Baltimore Colt great and Hall of Famer Lenny Moore is being honored this week by his hometown of Reading, PA.
He was Marshal Faulk before there was a Marshal Faulk, Moore is still the fourth leading receiver in franchise history behind Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Raymond Berry. Moore rushed and received for 11,000 yards and scored more than 100 career touchdowns playing alongside John Unitas.
Moore is being honored as part of the "Hometown Hall of Famers" program as presented by Allstate and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Moore's career was groundbreaking both because of his affect on modern football as a pass-catching running back and as one of the pioneer African-American players in the NFL.
This week I had the truly special honor of speaking to this Colts legend.
CA: First of all I want to congratulate you on a spectacular career and an incredible honor to be honored by your hometown. What's that like to get recognition years after your career is over?
Moore: You hit the nail right on the head! <chuckles> After all this time things had pretty much died out, and then here you come. Your own hometown, you know?
Thank God for the Hall of Fame folks working with them. That's something that I never ever would have thought. From the standpoint that those folks who were great to me in high school, and most of them have passed on…you just wished you could share what's happening with you with those who made it possible. I can just share God's blessings with them.
CA: How much did Reading play a role in your identity as a player. They called you the "Reading Raider" didn't they? Wasn't that one of your nicknames?
Moore: Reading Rocket! <chuckels> Well, gee, I didn't choose what anybody called me. When they throw names at you, at that point in your life, you are just still trying to make headway! You are still trying to find out really who you are!
So when they put names like that on me after I went to college and the pros, I never thought about it to that degree. But it was nice to hear. But you're still growing!
Even after all of it is done, it seems like you still picture yourself growing. It's a blessing. It's nothing but a blessing.
CA: Let me ask you what it was like to be such a seminal player in the NFL. Looking at the Colts all-time receiving list, it's Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Raymond Berry and you! You were a harbinger of all the new things to come in the NFL. 30 years before Roger Craig and Marshal Faulk! What was it like to be that kind of special, different player?
Moore: We can talk about it now, but you couldn't talk about it then. And you couldn't talk about it for quite a few years after. You were doing what you had to do!
You were doing what your team called for you to do. Case in point: Raymond Berry came to me, and this was going into my third year in the pros, and he came to me. He was a fantastic receiver, second to none.
He came to me and said, "Lenny, I've been watching film. We need more of you in our offense."
I thought, "What the heck is he talking about?!"
CA: That's quite an honor coming from Berry!
Moore: Listen! He pulled me aside and this is what he told me! He said,
I've been sitting down with John (Unitas). We know there are things that you can do that would open our offense up a bit more.
But, you've got to work with John. John is not going to come to you. You've got to go to John. Say, 'Hey John, how about a couple of slant patterns? Let's time up on it!
Maybe we can get you in some of our offensive set up. That's what you have to do!"
So every time when the whistle blew, we would all run in because practice was over, but there was Raymond. There was John. Down there on the goal line, practicing their routine, pass catching.
The beautiful thing I noticed about Raymond was that he set himself up to catch passes that the normal receiver wouldn't catch. He said, "It's all a question, Lenny, of hand-eye-coordination."
I said, "Hand-eye coordination? What do you mean? You see the ball and you try to catch the ball!"
He said, "No! It's much more than that! You have to learn how to make your cuts appropriate to when that pass is coming! You have to be in position to hand-eye coordinate catching the ball."
I thought, "Man, what's he talking about?"
He said, "This is what I mean. When you make your sharp cut on a pass pattern. Let's say you are running a 10-yard angle out. On a 10-yard angle out never cut on your inside foot."
I'm thinking to myself, "What is he talking about? Cut on your inside foot? I don't know what foot I'm cutting on!" The only thing I know is that I'm coming down, I'm trying to make my break to get open from the defensive back to open myself up for John to hit me! I don't know what foot I planted.
He said, "That's what I'm talking about. The difference between cutting on your inside foot and making certain that you cut on your outside foot gives you a sharper cut for that pass. It automatically puts your body in position to help your hand-eye coordination. Now let me show you what I mean."
So went on and did a couple then said, "Now look at my inside when I make my cut. If I make my cut on my inside foot, I have to bring my eyes around and my shoulder to see where the ball is coming. But if I cut on my outside foot, all I have to do is plant my outside foot to make a sharp cut. I can turn my head, but my eyes are already coordinating where John is and where the ball is and my hands make the catch."
I said, "Well that sounds simple! Let me try a couple of these!"
I understood instantly what he was talking about. What he was talking about was being in catch position in reference to pass-pattern running. It's not about just making a cut. Your body has to be in tune with what you're doing.
I went out and I did a couple of those. I found out, whoo man, now I see what you're talking about!
He said, "That's what I'm talking about! Many receivers never sharpen up on their pass-pattern running because they're not certain which foot to plant. You plant on the foot that's your last step for the final cut when receiving the ball."
Let me tell you something. It's amazing what he did because it improved my pass-pattern running. Now I was aware of what I was really doing when running a pattern. I wasn't just running to catch a ball. I know where my body is. I know where I planted my foot. I know where my shoulders are.
CA: I hope you take this as a compliment. I know you are a Baltimore Colt, and I'm in Indianapolis. And having watched Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James who were as good a quarterback, running back, receiver combination as have been in the NFL, at least since you and Raymond and Johnny were playing. When you talk about pass-patterns, it sounds like the work that Manning and Harrison and James were putting together.
Moore: You have to sharpen it up! That's right!
That puts the defensive back in a sweat.
CA: That was pioneer work. For a running back to do the things you were doing…
Moore: Raymond was the pioneer.
We were offshoots of his pioneering actions.
We used to laugh! There's Raymond, you know? There's Raymond, off in that corner of the end zone! He'd be last one out there. He'd be twisting and turning his body! John would be putting the ball right on him and they'd time up.
That's what I started to get involved with. I got the full understanding of exactly what he was talking about. That way Johnny had the confidence to know that if certain pass patterns were called, he knew exactly where you were going to be. Where you should be!
CA: You were a revolutionary player in a revolutionary offense. We are talking so much about Jackie Robinson and what he meant to our society. In the NFL we don't really have a "Jackie Robinson" but there were so many of you that suffered through integration nationally and of the game. I know you've spoken at length about the role that race and integration had in your career. Is there anything you can share with me? There are so few of you guys left, and your story is such an encouragement to all of us.
Moore: Unfortunately, this is what was going on in society. And what was going on in society forced its way into other arenas. That means into the sports arena or whatever.
Let me tell you something, my man. I had the opportunity to meet the great Jackie Robinson. I had the opportunity to sit down and TALK with the great Jackie Robinson. I had the opportunity to talk with the great Marion Motley. I had the opportunity to talk to the great Muhammad Ali.
I had the opportunity to sit down and tell them how we would try and go into a restaurant and not get served and how that would feel. We were supposed to be a part of what was supposed to be an open book and then you come to find out that you are closed out of many situations that are open to your teammates!
I said, "Jackie! You know what, man? You were the only one! When I came in, I had the opportunity to talk to Big Daddy Lipscomb. I had the opportunity to talk to the great Bill Davis, to Jim Parker, the great Sherman Plunkett, Johnny Sample, Milton Davis! I had like seven guys on our club. Some of the other clubs had two or three! This was something that was going on that we had to deal with. But Jackie, how did you do it, man? You were the only one!"
He said, "Lenny, I don't know myself."
Those were his exact words to me.
I knew we had to beat this. I knew I had to beat this because it would open up other arenas and areas for maybe them to move in other qualified black players. How I handled me was how they would think of who else they could bring in. There were many times, man, when I wanted to throw some punches. Many times even some of our teammates said wrong things. It wasn't easy. They went out one door. I went out the other. That's just the way it was.
I remember Marion Motley told me, "I used to get notices before games telling me specifically, 'Don't you try to enter the end zone. If you do, there's a bullet waiting on you." This was Marion Motley.
You know you've got your mind on your plays and on other things, but on top of that you've got to think about what could happen, man? If have the opportunity to go in the end zone, I could get shot?
This was going on around the league! But we could talk and share and try to make each other comfortable with what was a very uncomfortable situation. That's what happened.
I never thought I'd see the numbers that are in the game today. I never thought I'd see that.
I knew I'd see it grow, but I never thought I'd see it grow to this rate. The same with the coaches. I never thought I'd see coaches.
I look at Ozzie Newsome. He's a general manager! Unbelievable.
CA: This was such an honor. Now I can say, "I talked to the great Lenny Moore". Thank you for what you've done for our country and our game. God Bless you.
Moore: And God bless you all.