Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Birthday Nat Moore

Happy 56th birthday to former Dolphins receiver Nat Moore. From 1974 to 1986, Moore was one of the most prolific receivers in Miami history and had the distinction of catching passes from hall of fame quarterbacks Bob Griese and Dan Marino. During his NFL career, Moore caught 510 passes for 7,546 yards and 74 touchdowns.

Born Nathaniel Moore in Tallahassee, Nat moved to Miami as a young boy and was a 3-sport athlete at Edison High School in football, basketball and track. He didn't letter in football until his senior year, while playing for legendary Edison coach Haywood Fowle. At Edison, Moore starred as a running back and led Dade County in rushing as a senior in 1968. He became the second player in in Edison High history to rush for over 1,000 yards and earned a spot on the Miami Herald's All-City team.

But due to his small size and limited football experience, Moore was not heavily recruited by major colleges out of high school. He originally earned a scholarship to the Universifty of Tennessee-Martin. Unhappy at UTM, Moore returned to Miami and enrolled at Miami-Dade Community College South Campus, where he starred on the basketball team as a point guard. Moore's life would change forever when he was noticed by a University of Florida assistant football coach while playing basketball at Miami-Dade CC. The coach had remembered Moore's football exploits at Edison High and recommended him to then Gators head coach Doug Dickey. He soon earned a football scholarship from the Gators.

Moore finished his college career at the University of Florida and quickly became one of the great players in Gator history. As a junior in 1972, Moore led the SEC in rushing and set a then UF record with over 800 yards. Despite and injury-plagued senior year, Moore was drafted in the third round by the Miami Dolphins in 1974.

At 5'9 and 184 pounds, Moore was switched from running back to wide receiver by head coach Don Shula. He originally distinguished himself as a kick returner as a rookie in 1974. But it didn't take long for Shula and Dolphin fans to notice Moore's natural athletic gifts as a receiver. Possessing great quickness and outstanding hands, perhaps Moore's greatest asset was his courage. Despite his small stature, Moore was known to run patterns over the middle and take vicious hits. His most famous play was his "helicopter catch" in a Monday Night game against the New York Jets. He was hit by two Jet defenders and was launched in the air while his body spun completely around. The play is one of the most famous highlights ever shown by NFL Films.

In 1977 Moore was named to the Pro Bowl and led the NFL with 12 touchdown catches. He also helped his quarterback Bob Griese receive All-Pro honors that season. Known a great team leader, Moore served as a mentor to younger teammates Mark Duper and Mark Clayton and helped them develop into Pro Bowl receivers. It was a trait Moore had learned from his mentor Paul Warfield when he entered the NFL.

Moore's most memorable game came on December 2, 1985 when he caught 2 touchdown passes from Dan Marino to beat the Chicago Bears on a Monday Night game in front of a raucus crowd at the Orange Bowl. The Bears entered the game undefeated and had one of the great defenses of all time. To exploit Chicago's defense, Shula had Moore line up in the backfield and isolate him on Bears linebacker Wilber Marshall. Marshall was not quick enough to keep up with Moore in pass coverage and this mismatch was exploited the whole game. The Dolphins would win 38-24, handing the Bears their only loss of their championship season.

Off the field, Moore was named the NFL's Man of the Year in 1984 for his outstanding service to the community. In 1986, he received the Byron White Humanitarian Award. When his football career ended, he started the Nat Moore Foundation which helps disadvantage youth in Miami-Dade County. A staunch supporter of his alma mater, Moore has spent the last decade as a color comentator for University of Florida football games on Sunshine Network and Sun Sports. He also does broadcast work with the Miami Dolphins during the preseason on TV and as a sideline reporter for the Dolphins radio network. A successful businessman, he also runs a sports promotions firm, Nat Moore & Associates, Inc.

No comments: