The CFL has been posting a series of snippets from an interview with its very own Canadian Football Hall of Fame member Warren Moon over the last few days and they have been fascinating, (find them here: https://www.cfl.ca/moon/). For a lot of NFL fans in the UK who started following the game in the 80’s Moon will be a familiar face, but as these talks with the outgoing CFL commissioner have been so interesting it seemed appropriate to focus a little more perhaps on his CFL career which will be less familiar to most UK based football fans.
Imagine if you will that we are a pro team looking to scout a quarterback. Now imagine, that we find a young man who is 6 foot 3 inches tall, weighs 15 and a half stone and has an incredibly strong arm. He has played 4 years at High School level and despite his coach wanting him to change positions he stuck to his guns and in his junior year finally got the starting job before in his senior year leading his team to the play-offs and being named to the all-city team. He then spent 2 years in junior college setting a number of records before being recruited to a major team – the Washington Huskies. After going 11-11 in his first 2 years there, he leads them to the Rose Bowl, winning it and being named Rose Bowl MVP. It is clear he can play, has leadership skills, perseverance – the intangibles are there.
This was the CV that NFL teams looking for a quarterback in 1978 would have seen when they considered Warren Moon. Not one team in the NFL took a shot on him. There can be no escaping the reason why – Moon himself acknowledged it recently on the CFL waggle podcast commenting that the stereotype of the African American player not being able to play the position of quarterback at a high level was still there. Had he opted to change positions perhaps someone would have taken him, but Moon was determined to play quarterback.
How the times changed! Before the start of the 1989 season, Moon was given a five-year, $10-million contract extension, which made him the highest-paid player in the National Football League at that time. Later, Moon would be the first undrafted quarterback to get into the NFL hall of fame after a long and productive career playing for the Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks & Kansas City Chiefs. Added to this, although he is likely to be passed by Drew Brees soon he is still ranked 5th all-time among pro-quarterbacks for yardage with 70,553 yards, and 6th all-time for touchdowns with a non too shabby 435 to his name.
Those records are combined pro-yardage numbers because the first of those yards and touchdowns came when his first shot in the pros came north of the border in the CFL with Edmonton. He spent his entire CFL career with the Esks, from 1978 to 1983, being part of a dynasty that won five straight Grey cups.
In his rookie season, as the backup quarterback, he completed 89 0f 173 passes for 1,112 yards and 5 touchdowns and was Edmonton’s nominee for the Most Outstanding Rookie award. Originally he shared quarterbacking duties and finally took over the starting position in 1980. He was the first professional quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards in a season by reaching exactly 5,000 yards in 1982. He ended his time in Canada with a performance of 380 completions out of 664 attempts for 5,648 yards and 31 touchdowns – impressive numbers even for now in the passing dominated game we have come to know.
Over his entire CFL career in Edmonton, Moon played 94 games, throwing for 21, 228 yards and 144 touchdowns as well as leading teams to 9 out of a possible 10 post season wins.
Moon is grateful for the chance he got in the CFL, being quoted in the Regina Leader-post as saying,”I went somewhere where I loved something that I was going to do. I was least going to get to an opportunity to do something that I felt I had a chance to be successful at.’’ All he wanted was the chance to prove he could succeed at the pro level, and the CFL gave him that chance. It’s fair to say that it was an opportunity he made the most of.
The CFL has provided some great quarterbacks to the NFL down the years – Joe Thiesmann, Doug Flutie, Joe Kapp, Jeff Garcia among them, but only one has made it to both the Canadian Football and Pro Football hall of fame as a player – and that is Warren Moon. All those coaches who wanted him to change position are going to have to accept it – number 1 was meant to be a quarterback!
Warren Moon: CFL Awards and Honours:
- CFL Hall of Fame (player) inducted 2001
- Edmonton Eskimo Wall of Fame – 2001
- CFL All-Star Team (Quarterback) – 1983
- Western All-Star (Quarterback) – 1983
- Schenley Most Outstanding Player – 1983
- Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy (Western MVP) – 1983
- Grey Cup Most Outstanding Player – 1982
- Grey Cup Most Outstanding Offensive Player – 1980
- Grey Cup Winner – 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981,1982