Sport: 4 iconic black QBs with Texas ties, 1 mission to help - - PressFrom - US
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Sport 4 iconic black QBs with Texas ties, 1 mission to help

05:15  09 november  2019
05:15  09 november  2019 Source:   houstonchronicle.com

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Their friendship goes back to the late 1980s when the college kid used to bounce ideas off his hometown NFL quarterback.

The kid was a rising star; the pro QB was on his way to the Hall of Fame. They shared a love for the game and a talent for playing it. They could talk about anything – and everything.

Both were raised by single mothers. Both worked their way through high school and started their careers playing a year of junior college. Both had heard the questions of whether or not a black player had what it took to be a major college quarterback, let alone an NFL QB; both had been offered the chance to switch to wide receiver or defensive back.

Both defied the stereotype and said, uh, no.

They believed in themselves and knew if they got the chance, they’d prove those coaches wrong.

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Yes, we’re talking Andre Ware and Warren Moon. The first black quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy and the first black quarterback to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In the early years, Moon was the mentor. But in 1990, when Jack Pardee moved from the University of Houston to the Houston Oilers, it was Moon asking Ware, who is 11 years younger, most of the questions.

“He was asking me about the run-and-shoot (offense) and the little intricacies of how to do things and about footwork,’’ Ware said. “It was kind of cool, actually.’’

They helped influence another generation of black quarterbacks including two others raised by single mothers — Houston native Vince Young, who led the Texas Longhorns to a national title at the Rose Bowl in 2006 and current Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who led Clemson to the 2016 national title.

And today? Those four legends are linking their powerful arms to change lives in the Houston area.

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Could we actually see four quarterbacks go in the first four picks of the draft?

Moon. Ware. Watson. Young.

The names alone get your attention. Their mission touches your heart.

The four legends have come together in partnership with the Sports Authority Foundation to form Brothers In Arms — which will give its first class of diversity scholarships to athletes from single-parent homes. The scholarships will be awarded Jan. 21, 2020 at the Houston Sports Awards presented by Insperity.

Scholarship applications are available at by clicking here. The deadline to apply is Dec. 1, 2019.

“What makes this special, there’s a lot of familiarity,’’ said Moon, who played for the Oilers from 1984-1993. “We all have Houston ties — whether it’s being born there or playing there, Deshaun and I both played there, but weren’t born here. Andre and Vince were born just down the road and played here.

“All of us are very successful as African American quarterbacks, especially the three of us (who played) at a time when we were still trying to prove that the position could be played by men of color. Then we were all raised by single moms and that makes it even more significant because the quarterback position is such a leadership position.’’

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Ware got the idea rolling during a conversation with Patti Smith, Harris County — Houston Sports Authority VP of Public Relations, then called Moon. Watson and Young followed soon thereafter.

“I mean, it's a group of legends that are a part of this,’’ said Watson.  For me to even be recognized or acknowledged with those guys is huge.’’

And while all four of them have separate initiatives through their individual foundations or interests, this one has that extra layer — their mothers.

“It just seemed to make sense because we all have so much in common,’’ Ware said. “The thing that binds us is we were raised by single mothers, so you see the amount of success that each guy has come in to. You want to be part of it. And its eye opening when you see the commonalities we all have coming from single-parent households, especially with that parent being a mother.

“That kind of lets you know anything can be done.’’

Added Young, “It’s a really big blessing, and I think it’s going to be huge because there are a lot of single parents out there raising their kids. For us to be a testament to that and push it into the light is really good.

“My emails and social media are blowing up asking to get the applications so they can get them all filled out by the December 1 deadline. That’s good.’’

All four men understand what it’s like to grow up in lower income surroundings. Moon’s mother Pat raised him and six sisters in a two-bedroom home in Los Angeles. Watson’s mother raised three children — first in government housing and then in a Habitat for Humanity house, which she applied for with an assist from Deshaun who brought home a flyer on the project. Ware was an only child and grew up in Dickinson, while Young grew up near Madison High.

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“Our moms were the most important people in our lives coming up and made all the sacrifices for us to be able to get to the point we are now,’’ said Moon, now 62 and a grandfather.

Moon’s father passed away when he was seven and his mother worked a custodial job at LAX during the day and went to night school to become a nurse. “I watched how she did that, how she maneuvered that,’’ he said. “I had sisters who helped, but I can never remember not having a hot meal on the table. I never remember clothes not being clean or things being out of order…

“She was a motivator for me. I wanted to get to a point where I could take care of her.’’

Moon worked at a number of part-time jobs in high school to help out, including as a clerk at the Veterans Administration — “That was one of my better paying jobs,’’ he said chuckling — and was recruited by Arizona State. They wanted him to play safety or wide receiver.

He opted for West Los Angeles Community College where he played under his high school coach. A year later, he was playing at Washington. After graduation he played six seasons in the Canadian League for six seasons and led the Edmonton Eskimos to five Grey Cups before leaving for Houston and the NFL.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that I was able to help make a difference in the stigmas and stereotypes of African American quarterbacks,’’ he said. “Me and Doug (Williams) and Randall Cunningham — the way we played during our times, I think we opened the eyes of a lot of general managers and owners that African Americans could play this position at a high level.

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“I think that opened the door for the next group of guys who came in and we’ve seen what’s happened since then. The floodgates have basically been opening. Now we have No. 1 over-all picks, very high picks, highly endorsed players and faces of their franchises.’’

Ware, too, worked part time — at Dairy Queen or the post office.  He calls his mother, who passed away last year, his heart. She was also his guiding light.

“She always wanted me moving around and doing something,’’ said Ware, now 51, works with ESPN and is a color analyst for the Houston Texans. “She was instilling hard work — we believed in our family that idle time is the devil’s playground.’’

Ware wanted to go to the University of Texas, but, after a year at Alvin Junior College, landed at UH where Pardee came along with the run-and-shoot offense and Ware took off. His mother Joyce, who accepted his Heisman because he was playing that day, just smiled.

“She taught me too to challenge people,’’ he said. “If they told you that you couldn’t do something, you’d prove them wrong. Those are things you continue to live by each and every day. When things get hard, you’re facing challenges — no matter where they’re coming from — those are words of wisdom you hold near and dear to your heart.’’

Young had a job at AMC theaters and, in addition to a strong mother, he had two older sisters to help him along.  His career at Texas was legendary and he won the Rose Bowl and national championship, running for the winning touchdown with 19 seconds left to beat USC 41-38.

He credits Moon, Ware and others like Williams for blazing the trail for him.

“Those guys were focused on the ultimate goal,’’ said Young, who relied on former Oilers QB Steve McNair, former Heisman winner Charlie Ward and his high school coach Ray Seals for counsel. “They knew what the bigger picture was. It wasn’t just for them. It was to continue to have opportunities to reach even more barriers. They started opening doors for me and as well as Deshaun and others.’’

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Watson agrees, adding, “As I’ve said many times, coming from where I came from, it's tough to make it out and be able to fulfill our dreams. Helping give out scholarships and help people have those opportunities to be something in life is very important.”

To this day, Moon can’t walk down those shiny concourse floors at LAX that lead to baggage claim without thinking about those long days his mother worked to shine them when he was growing up. She paid it forward with her son.

Now he and the other Brothers In Arms are paying it forward as well.

“There’s work to do; beliefs to be passed on,’’ Ware said. “Here’s something right in front of you, you can see it and advance and prosper because you know we have been where you are, and we did it. That’s why I thought this was such an outstanding deal. Especially in this generation.

“Today, kids need to be able to see what it is. Back when we were growing up, you just told a kid to do it. You said this is what it’s like and they believed it. This generation of youngsters needs to be able to see what you’re talking about. So, here are four guys who grew up just like you.

“You don’t have to be a professional football player to be deemed a success, but you can make it out of your circumstances and provide a good lifestyle for yourself and do things the right way, it’s right here. It’s right in front of you.  You can see it. That’s why it’s so gratifying to be a part of and to give back to students who are growing up like we did.’’

He paused.

“You want to see the younger generation succeed, but you also want to teach giving back. If there’s something I want to see from this, it is that we affect many lives in the sense that they, in turn, can do the things we’re doing. It doesn’t have to be at the same level — you don’t have to be an NFL quarterback to lend the time. Whatever it is reach back and help somebody else along the way.‘’

Added Young, “We had a circle a — a tribe — around us that kept us focused on the ultimate goals and not only did we reach them, but we opened up doors for the next kid out there who is in a similar situation.’’

The other common thread for these leaders on the field? Their mothers’ insistence on getting a good education.

And yes, they all got their degrees.

“We know all kids can’t be what we are but there are quarterbacks in all realms of life,’’ said Moon, whose Crescent Moon Foundations has helped over 370 kids. “You can be a quarterback or a leader in business, you can be a quarterback or leader in medicine, you can be a quarterback or a leader in government.’’

He paused.

“You can be a quarterback or leader in whatever field you choose.’’

And open that door for someone else to follow.

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Oakland Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby (98) hits the arm of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) on a pass attempt during the first quarter at Oakland Coliseum on November 7, 2019.

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