Appalachian State’s Patriarch
By Matthew Osborne
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While recruiting talented players and assembling game plans made Jerry Moore a championship coach, his selfless personality made him a championship person.
As football fans, we frequently hear athletes and coaches compare being on a football team to being in a family. Obviously, it is no wonder that football draws such comparisons. The physical nature of the sport itself induces feelings of brotherhood, camaraderie and family from any of its participants.
For any family, or in this case a football team, to be successful, however, there must be a strong father figure to lead the way and offer his guidance.
At Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, that metaphorical father figure for the football family over the past 24 years has been Jerry Moore.
Sunday morning, to the surprise of many people in the football community, Moore announced that he is retiring as head coach of the Mountaineers, leaving behind one of the most prolonged runs of dominance in FCS history.
Moore’s numbers in Boone speak for themself: 215 wins (most in SoCon history), 10 conference championships, just one losing season and three national titles in his 24 years in control.
For the people who know Coach Moore best, though, the records and statistics pale in comparison to the impact that he had on people’s lives while in charge of the program.
“If you could talk to anyone – from me, before me, after me – they’d tell you that Coach Moore left a legacy where it wasn’t all about football; it was about life,” Appalachian State’s 2008 SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Jacque Roman commented. “Those steps that you took playing for his football team led you to be a better man throughout life.”
Certainly, Coach Moore was an excellent schematic coach, but his most powerful character trait was his ability to relate to his players and coaches, positively impacting the course of their lives during the process. His players didn’t just listen to his message while enrolled at Appalachian State; they carried his lessons with them long past graduation and well into their lives as family men.
“We've got guys now that come back with families, and they just speak so much highly of him and how he has impacted their lives,” said interim head coach Scott Satterfield. “We just can't say enough about what he has done for not only this university, but for the individual lives that he has touched. He will never realize the kind of impact he really made, I don't think."
The core of Moore’s successful philosophy was the belief that you should always put others before yourself. In his eyes, the success of the team or an individual player was exponentially more important than any personal gratification which may come his way.
It was a belief that he would stick to all the way up through his last day as the Mountaineers’ head coach.
Despite deciding that the 2012 season would be his final season as a head coach almost a full year ago, Moore opted not to make his impending retirement public, as he did not want to be the focus of the attention.
While recruiting talented players and assembling complex game plans made Moore a championship coach on the field, it was his selfless, caring personality which made him a championship person in life.
His genuine and passionate concern for those around him earned Moore the reputation of being a father figure for the entire Appalachian State program.
“You want a coach who makes a team feel like a family, and Coach Moore was a smart guy on the football field, but he was also the most caring and warm-hearted guy off the football field. Those things carry over,” Roman added. “It feels good to have a coach you can go talk to, and it’s not always about football. Coach Moore builds a relationship with every single player.”
Current Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Jackson echoed Roman’s sentiments.
“Man, he's been everything [to me]; that father figure," Jackson said of Coach Moore’s impact on his life. "He's been that coach - since my true freshman year I've had to do a lot of growing up - and he's played a major part in that role of me being in college and just maturing as a young man. He's definitely done things to help me succeed and get to the point where I'm at now."
Coaches such as Nick Saban, Les Miles and Urban Meyer get the majority of the media attention in the coaching world, but it is people like Jerry Moore who epitomize what being a collegiate coach should be about.
Though most experts will choose to focus on the legacy he left behind on the gridiron, Moore’s greatest legacy is the one that will continue to live on through the lives he has affected.
“Coach Moore should be the proudest guy in the world right now, because he left something behind that nobody else could even think about touching,” Roman remarked on his former coach’s legacy. “He had a very big heart. You would wonder how he could care about every individual on the team, but he cared about every person who ever played for Appalachian.”
Now 73 years old, Moore leaves behind the Appalachian State program he helped build, focusing instead on the next chapter in his life.
As anybody who knows Moore personally will tell you, though, it will not be the final chapter in his life story. As Appalachian State’s patriarch, Moore’s legacy will continue to live on for generations to come.