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Warren Moon was born on November 18, 1956 in Los Angeles, California. He enjoyed football at an early age, especially when playing at the quarterback position. He sat on the bench his first few years playing football at Hamilton High in Los Angeles, but coach Jack Epstein soon saw his raw athletic talent, and allowed him to start. Moon did exceptionally well, being named Los Angeles City Player of the Year and a High School All-American in his senior year.

However, many colleges were not interested in giving Moon a scholarship to attend. The quarterback position in football was traditionally a white position. In fact, only one African-American had ever established himself as a professional quarterback: James Harris, who played with the Bills, Rams and Chargers from 1969-79. Epstein suggested that Moon go to West Los Angeles Junior College for a year, and perhaps transfer to a larger school later. While playing there, he was scouted by coach Don James of the University of Washington, and Moon transferred to Washington after his freshman year.

Moon's first years at Washington were rough. To begin, Moon quickly unseated the senior starting quarterback, which created some tension with his new teammates and the fans. Moon then led the team to a disappointing 6-5 and 5-6 records his first two years. Racial slurs were often heard in the stands of Husky Stadium during these years. His senior year, he led the Huskies to a Pac 8 championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, where they upset the heavily favored Michigan. Moon was named MVP of the game.

Success in Canada

Even after his college success, Moon once again faced a lukewarm reception, this time from the NFL. Most teams did not think a black quarterback could be successful on the professional level, and assumed that he would have to change positions if he were to play the game. He was projected to go in the middle rounds of the 12 round Entry Draft, but instead was not selected at all. Instead, Moon signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. "In Canada I was able to play without stereotypes or racism... got to know a new culture, and improved as a football player because the game is more wide open there," Moon said. Moon's first game came early in the season, in a game versus province rival Calgary. The game ended in a tie, but Moon's amazing long-distance drives impressed Edmonton coach Hugh Campbell. Edmonton would win the Grey Cup that year, with Moon backing up quarterback Ted Wilkinson.

Moon captured the starting quarterback position halfway through the 1979 season, and began his domination of the league. Even though he was splitting quarterback duties with Wilkinson, Moon led the league in touchdown passes with 20. Edmonton won the Grey Cup that year, as well as the next three in a row.

The 1983 season brought many changes to the Eskimos. Coach Campbell left the organization to coach the Houston Oilers in the NFL. The roster of the Eskimos, while still intact from its five year run, was now much older and not in the same dominating shape as they had been. Even with Moon improving and maturing as a quarterback, Edmonton went 8-8, eventually losing in the playoffs to Winnipeg.

Moon had attracted a lot of attention from the NFL scouts while leading the Eskimos. At the end of the '83 season, he received offers from two NFL teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Campbell coached Houston Oliers. Moon was lured to Houston not only by an opportunity to be reunited with Coach Campbell, but also by the size of the contract. The deal was worth $5.5 million over five years and was, at the time, the largest contract ever awarded to a single player in NFL history.

NFL Debut and Transition

Unlike his arrival in Edmonton, Moon did not join an organization poised for success. In fact, over the previous two seasons, Houston had compiled a 16-game losing streak. With the introduction of Moon as the starting quarterback, the city of Houston hoped that the fortunes of the team would make a sharp turnaround. Sadly, this was not the case.

Houston started the 1984 season with ten straight losses. The road losing streak, which had started in 1981, was extended to an epic 23 games. The young offensive line could do little to stop opposing defenses from pressuring and sacking Moon. By the time they finally won a game, via a relentless blitzing attack that threw the Kansas City Chiefs off-guard, Hugh Campbell's head coaching position was already in jeopardy. By the end of the season, Campbell was gone, and was replaced by defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville. While the coaching change brought some new ideas into the organization, the focus of the offence remained on Earl Campbell and the running game. Moon pleaded with Glanville to open up the offence, but Glanville was slow to change. It wasn't until the 1987 season that Moon was able to play the game his way, with deep penetrating passes. The style of offence, called the "Run and Shoot" was improved by Glanville successor, Jack Pardee.

It was in the Run and Shoot that Moon began to return to form. During Moon's time in Houston, he attempted more passes (4,546), completed more passes (2,632), threw for more touchdowns (196) and had a higher completion percentage (57.9%) than anyone else in the history of the franchise. Beginning in 1987, the Oilers would make trips into the post-season for the next seven years, but never make it to the AFC Championship game. In 1988, Moon was elected to the NFL Pro Bowl, and would return to the Pro Bowl for the next five seasons straight.

Off the field, embraced the city of Houston. He helped a large list of charitable organizations, including the United Negro College Fund, the Ronald McDonald House, the Special Olympics, the March of Dimes, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the American Heart Association, and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Moon also created the Crescent Moon Foundation in 1989, which helped those in need in the city of Houston, and provided college scholarships to those who couldn’t afford tuition.

At the end of the 1993 season, the Oilers traded Moon to the Minnesota Vikings for a 4th-round draft pick in 1994 and a 3rd-round draft pick in 1995.

Scandal and Decline

Minnesota traded for Moon to revitalize their offence, and his impact was immediate. Wide Receivers Cris Carter and Jake Reed made excellent targets, and Moon returned to the Pro Bowl in 1994 and 1995. However, his continuing success was overshadowed by a court trial.

Moon was brought up on misdemeanor assault charges after a fight he had with his wife, Felicia, on July 18, 1996. The fight started over money, as Warren wanted to take away his wife's credit cards before he left for Vikings training camp. According to Felicia's court testimony, she threw the credit cards at him, and then proceeded to knee him in the groin, hit him with a candlestick, and call him some "bad names." He proceeded to grab hold of her and choke her. Police arrived after their nine-year-old son, Jeffery, called 911. Felicia decided not to file charges, but the police proceeded to arrest Moon. Felicia then accused the prosecution of not listening to her side of the story, and supported her husband throughout the trial. He was eventually acquitted, but his public image was tarnished.

After a season plagued with injury in 1996, Moon left the Vikings, and signed with the Seattle Seahawks for two years. He played his way to another Pro Bowl in 1997, but never led the Seahawks into the post-season. At the end of his contract in Seattle, he decided to leave and join the Kansas City Chiefs in a backup role behind Elvis Grbac. After throwing only 37 passes in those final two years, Warren Moon retired from the NFL in 2001.

Moon's Legacy

In the beginning of Warren Moon's NFL career, the fans seemed to regard him as a black man trying to play at quarterback. By the end of his career, he had made such a name for himself that he is viewed as, simply, an amazing quarterback. Because of Moon's exciting and prolific career, along with those of Doug Williams and Randall Cunningham, certain attitudes were changed in the NFL. It was no longer such a rarity to be a black quarterback in the NFL. In fact, at the beginning of the 2003 NFL season, 9 out of the 32 teams had a black starting quarterback.

Warren Moon's career is one of monolithic proportions. At the time of his retirement, Moon held the NFL record for most passes completed in a season (404 in 1991), most career fumbles (163) and fumbles recovered (55), was second in NFL history in passing in a game (527 vs. Kansas City, 1990), stood third in the NFL record books in passing attempts and completions, and fourth in passing touchdowns. Moon collected 70,553 passing yards in both the CFL and the NFL, and would have the record in that category for either league. Warren Moon has already been inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame, and is eligible for the NFL Hall of Fame in 2006.

Statistics:
Canadian Football League

               ATT  COM  PCT   YDS  TD INT
1978 Edmonton  173   89 51.4  1112   5   0
1979 Edmonton  274  148 54.0  2382  20  12
1980 Edmonton  331  181 54.7  3127  25  11
1981 Edmonton  378  237 62.7  3959  27  12
1982 Edmonton  562  333 59.3  5000  36  16
1983 Edmonton  664  380 57.2  5648  31  19
Total        2382 1368 57.4 21228 144  70

National Football League

                      --------------------PASSING----------------------   -----RUSHING-----
YEAR  TEAM    G  GS   COM   ATT   PCT   YDS  YPA  TD INT  SK  SYD   RAT   ATT  YDS  AVG  TD
1984   HOU   16  16   259   450  57.6  3338 7.42  12  14  47  371  76.9    58  211  3.6   1
1985   HOU   14  14   200   377  53.1  2709 7.19  15  19  46  366  68.5    39  130  3.3   0
1986   HOU   15  15   256   488  52.5  3489 7.15  13  26  41  332  62.3    42  157  3.7   2
1987   HOU   12  12   184   368  50.0  2806 7.63  21  18  25  198  74.2    34  112  3.3   3
1988*  HOU   11  11   160   294  54.4  2327 7.91  17   8  12  120  88.4    33   88  2.7   5
1989*  HOU   16  16   280   464  60.3  3631 7.83  23  14  35  267  88.9    70  268  3.8   4
1990*  HOU   15  15   362   584  62.0  4689 8.03  33  13  36  252  96.8    55  215  3.9   2
1991*  HOU   16  16   404   655  61.7  4690 7.16  23  21  23  174  81.7    33   68  2.1   2
1992*  HOU   11  10   224   346  64.7  2521 7.29  18  12  16  105  89.3    27  147  5.4   1
1993*  HOU   15  14   303   520  58.3  3485 6.70  21  21  34  218  75.2    48  145  3.0   1
1994*  MIN   15  15   371   601  61.7  4264 7.09  18  19  29  235  79.9    27   55  2.0   0
1995*  MIN   16  16   377   606  62.2  4228 6.98  33  14  38  277  91.5    33   82  2.5   0
1996   MIN    8   8   134   247  54.3  1610 6.52   7   9  19  122  68.7     9    6  0.7   0
1997*  SEA   15  14   313   528  59.3  3678 6.97  25  16  30  192  83.7    17   40  2.4   1
1998   SEA   10  10   145   258  56.2  1632 6.33  11   8  22  140  76.6    16   10  0.6   0
1999   KC     1   0     1     3  33.3    20 6.67   0   0   0    0  57.6     0    0  0.0   0
2000   KC     2   1    15    34  44.1   208 6.12   1   1   5   46  61.9     2    2  1.0   0
Total       208 203  3988  6823  58.4 49325 7.23 291 233 458 3415  80.9   543 1736  3.2  22

* - elected to NFL Pro Bowl


Resources:
http://www.nfl.com/news/story/6818787
http://www.cfl.ca/CFLHistoryCFLLegends/moon.html
http://www.houstonprofootball.com/team/qb.html
http://football.espn.go.com/nfl/players/stats?statsId=54
http://www.geocities.com/cflhistory/HOF/MoonW.htm
http://www.cracksmoker.com/NFL/NFL%20MoonW.htm
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/sports/2307788/

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