When a thoroughbred feels he has been turned into an everyday workhorse, the only option he has is to find a new stable.
So when Loyola High School relegated Michael Moore, nephew of former NFL star Ahmad Rashad, to just another receiver a few years ago, he became disenchanted with the game and quit. If not for parental pressure, Moore would now be working on his drag bunt and jump shot rather than beating back recruiters.
It would have been gridiron blaspheme.
Now at Beverly Hills High School, all Moore has time to work on is scoring 1,020 on the SAT, roaming the baseball diamond and basketball court and playing both sides of the football. His coach said if the 6-3 senior had even a little spare time he could also run track.
“At first I didn’t like football,” says the 17-year-old Moore, who caught a 99-yard touchdown pass last week. “But when I saw (my uncle’s) games it gave me the inspiration and motivation to play.”
Moore is a football capitalist. He possess a sense of self-worth and does not like to be treated unfairly. And, Moore says, Loyola mishandled his playing time and “the whole system broke down.”
“I want to get a fair shake and play,” the 185-pound Moore said. “If I am the best man, I want to be treated like the best man. If I’m not--fine. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting that at Loyola. I didn’t get along over there from the word go .”
Moore played freshman football for Loyola and said he felt a “very negative image.” During the summer before his sophomore year he decided to quit the sport until his father, a football aficionado, persuaded him to play one more season.
“He was playing on our undefeated sophomore team,” Loyola Coach Steve Grady said. “I don’t think (he left) because of a lack of playing time. He might have shared time because nothing was going to be handed to him. But he is a great athlete, so if he is happy, we’re happy.”
After that sophomore season, Moore headed to Beverly Hills.
Moore is not only a valuable receiver for the undefeated Normans (13 catches, 399 yards and 6 touchdowns this season) but patrols the secondary as well. And three weeks ago, in a victory over Harvard, Moore hauled down the winning touchdown pass with fewer than two minutes remaining. Then back on defense, on a fourth and four play, he tipped a pass that a teammate returned for another touchdown.
“I anticipated the route he ran,” said Moore, sitting on a deserted metal bench watching the freshman game. He folds his arms across his lap. “It keeps you in the game mentally (playing offense and defense).”
The shirt Moore wears, usually hidden under his jersey, is ripped at the bottom and its sleeves hug his biceps. His eyes do not dart like those of a shady cornerback but move cautiously, carefully pulling in the surroundings. A shrilling whistle prompts reflection.
“A couple of years ago, in Pop Warner, I didn’t want to play football anymore,” Moore said. “My mom talked me back into it. And my dad loves the game so much I can play for him.” Moore paused, then began again. “Right now I am just playing for myself.”
Moore said that when he played at Loyola, most of the game programs trumped up the fact he was the nephew of Rashad. And although he said he thinks some players might “gear up a little more” there have not been many problems regarding his bloodline.
“I’m just happy to be his nephew,” Moore said. “If I can do anything he did I’ll be on my way. But I want to play well for myself.”
And, for Moore, playing well in any sport has never been a problem.
“He has a tremendous amount of athletic ability,” said Bill Stansbury, co-coach at Beverly Hills. “He can jump real well and has a good combination of athletic skills. Last week (in a 33-18 victory over Mira Costa), he out-jumped two guys like he was rebounding and scored a touchdown.”
There is nothing strange about the combination of rebounding and Moore. He played center in basketball for the Normans last season and was usually competing against centers 5 and 6 inches taller. Rarely did he complain.
“I didn’t like playing center,” said Moore, who is being recruited by Stanford for basketball. “But I was starting and playing, so . . . .”
He was also starting and playing for the baseball team and was named second-team all-league. Over the summer he attended an all-star camp, was selected to play in its all-star game and belted two hits.
During the camp, officials videotaped Moore and another player in order to send the finished product to all major league baseball teams. More said that insiders predict he will be drafted in the first or second round.
“I held my own at the camp,” Moore said. “If I had to pick one or the other, football and baseball would be first. But baseball has the deterrent of the minor leagues.”
For now at least, he may not have to make that decision. USC, Stanford, UCLA and a host of other schools have expressed interest in the multifaceted athlete and a couple have indicated he will be able to play two sports.
But the fun of being recruited has been limited for Moore. Save for the excitement of being invited to attend a few major college games and bathe in the compliments of big football schools, Moore has been subject to a salvo of recruiter phone calls.
“Recruiting can be a hassle,” he said, shaking his head. “Somebody is on the phone every other second. You have to weed out the ones you don’t want early on. But I haven’t eliminated anyone just yet.”
Moore also said staying in California and close to his family is a priority. He wants to major in business and retire at age 45 as did his father, Dennis.
“If I can come close to what he has done,” Moore said, “I’ll be very happy.”
But for now, Beverly Hills High school has to be the happiest.