Ladies and Gentlemen
I will have several funny articles for you in the next few weeks….
But in the meantime I want to take a minute to talk about a dear friend of mine
A little over a week ago…..
Coach Mal Moore, The Athletic Director of the University of Alabama passed away suddenly
There have been a lot of things written about Coach Moore
The boy from Dozier Alabama…..
The college football player for Coach Bryant at the University of Alabama……
The incredible Assistant Coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide for both Coach Bryant and Coach Stallings winning National Championships with both Coaches……
The great Athletic Director for the University that he loved so much…
But Coach Moore was more than that……
He was more than just a Coach to me
He was also my friend
I learned a lot from Coach Moore
How to tell a story and to weave the occasional life lesson in a story….
How to laugh at yourself….
How to care about those around you
I have a lot of stories that I could share with you all here, but I will tell you just a couple of them
I was a young incoming freshman vying for a scholarship for the Mighty Crimson Tide
I had gone to six different high schools in four years
I had been playing on High School football teams since I was in the eighth grade
Yes, I said the eighth grade
I had offers to attend other colleges, but I knew in my heart that I had rather take my chances walking on at the University of Alabama than go to some place that wasn’t my “home”.
As you may know, I didn’t have the advantage that some of you may have had…
I was a foster kid that moved from farm to farm to farm……
I didn’t have a Momma or a Daddy
I didn’t have anybody to teach me anything other than how to be a farm laborer
I didn’t have anybody that cared about me
With that being said…
I got off the Greyhound Bus (that’s right I said Greyhound Bus…)
At the University of Alabama with a gym bag in my hand and the clothes on my back.
I had three pair of underwear, including the pair I had on, three pairs of white socks and two t-shirts.
It’s all the clothes I had to my name
I registered for classes and reported for freshman practice
To say that practice was hard would be an understatement
Football practice under Coach Bryant at the University of Alabama made Marine Corps Boot Camp at Parris Island South Carolina look like a Cub Scout Knot tying class.
Believe me, I have done both so I know what I am talking about here
As I said, I was nobody’s “All-Star” so in some ways it was even harder for me….
I had some moments and flashes of brilliance but mostly I struggled and struggled mightily
Everybody respected and admired Coach Bryant….
That goes without saying
But we were also scared to death of him, scared to disappoint him and sometimes just plain scared
Because he was larger than life
Coach Mal Moore was one of his assistant coaches…
And one particular day after about ten days of two-a-days towards the end of afternoon practice I was struggling, really struggling on the blocking sled. No, that’s not right; I was spent against that sled.
Coach Moore came up to me and said….
“Why don’t you just quit son, because you ain’t getting it…”
And I said with tears in my eyes and coated in sweat….
“Coach I don’t have any place else to go, you are going to have to kill me to get me to leave”
With that, Coach Moore did an about face and went over to some other players to offer instruction
And I went back to struggling against the block sled….
That evening after I showered I limped back over to the athletic dormitory…..
There in my room, lying on the bed….
Were several pairs of dress slacks, two pair of blue jeans and socks in different colors, several pairs of underwear, dress shirts, dress shoes and as I looked around, hanging in the closet were some colored dress shirts, ties and a University of Alabama Blazer.
So I ran as fast as I could back to the Athletic Facility and knocked on Coach Moore’s office door…
Coach Moore didn’t get all the words of “Come on in” out of his mouth before I poured into his office out of breath and asked him “Coach have I been cut from the team?”
Coach Moore replied calmly in his deep Alabama accent with “No, why would you ask that?”
“Because Coach I got back to my room and there were a whole bunch of clothes in there”
I can see Coach Moore smiling setting behind his desk even now when he said…
“Did the clothes fit?”
Like I said I hadn’t been anywhere in my life….
Astonished at his question I said rather emphatically
“Why Coach I’m not trying on somebody else’s clothes!”
I know Coach Moore thought he was talking to the dumbest football player he ever had…
But instead he smiled and kind of stifled a laugh and said….
“They belong to you, so go try them on and let me know if they don’t fit you”
Again as a further illustration that I wasn’t too bright I said….
“So I’m on the team?”
“Yes, now get some rest and let me know if the clothes don’t fit alright?”
Sometimes I can go from dummy to stupid in less than a second so I asked…
“But Coach those clothes aren’t mine”
Coach Moore now openly laughing said..
“They are now, now get out of here I have work to do”
Not long ago, I was at the University of Alabama and Coach Moore was working as usual and I asked his secretary if Coach Moore was in the office and If I could stick my head in there and holler at him.
She said I could….
So I peered around the corner and said…
“Hey Coach, I know your busy so I won’t bother you, but I have to tell you I still have that underwear you gave me (as I tugged at the back on my trousers), now the elastic is about gone so I got some bobby pins holding it up in the back but the rest of it has held up amazingly well.”
I loved to hear him laugh, and laugh he did….
I then parted with, “Now Coach you know I still have a year of eligibility left so if you want to talk with Coach Saban about it, you go right ahead, I’m still in really good shape”
I loved that deep laugh of his….
I told him I had to run but just wanted to “check” on him….
He shook my hand and thanked me…
I told him goodbye and I told him one other thing I always told him too…
“Thank you for everything Coach, I love you”
Coach Moore was more than just a Coach to me
He was a mentor
He was a teacher
He was class, character and integrity personified
Which leads me to the last story I want to share with you all here….
Coach Moore married the beautiful (and friends I do mean beautiful) Miss Charlotte Davis of Tuscaloosa in 1968 in his fourth year as an Assistant Coach under Coach Bryant.
For 25 years they lived and loved each other like few couples I have ever seen….
But in 1993 while an Assistant Coach under Coach Gene Stallings some of the other Coaches wives were telling Coach Moore that something seemed amiss with Miss Charlotte.
She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and Coach Moore made a difficult decision to leave Coach Stallings’ staff so he could take more time to care for his ailing wife. Moore accepted a position as an Associate Athletics’ Director.
Five years later, he was promoted to athletics director, and the rest is glorious history.
Eventually, Charlotte became a resident of La Rocca Nursing Home in Tuscaloosa.
Coach Moore visited her every day he was in town. Every…. single day.
He said little about this cross he was bearing until a 2009 interview, when he reflected on his first 10 years as Alabama’s athletics director.
When the subject of Charlotte came up, Moore opened up, and as he shared details, his eyes watered.
“She’s not said my name in 10 years,” Moore said as his voice started to break.
I was at a University Fund Raiser not long after this interview, when a well meaning young man came up to Coach Moore and told him that he had read the story about he and Miss Charlotte.
The young man then asked Coach Moore…..
“Coach how can you go every day and set at the bedside of woman that doesn’t know who you are anymore, how do you do that every day?”
Without hesitation Coach Moore looked the young man in the eye and said….
“Because I know her every day…..”
That was Coach Mal Moore
Miss Charlotte died the next year in January 2010.
After Miss Charlotte’s death, Coach Moore accepted speaking engagements to numerous support groups for people dealing with loved ones who were battling Alzheimer’s disease.
I have a lot of wonderful stories about Coach Moore….
But I will end this story with my simple phrase that I always told him before we parted ways….
“Thank you for everything Coach, I love you”