T.J. SIMERS

Jim and Shannon Mora make a difference in children's lives

UCLA football coach and his wife are launching a foundation in Los Angeles, just as they have done in other cities.

We agreed to meet at the Kettle in Manhattan Beach.

I arrived early so I could remove the knives from the table.

I had never met Shannon Mora, but she's the wife of UCLA football Coach Jim Mora so I could only imagine.

First thing I wanted to know: "Are you forced to put everything in the form of a question at home?"

"No, I comment, make statements and question," Shannon said.

"He doesn't allow me to do that," I explained.

"But you're not sleeping with him," she said, and I guess I had just never given any thought that someone did.

We laughed because we share something in common: We both like Jim Mora. Shocking, I know, but she said she does.

"Jim and I dated for 10 years," Shannon said, and I told her I wasn't surprised it took so long to warm to him.

They've been married 22 years, she guessed, maintaining it's Jim's job to count the years. It's just more natural for the scoreboard watcher to keep track.

I go back 27 years with Mora to when he wasn't married, worked for the Chargers, was fun-loving and nothing like the starched shirt he is behind a microphone now.

I said I found her husband a worthy sparring partner.

"I know this," she said. "No matter how it goes, he doesn't come home and kick the dog."

"Do you own a dog?" I said.

"No," she said.

Later we would argue about what it takes to be a coach and she explained how some people could become better sports columnists. I got the impression as she took over the conversation that if she told her husband to go over the wall at practice he would.

But, like her husband, she was also just busting with energy and a passion to make a difference. And I got the impression it would be best if I did not interrupt.

"We want to better the lives of children in need and empower them to reach their dreams," she gushed, and gushed really didn't cover her enthusiasm.

A moment later she was choking up as she talked about a young girl fighting cancer who had plans of going to her prom if only she had an appropriate dress.

"We were working on the dress, but she didn't make it," Shannon said. "I don't cry, I really don't. But do you know what it's like to make a difference in a child's life?"

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