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Staying Home, Arkansas-Pine Bluff's Moore Now a Starter
PINE BLUFF — A lot of teenage boys can’t wait to get away from home after graduating from high school.
All it took for Arkansas-Pine Bluff quarterback Jonathan Moore to stay was a chance to play football.
Moore, who prepped at nearby Dollarway High School, didn’t move far to land at UAPB. Of course, he didn’t have much of a choice.
For Moore, it was pretty much UAPB or bust when it came to football.
Moore spent his junior year of high school splitting time with an underclassman while quarterbacking a Wishbone offense. While his strong arm netted the usual letters of interest from SEC schools, when it came time for scholarship offers, it came down to UAPB, Alcorn State and little else.
“I got a couple letters from LSU, but no offers,” Moore said. “That’s pretty much it.” Moore’s time at UAPB has mirrored his time at Dollarway: Even when he’s been at his best, there’s always been someone either just above him or right behind him.
Moore was shuffled in and out of the starting lineup as a true freshman as the Golden Lions looked to jump-start an anemic offense. While far from spectacular, Moore showed enough to make him a candidate to start as a sophomore.
Instead, Moore was beat out by then-junior Chris Wallace. Buried on the depth chart for his first two seasons, Wallace led UAPB to its first Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game while earning SWAC Offensive Player of the Year honors.
“That was tough,” Moore said. “Pretty much everything we did, we did alike. It was very competitive.” It took an injury during Wallace’s senior year to get Moore meaningful playing time again, but by then the Golden Lions were a shadow of their championship form. Playing behind a porous offensive line, Moore completed less than half his passes over eight games, throwing more interceptions (5 ) than touchdowns (3. )
With Wallace gone, the job belongs to Moore. But lest he get too comfy, the Golden Lions coaching staff left spring ball impressed with redshirt freshman Gvona Turner, who will be Moore’s backup.
New year, same old story.
“I feel real relaxed,” Moore said. “No pressure, no nothing.” Given his history of uphill battles on the field, Moore comes across as relentlessly cheerful and laid-back. That’s part of why UAPB’s coaching staff went after him in high school, and it’s why there was little hesitation to hand him the reins of the offense this season.
“He’s shown a lot of leadership here,” offensive coordinator Jonathan Cannon said. “He’s got a level head. Guys look up to him. He’s a very confident kid, and we’ve got a lot at stake with him.” There’s a lot at stake personally for Moore, too. Moore has been part of two championship games, the 2006 SWAC championship as a college sophomore and the Class AAA state title game as a high school senior.
Both were losses, but it’s the state championship game — a 34-20 loss to Central Arkansas Christian — that sticks with Moore the most. Not because he started that game, but because it was one of the last times David Moore saw his son play football.
David Moore died unexpectedly of a heart attack at 44 on Nov. 13 of Jonathan Moore’s freshman season at UAPB. A former athlete at Dollarway and Wabbaseka High School, David Moore introduced his son to football during his youth.
“He really wanted to show me this game,” Moore said. “I know if he was here today, he’d be happy for me right now. But since he’s not, all I can think of is, go to the top.” For Moore, “the top” means a SWAC championship — not only to wash away memories of two title-game losses or of constantly fighting to play, but to send a final “thank you” to his dad for introducing him to football.
“I think about this every day,” Moore said. “I’ve got to work even harder to get that championship I’ve always dreamed for. For my daddy — rest in peace — I wish I could get that championship. It eats me up on the inside.”
Staying home, Moore now a starter
By Doug Crise, The Arkansas Democrat Gazette