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June 5, 2011

Hall of Fame QB, Warren Moon Interview

by Max Strauss
89 WM

Warren Moon was the Rose Bowl MVP in 1978. He played football in the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos. He won five straight Grey Cup Championships. He then entered the NFL, signing with the Houston Oilers. He also played for the Vikings, Seahawks, and Chiefs in his career. He retired passing for over 49,000 yards and about 290 touchdowns. He is 4th all time in Passing Yards, and 6th all time in Passing TDs. He was inducted into both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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Announcement : My name is Max Strauss with http://prointerviews.org/, http://facebook.com/ProInterviews/ and http://twitter.com/ProInterviews/. I’d like to welcome you to the interview with Warren Moon. Moon attended West LA college, and then transferred to the University of Washington. He ended his collegiate career as the Rose Bowl MVP. He entered the 1978 NFL Draft, but was undrafted, and decided to play football in the Canadian Football League for the Edmonton Eskimos. He threw for approximately 22,000 yards in his six years there and won five straight Grey Cup Championships. He then entered the National Football League, and signed with the Houston Oilers. He also played for the Vikings, Seahawks, and Chiefs during his career. He was nominated to nine pro bowls, and had three All-Pro years. He was the Pro Bowl MVP in 1998. He retired passing for over 49000 yards and 291 touchdowns. His jersey number (#1) is retired for the Tennessee Titans, as he is their all-time franchise leader in passing yards. He was inducted into both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here is the interview with Warren Moon, and I hope you enjoy the collages also.

Strauss : How do you connect with your fans?

Moon : I do it in a variety of ways. I have a twitter account its @WMoon1, and I keep up with them that way. I also keep up with them through Facebook, and I have fan-mail. I answer fan-mail and people write me all the time. If you want something signed, or if you want a response depending on what they’re asking for, that’s another way. I also get out and do speaking engagements as well. I have a lot of different ways I reach out to my fans. Even though I’m not an active player anymore, there’s still a lot of people who follow me, and fans of my game when I played. It’s important to keep up with the fans. 

Strauss : What was your high school football experience like? 

Moon : It was pretty good. It started off kind-of slow, because I had a sophomore team coach that really didn’t want me to play quarterback, that didn’t allow me to play the position. I actually played, but I was actually the third-string quarterback, believe it or not. I don’t know what it was about this coach, but for some reason, he just didn’t believe in my abilities. I think he knew that I was talented. When we were behind in the game, he would throw me in to try to get back in the game. He just didn’t feel like I worthy of starting. I wasn’t a starter on the team, but going into my junior year, the Varsity coach came up to me one day when I was working out that he was going to make me the starting Varsity quarterback. From then on, it was very good because he had a lot of confidence in me. He saw my abilities, and my leadership qualities, and how hard of a worker. He made me the starting Varsity Quarterback and we won the league championship. I was Player of the Year in the Conference. I was an All-City quarterback, so it was a great experience for me as it turned out in high school.

Strauss : What was your experience like at University of Washington?

Moon : It was a bitter-sweet experience. When I first got there, I beat a fifth-year senior, who was a guy from Seattle and very popular. When I came into the new program, Don James had just taken over. I was in his first recruiting class. During the two-a-day practices, he just gave out. I got to become the starting quarterback. We had one of the toughest schedules in the country that year, and we didn’t have a very talented team. We were two and nine, the year before I got there. We got off to a very slow start. Because of that, I took a lot of criticism, a lot of booing from the crowd, a lot of negative media. I just knew it was a matter of time, before we recruited the right talent, that we would turn this thing around, and we eventually did. My senior year, we were Pac-8 Champions, and I was Pac-8 player of the year. We won the Rose Bowl, and I was the Rose Bowl’s Most Valuable Player. It started out slow, and started out tough, but it ended up sweet. Those are the most refreshing memories of college, is just the way that it ended. Even though I always knew how it started, I think that’s what made the going through some tough times to get to that success that I was looking for.

Strauss : Looking back on being undrafted in the 1978 NFL Draft, how do you think that moment helped you shape your career?

Moon : In the pre-draft system that was going on, when you’re being scouted and all that, that’s where you get a sense of when you might go in the draft, and who might draft you, and all those different things. My agent told me that all the information he was getting was saying that I wouldn’t be drafted as a quarterback. If I was drafted as a quarterback, it’d be late down the line. That’s when I decided to go to Canada because I still wanted to play the quarterback position. I felt that I was good enough to play it. If I wasn’t going to get a chance to play it in the NFL, I was going to get a chance to play wherever somebody would let me. They were going to let me do it in the Canadian Football League, so I signed there prior to the draft. When draft day came around, I was hoping I didn’t get drafted, so nobody would have my rights. So, if I ever came back to the NFL, I could go wherever I wanted. I would have to be a free agent. Most guys were looking on draft day to get drafted, I was looking on draft day to not get drafted only because I had already signed in Canada. I knew I was going to play up there. I didn’t want to have one team have my rights.

Strauss : What do you think about the relationship of the Draft today to players?

Moon : The Draft has become huge. There’s a lot that goes into it, much more now then when I came out, way back in 1978. There are many more scouting organizations. Every team now has scouting staff, where back then they had different scouting services that you went by. There are many more draft analysis people out there. Analyzers like Mel Kipers and Todd McShays, that are all giving their expert opinions. The draft is now on television, and on two different networks. The NFL combine is also covered by two different networks. It’s a huge process much more so then it was when I came out. These players are probed and analyzed more than they probably should be. It makes for good television and it makes the sport more interesting, I guess.

Strauss : So, then you started your career in the CFL, where you were a five [years] straight, Grey Cup Champion. Which one do you take the most pride in?

Moon : I think probably the 3rd one because I shared the quarterback position with Tom Wilkinson. He was a really good quarterback up there. We had a two-quarterback system, and it was very successful. When Tom retired, suddenly, it was my show to continue. I knew there was a lot of pressure on me to keep that streak going, and if it was going to happen, it would be because of my play. I think when we won that third one, I think that was the  most special because we were able to do it with me being the leader of the football team by myself.

Strauss : Was there any thought about staying in the CFL? What changed your mind and said, ‘Look I think I’m good enough to go to the NFL?’

Moon : Well, it was always a dream of mine to play in the NFL as a young kid. That was something I still felt that I was good enough to do just the circumstances weren’t there for me when I came out of college. After I accomplished so much, won five straight championships, MVP of the League, a couple of times I was MVP of the Championship game, there wasn’t a lot left for me to do individually or team-wise in Canada. I had pretty much done it all. I still felt like I wanted to measure myself and see how good I was as a quarterback and the only way you can do that is by playing against the best players. The best players are obviously in the National Football League. That’s made me want to come back, my curiosity of how good I could be, and plus, that dream that I’ve always wanted to play in the NFL.

Strauss : Can you take me through your journey in the NFL, like how you started and a memory from each team?

Moon : Well, I started at Houston. I chose Houston basically because it kind of reminded me of the situation, where they were a two and fourteen team, the year before I got there. We had a new coach coming in, which was my Canadian Football League coach (Hugh Campbell) that I had won five championships with. I felt like it would be a good experience that I could hep build something from the bottom and possibly make it into a winning football team. That really appealed to me, especially coming from a team that I had so much success in Canada, I wanted to go somewhere I could help build a team. I went to Houston because of that. It was tough in those early days because we didn’t have a very good team. Again, we turned things around and became a regular playoff team, and won division championships. We were never able to win the big one, the Super Bowl, but I think my biggest memory of going to Houston was, after that third year, when we finally got to the playoffs, and won the first playoff which happened to be against the Seahawks. The other team I was deciding to go between, Houston and Seattle. That was the team we beat our first playoff game, and that was probably the most memorable moment especially after going through some tough times after those first two years.

Then from there, I got traded to the Minnesota Vikings. At the time, the salary cap came into play, and we had a young quarterback that we had developed, and because of my salary and his salary, they weren’t able to keep two big quarterback salaries, and I was 38 years old at that time. They didn’t know how long I was going to play at that level. They traded me and kept the other guy. I went to the Minnesota Vikings and it was a great organization, played for Dennis Green who was probably the best coach I ever played for. I really enjoyed playing there. I played with Cris Carter who was probably the most gifted receiver I ever played with, and the most competitive. I had three years, we went to the playoffs a couple of times. Again, our team wasn’t good enough to be a Championship football team. We were always exciting, and we were always up there in the terms of the offense. It was a great experience there. I think my most memorable was being able to go to another Pro Bowl from another organization, and go with another team. I had been Houston all those ten years, and to know that I can go to another organization and go to the Pro Bowl two more times with them, especially at the age of 38 or 39 years old. 

Then, from there, I went to the Seattle Seahawks. I was there again because I was forty years old, and Brad Johnson, my backup [in Minnesota], they thought they might lose him to free agency. They decided to go with Brad, and the future again. They gave me the opportunity to stand there or go somewhere else, and I decided to become a free agent. I went to Seattle. I went there because I had to chance to maybe start there. Their starter, John Friesz, was a guy who had a lot of injury problems, and I felt if I were to go there, I’d be a guy who can compete with him, and maybe be a starter. Seattle was always a place I wanted to play. One, because I went to school in Seattle. And two, because I almost signed with the Seahawks before I went to Houston. Getting a chance to play there was something that I wanted to do, and I had a chance to do that. I played forDennis Erickson who was a really good coach. He was a guy who had a good passing offense. I led the league in passing that year for a guy that was 41. It was pretty exciting for me. I made the Pro Bowl, and I was MVP of the Pro Bowl. I think just getting the chance to play in Seattle in front of all my college fans was probably the most memorable part of being back in the Seattle. 

I then, went to Kansas City my last two years. I just didn’t feel like I was ready to give up football. I felt like I still had a couple of years left of playing. I looked around to see what teams I could play for, when I was 43 years old, and believe it or not, I had four or five teams who still had interest in signing me. I went to Kansas City, mainly because I thought that Kansas City had a team that I thought could compete for a division title, and possibly go far in the playoffs. There was a chance for me to be able to play there. Elvis Grbac was the starting quarterback. When I went there, he probably had two of his best years. That had to do with the competition. It had to do with me being there, me pushing him, and for him to have two of the most productive years of his career. I got a chance to experience the Kansas City fan-base which is a great fan-base there, and probably one of the greatest places to play professional football. You have 80,000 people every week, and all dressed in red, and they really get into the football team. It was a good experience, but a tough experience, because it was being a backup, and I had never been one in my whole career. That made it tough. 

Once I played there for a couple of years, I thought maybe it was time to leave the game because physically, I thought I could do it, but I didn’t have that same drive and desire just because I wasn’t playing. I didn’t feel I was a part of what was going on. Even though my role was to be a backup and be more of a leader, and things like that,  I still wanted to compete. I felt like it was time for me to leave the game.

Strauss : If you could call and choose one play to run again, what would you choose?

Moon : Ah man… One play…  When we ran the run and shoot in Houston, we had a play when there was an all-out blitz, we could go to the option, and run the option. No one was assigned to the quarterback when you ran the option. We had four wide receivers and everyone was spread out, the guy had to take me or the pitch man, and one of us was going to be free, depending on who they wanted to take. Everybody on an all-out blitz especially, down around the goal-line, I would audible to that option play. Either I scored a touchdown, or the running back scored a touchdown, we hardly ever failed on that one. Probably going to that option play. I took some pretty big hits on that play after I pitched the ball, but still the outcome was pretty good. Probably running the option in the NFL, you don’t see a lot of quarterbacks do. We only did it in certain situations. 

Strauss : Looking back on your career, what do you think are three words that would describe the keys to your success?

Moon : I’d say perseverance, commitment, and work. Just because of all the things I had to go through in my career, the perseverance part. I’d continue to overcome whatever obstacle was in front of me. Starting all the way back in high school and not getting a chance to play quarterback. Having to go to junior college after high school, because no major school would be in support of me, before I finally went to University of Washington. The tough times I faced at the University of Washington once I got there, from the fans and the booing, and the negativity and all those things. And, then to get to the NFL, it was very tough for an African-American to play quarterback in those days. The perseverance part is something I’m very proud of. 

I think my commitment to stay at the position. People told me to change my position. people told me that I wasn’t going to be a good quarterback, and that I couldn’t play quarterback at the NFL’s level. I think my commitment to believing in myself, believing that I had the ability, and it’s something that kept me going. I could have listened to everybody, and changed positions and probably would never played in the NFL if I had done that. I don’t think I was good enough to play another position.

Then, I think my work ethic was one of the reasons why I was able to play so long, and play at a high level for so long. It was because I worked as hard as anybody. I was the first guy in, last guy out. If you’re the quarterback, you have to be that type of guy, and be a leader. They see how you put in the time, and you’re putting in the work and energy, more guys will follow suit. Those are three most important reasons why I think my career was so successful.

Strauss : After the NFL you started Sports 1 Marketing, will you give me a brief rundown of what your company is all about?

Moon : It’s a sport marketing and entertainment company that I started a year and half ago. I have a lot of relationships in sports because of all the years that I played. I also was involved with broadcasting. Because of all those relationships, and all the people who I know in sports, and how I was marketed myself as a player, and I know a lot about the marketing aspect of the game. I started this company based on that. I felt like it was something that I knew a lot about, and something that was very exciting. Sports are always changing, whether it’s the technology that’s involved or everything else. I like doing charity events and things like that. One aspect of my business is doing events that have a charity aspect to them. I also enjoy sports productions, whether it be movies or television, and making inspirational sports movies, that’s something we’re involved in as well, we’re looking for funding for good sports-related movie projects. That’s a bit of the business in a nutshell, but there’s a lot more to it. If you want to go on our website, it’s http://sports1marketing.com/, it really explains what our whole philosophy, mission statement, and lays everything else out.

Strauss : Everyone knows about your mentor role with Cam Newton, but if you were to elaborate on what your role really is, and what you help him with, and what you exactly do?

Moon : I was first asked to help him with his training to get him ready for the NFL Combine and the NFL Pro Day, and kind of change his fundamentals, and change his footwork to become more-related to what he was going to do in the NFL, and where more in college, he was out of the Shotgun, in a spread offense. He had to show them that he could be under the center, dropping back. I was asked to come to help him with that part of it. I’m also helping him in a mentor-type role, in where I can give him advice about whatever it might be a bout the transition. Going from college football into pro football. That could be anything, how to carry yourself, how to answer questions about certain things, how to handle yourself on the blackboard when teams are talking offense, and breaking down defenses, to what type of clothes to wear to certain events. Just a wide array of things that might come about. He knows he has board about to handle those situations and go about them. I’m just a guy who’s going to be there for him, whenever he needs my guidance. If there’s a time when he needs my guidance or needs for me to say something to him, I do that too. It’s not a thing where we need to meet each and every week, or talk everyday on the telephone, just a thing, that we both know that we’re there for each other. That’s kind of what my role is now. He’s hoping to camp as soon as this lockout ends, and trying to study his playbook now, and continue to work on the things that we worked on, mental-wise, and to help him get even smoother and also with the new footwork that he’s learned.

Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?

Moon : Ah… I’d probably be a Neapolitan. I think because of my versatility. I think one of the reasons I was so successful in the game for so long, and was able to be productive in any offense I was put in, was because of my versatility. I didn’t have just one flavor. I didn’t have just one talent, I could do a lot of different things whether it was throw on the run, play action pass, whether it was drop-back, whether it was run with the football. Anything you asked me to do at the quarterback spot, I could do it. I think my versatility was the reason. That’s what the Neapolitan ice cream gives you. It gives a lot of different choices. It gives you many different things.

Strauss : For someone who wants to play football in the NFL, what’s the best you can give them?

Moon : I think just work. The three things I talked to you about. You got to be able to persevere because you’re going to run into adversity in a lot of different ways. You never know how it’s going to come, but it’s going to come. Whether it’s just one day, you just don’t feel like working out, or in the work out, you feel like quitting. Whether it’s coach telling you that you’re not good enough to play. You can’t let that get to you, you have to continue to persevere and have that passion to want to be that player. You got to be totally committed to being the best, because that’s who you’re going to be competing against at that level. It’s a process. You got to be the best of the best in high school, then you go to college and try to be the best of the best, and then you got to try to get to the NFL, and try to be the best of the best there to stay there. There are always people coming in trying to take your job. I think commitment, you can’t rest on your roles, unless you do make it at the top of certain levels. The only way to do that is through hard work, if you’re willing to put the work in, and do things when other guys are going to the mall,  or going to the movies, or hanging out with their girl friends, whatever it might be, you have to be the guy who goes, I’m going to put in the extra work. I’ve got to work before practice starts. I got to put in extra work after practice. I got to continue working on my game. There’s a very, very small percentage of guys who play college football, that actually make it to professional football. The guys that do put in the time, and they have ability, there’s no question about it. You got to have ability, and be able to refine that ability, and the only way you can refine is that hard work.

Strauss : A lot of younger athletes look up to the stars today, who did you look up to when you playing in your younger days?

Moon : I was a big fan of Roman Gabriel who was the quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams when I was growing up. I grew up in Los Angeles. The Rams were huge. USC was the football team in town, and their quarterback was Jimmy Jones. He was a guy that I looked up to because he was African-American. He was very, very talented. I also loved Roger Staubach as well. He played for the Dallas Cowboys. He was a very versatile quarterback. He could do many different things. He could scramble, he could run, he could throw, he was very good in the clutch. He really lived an exemplary life off the field. He was a christian guy, and served in the navy, and really a good an all-around man, not just a football player. Those are the guys I really looked up to growing up.

Strauss : Thank you so much for your time Mr. Moon, I really appreciate it!!

Moon : My pleasure. Good luck on the interview and the project you’re doing. Good luck to you in whatever you want to do in the rest of your life. 

Announcement : Thank you for listening to the interview with Hall of Fame Quarterback, Warren Moon. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you leave your comments below as well! Please check out my website http://prointerviews.org/ for other interviews, “LIKE” the Facebook page at http://facebook.com/ProInterviews/, and follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/ProInterviews/. Please subscribe to me on YouTube at http://youtube.com/ProInterviews/ Thanks again for listening! Stay tuned for more, and feel free to contact me!

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