- Fred Smith
Connie Moore: In His Words
This is the part II of Connie's story, for part I click HERE.
Connie Moore has two sons currently in college. He has two more who are on track to follow in their brothers’ footsteps. He's a husband. He’s a business owner. By every measure, he’s an American success story. The following words are his:
I’ve tried to teach my sons what I’ve learned from my own life. I’ve done everything I can to help them become men. They’re smarter than I ever was. They get better grades. They’re better versions of me. That means everything. Things had to happen the way they did for me. I don’t have any regrets. Looking back, I realize I soaked up a lot of anger like a sponge. I never let it go. I just absorbed all the negativity and that hurt me. It hurt my development as a man. That’s why I’ve tried to teach my kids to not hold it in. You’ve got to surround yourself with people you can trust. That’s what I should have done. I’ve never been a rat. I never spilled on anyone, just to save myself. Even now, I’m not going to point fingers and name names. What good would that do? But there are some things I’ve wanted to say for a long time, and now is the time to say them. I’ve been judged my whole life by people who don’t know the whole story. Here it is, once and for all… Southridge I loved being at Southridge. I never wanted to leave. Coach Soldinger is a coach I have so much respect for. He demands that you do things right. That’s why his teams always win. Being kicked off the Southridge football team was one of the worst days of my life. Coach literally ripped the jersey off my body and called me “a fucking disgrace.” I begged him through tears to understand that I didn’t do what he thought I did. It happened in the gym at a basketball game. Someone threw a piece of chalk and it hit a woman in the eye. I got blamed, but on my kids’ lives I swear I didn’t do it. I know who did, but I didn’t tell then and I wont tell now. I loved Coach Soldinger and I loved being a Spartan. But after that day, it was clear that I wasn’t welcome. Palmetto At Palmetto, I got a chance to be the man. We had a great team and a great offense, but what changed my life at Palmetto was meeting Coach [Dave] Pereira. You want to know how important Coach P is to me? My oldest son, CJ, was born my senior year. Coach P is CJ’s godfather. That man did everything for me. He made me a better football player, but he also made me a better man.
On Monday, March 12th, 1995, I was on my way to my first period class. I never got there. Two police officers and the principal met me at the gates. They told me my time at Palmetto was finished. They then escorted me to my locker so I could get my things, then they marched me out of the school—like a criminal. Every kid in the halls looked at me like I was the worst person in the world. I didn’t say a word. I just walked out. That’s how I left Palmetto—in shame. I never set foot on campus again as a student. I wasn’t allowed to go to prom, or Grad Nite. I wasn’t even allowed to go to graduation. My days at Palmetto were over. I finished my senior year at MacArthur South. I had been arrested the previous Friday, for the first time in my life. The newspapers carried the story, I guess because I was a “football star.” The article said we were following a couple into a neighborhood we shouldn’t have been in. It said we had “burglary tools,” including a crow bars and ski masks. I’ve got the police report. It doesn’t say anything about us having crow bars. There was a screw driver in the car, no crow bars. One of the guys had a ski mask. We were less than 10 minutes from my home. I had come straight from lifting weights and was still in my workout clothes. We weren’t going to rob anyone. There was a gun. I let someone into my car with a gun. I didn't know he had the gun when he got in the car. I didn't know he had the gun until the cops found it on him. It doesn’t matter who it was. I kept my mouth shut. I let the system go to work, and all charges against me were eventually dropped. But I paid a price. I lost a year of football after I was forced to leave Arizona Western [in the fall of 1995], but worse than that…I was labeled a criminal.
College After the 1997 season, I was a JUCO (junior college) All-American. I was the number one JUCO receiver in the country. A lot of big time schools wanted me. I almost went to Michigan State. [Former MSU head coach] Nick Saban really wanted me, but I got the impression some of the players didn’t. I didn’t feel right so I passed. Coach P had connections at Florida. I spent a lot of time at UF and hung out with the players in the locker room. Coach Dixon (UF’s then receivers coach) really wanted me, but Coach [Steve] Spurrier wasn’t big on taking JUCO players. So it wasn’t quite right. Coach P also had connections at Illinois. Coach [Ron] Turner took a look at me and told me what I wanted to hear. He had been the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears and told me I was going to be his Curtis Conway (then an All-Pro receiver in the NFL). So I signed with UI. Illinois I studied my ass off when I got to Champaign. I had to because I needed to fulfill academic requirements I was short on. I knew I was in the big time, because they [the university] assigned me a tutor. I did everything I needed to do to play. I’ve never spoken publicly about why I was kicked off the Illinois team. Reporters from ESPN and the local papers wanted to know, and I didn’t say a word. Even after I was long gone from the program and Illinois was losing games that year, reporters from Champaign would call me and ask if I could have made a difference. Then they would ask me what happened. I always took the high road. The papers said I was kicked off the team because of a fight with a coach. That’s completely false. I never got in a fight with any member of the coaching staff. They said it involved alcohol. They’re right about that part. Illinois had had disciplinary problems with some high-profile players. You can look it up if you want, but I’m not going to name names. A week before the regular season, Coach Turner laid down the law: no drinking, no smoking, no fighting. No excuses. Those were the rules. I’ve never been a drinker in my life. But I took two sips at a small party our girlfriends threw for a few of us—who I won’t name—on a Sunday. We had a team meeting later that day, and the guys from the party knew we had to be there on time. We jumped out of the car and sprinted full speed to the meeting room. We got there just as the meeting started. In coach’s eyes we were late. I broke the rules. I admitted to Coach Turner what I’d done, and he had the team vote on whether I would be allowed to stay in the program. The team voted me out. Murray State Playing for Murray State was a mistake. Looking back, I should have sat out that year (1998) and transferred to another D-1 (Division I) school. I should have gone home to Miami and worked out with Coach P, who had promised to work with me every day to keep me sharp. I just wanted to play football. I had already sat out 1995. I wanted to show what I could do and Murray let me do that. Coach [Denver] Johnson was straight up with me. He gave me the opportunity to play right away. They got me the ball and I put up numbers. But I could have done more. I used up my last year of eligibility playing for a team I just showed up to. My college career was over, but I wasn’t done. NFL Coach P set up a tryout in Miami for a few NFL teams who were considering taking me in the supplemental draft. He got Gregg Jones to throw to me. Gregg had been a coach at Palmetto when I was there. He had also played QB for West Virginia and the Detroit Lions. He threw like an NFL quarterback and on that day I ran and caught like one. I thought it would just be a matter of time before I was drafted by an NFL team. I was wrong. I wasn’t ready to give up and neither was Coach P. He set up a tryout for me with Dallas. It had been a year since I played with Murray, but I was strong. I signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys. I was an NFL receiver. NFL practices are intense. Everyone has ability, so it’s the guys who can handle themselves mentally that make it. It was hard for me. Each day, they put in 60 plays. These aren’t high school plays, either. This is Troy Aikman barking complicated formations a mile a minute. The playbook is as thick as a dictionary. On top of that, you’ve got to keep track of your money, your bills, everything. I didn’t have an agent. I had to do it all myself. I should have reached out to Coach P. I know he would have helped me, but he had gotten married and was starting a family of his own. I had to push through, but it was hard. We had a weekend off and I decided to come home to my wife and kids. I needed to refocus. Turns out that trip would lead to me getting cut from the Cowboys. Remember Elian Gonzalez? When all that was going on, they shut down the Miami airport. When the weekend was over, I couldn’t get back to Dallas. I missed two days of practice, which is a big deal in any program. In the NFL it's detrimental to your job. I got back to Dallas 120 plays behind everyone else. I slipped down the depth chart and I never recovered. I’ll never forget the day Jerry Jones looked me in the eyes and told me I was no longer a Cowboy. He told me to keep pushing and maybe our paths would cross again. The NFL is a business. I knew that when I signed my contract. Troy Aikman had suffered a concussion and the team needed the last roster spot to carry a quarterback. I was out. It was business. I was 26 years old and knew it was time to walk away from football. It was time to put all of my efforts toward my family. No regrets. Family and Legacy Troy Davis and Sedrick Irvin are friends of mine. If you go to their houses you see shrines that are dedicated to their football careers. They were great players—in college and the pros. They earned every accolade they ever got. They also earned the legacy they’ll pass down to their kids. I’ll never have a shrine about my career, but I’ve made sure to pass down something to my kids. I want my sons to look at me and the mistakes I made and know how important it is to always do the right thing. I want them to understand how important getting an education is. When I said playing out my eligibility at Murray State was the biggest mistake of my career, I was telling the truth. If I had stayed in school I would have a bachelor’s degree (instead of being 34 credits shy like I am now). Watching my kids succeed in athletics and life is far greater than anything I ever achieved. Palmetto has an athletics hall of fame, and I’m not in it. That’s OK because my son, CJ who was a big time basketball player for Killian and now plays for Webster University, always put up big numbers against Palmetto. That was fun to watch.
It took me a long time to realize that my days playing football were just a part of my life. Not my entire life, but an important building block that helped form who I am today. I’ve been blessed to play with some of the greatest men and for some of the greatest coaches the game of football has ever known. We went through something together. Something most people don’t understand. You may be reading this right now, and I want you to know I consider you all brothers. I don’t have to name names. You know who you are. Peace, Connie