The turning point for New York Jet wide receiver Rob Moore came during his first year at Syracuse, in 1986. Like so many gifted collegiate players, he valued the pigskin more than the sheepskin; he was going to Syracuse to be an athlete first and a student second. But to his dismay he was redshirted as a freshman. A brooding Moore caught the attention of sophomore defensive back Chris Ingram, who confronted him. "What's the matter with you?" Ingram said. "You're getting a free education this year—people pay $18,000 for that—and you're complaining? Don't waste it."
Today the 25-year-old Moore preaches what he was preached. Though the list of charitable organizations with which he works seems almost endless, his primary goal is to help youngsters understand the importance of education. Two years ago the Jets' leading receiver launched the Rob Moore Books & Ball Camp, a week-long summer program for 60 athletically gifted high school juniors held at the Jet training facility in Hempstead, N.Y., on Long Island. Moore imports educators to the camp to help the kids bone up for the college entrance exams, and he brings in sports personalities to give them motivational talks and sporting tips.
"Here's what I tell the kids when they come to my camp," he says. "Don't let these colleges use you and spit you out. Football can get you a free education. Use your athletic ability to get that education, and use the education to set yourself up for life."
A day at the Books & Ball Camp begins with a morning of verbal and mathematics tutoring, and also includes career counseling. During the afternoon session the campers work on skills drills and listen to big football names such as Keith Jackson, Brian Bosworth and Freeman McNeil. They also listen to Ingram, the guy who gave Moore the wake-up call at Syracuse. "Here's a guy who was a pro prospect but suffered a knee injury," Moore says. "He had dreams of playing in the NFL, but on draft day he sat and waited and wasn't picked because of the knee. His world was shattered. A lot of these kids are going to be shattered when sports are over. But the important thing is, Chris didn't let his world stay shattered. He had his education, and he's got a good job today."
Ingram, a customer-service representative with Ford Motor Credit in Atlanta, says, "When I finish my story, kids come to me and say, 'I'll concentrate more on the books now. Thanks.' "
Moore, who takes responsibility for all the expenses of the camp, also spends a considerable amount of time working year-round with the local Salvation Army facility that sponsors youth teams in the Hempstead area. He speaks at banquets, works in clothing drives and helps out when needed at after-school programs, as he did during his day off from practice last week. This same Salvation Army branch was Moore's safe haven when he was a child. Moore grew up tough in a big family in Hempstead—at one point there were 13 people living in the Moores' six-room house—so Rob spent much of his recreational time at the Salvation Army center. He remembers idolizing Julius Living, from nearby Roosevelt, N.Y., who supplied all the shoes for the Army's youth basketball program. Moore was impressed that Erving had not forgotten his roots.
Moore's father, Charles, a foreman at the Long Island Lighting Company, also had a tremendous influence on his son, constantly urging him to stay away from drugs and dropouts. "You can, you will, you must," he told Rob.
So all the educational preaching that Rob Moore does today is not just some agent-driven p.r. shtick. For Moore, who is now pursuing a master's degree in education at Fordham, it is something he has to do. He can, he will, he must.
The New York Jet receiver teaches a love of learning to kids of all ages.