just need to worry about what they're doing on the field. I don't think the game is being played as smart as it used to be played because players have too many different things going on in their head.
I can't tell you what a pleasure and honor it was to speak to a former Viking and NFL great. Thanks again to All State, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and of course the great Warren Moon.