However, he had a very solid career, and for a while in the mid-1990s, he was about as productive as any wideout in the National Football League.
Moore was a vital part of a struggling franchise pulling itself out of the basement and becoming competitive on a regular basis.
Coming Up In Virginia
Herman Joseph Moore was born on Oct. 20, 1969 in Danville, Va. He started playing football at the age of six as a member of a local peewee football team.
He was the smallest kid on the team, and it led to frustration for him, as one day, he complained during practice, ripped off his pads and told his coach he was quitting the squad.
Moore’s mother told him that he shouldn’t quit something he started and that he should continue playing football. Moore later admitted that it was a valuable lesson he learned.
“That proved to be one of the best messages ever,” Moore said years later at a speaking engagement. “I said, momma, I promise I’ll never quit again.”
Moore did continue playing, but stardom was out of reach, as he didn’t get playing time until he was a junior at George Washington High School, and he was sent into a game to replace an injured cornerback.
During his senior season, Moore still wasn’t a standout. He played tight end and wide receiver, but not as a first-stringer, and he was used mainly as a placekicker.
But he did have success in other sports. He was a solid basketball player, and as a track and field athlete, he high jumped more than seven feet.
Since Moore thought he didn’t have a real shot at playing sports in college, his grades weren’t great. But his final football game would be the turning point, which would lead to his big break.
George Washington was playing against Albemarle High School in Charlottesville. With George Washington clinging to a late lead, Albemarle had one last chance by going for a “Hail Mary” play.
Moore was sent into the game to defend the play and knock the ball away from any eligible receivers.
What Albemarle didn’t count on was Moore’s hops. Standing in the end zone, he leaped high and intercepted the pass from Albemarle quarterback Tim Sherman to seal the win for his team.
Sherman’s father was in the stands, and he happened to be an assistant coach at the University of Virginia. He came into the locker room and asked about the guy who had made the game-winning interception.
He was told by the head coach of George Washington that Moore was “a pretty good kicker.”
But the elder Sherman saw much more in the senior, and pretty soon, Virginia, along with some other schools, made offers to Moore.
Cresting As A Cavalier
Moore decided to play his college ball for Virginia and head coach George Welsh.
Because Moore’s grades were poor, he had to spend the summer putting in work to become eligible to play. Once the season started, an injury to wideout Tim Finkelston opened up an opportunity for Moore to get consistent playing time.
His freshman year was quiet, but he did have 466 receiving yards and four touchdowns while averaging 19.4 yards per reception. But the track and field team was where he impressed people that year.
During the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) indoor track meet, he set a Virginia Cavaliers record by high jumping 7-foot, 2 1/2-inches, and months later he jumped 6-feet, 9 3/4 inches to finish second at the ACC outdoor meet.
In 1989 as a sophomore, Moore began to break out. He put up 848 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he registered an impressive 23.6 yards per reception.
He had decent, but not world-class speed, as he ran to 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. But his leaping ability was his calling card, and combined with his height (he would grow to be 6-foot-4), he was a very reliable target for quarterback Shawn Moore (no relation).
“All I have to do is get it near Herman and he’ll go get it,” Shawn Moore said.
Herman Moore downplayed his lack of elite speed, as he felt that his other gifts allowed him to shine.
“It’s something that gets you respect, but now I think it’s not necessary,” Moore said of being fast. “What’s really important is an awareness of where everyone is. I can sense where the defenders are. . . . You know I’ve never really been hit hard.”
Opposing coaches had to start paying special attention to him, and they quickly realized that he was a star in the making.
“He’s as good a big receiver as I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Notre Dame Fighting Irish Coach Lou Holtz said after studying Cavaliers films in preparation for the season-opening Kickoff Classic.
Moore got even better as a junior, as he contributed 1,190 yards and 13 touchdowns, earning him consensus All-American honors.
On the surface, it may seem that his ascension as a college player was smooth, but in reality, it wasn’t. Moore would often clash with coach Welsh early on in his time at Virginia, and it brought him to the brink of ending his football career.
One day in practice, Moore was targeted on a pass that got tipped away. Instead of retrieving the ball, he simply walked past it, and Welsh snapped at him, telling him to get the ball and run it back.
Instead, Moore grabbed it and threw it back, and things went south.
“He said, don’t throw it back, I want you to run it back,” Moore recalled. “I walked it back, being stubborn. It’s almost embarrassing to say. I walked it back and he said: ‘Just leave. Get off the field, you’re done. Get off the team.’”
Moore talked back to his coach and left the field, but later that day he apologized, and all was good again.
“I would have never achieve what I did if I had let that moment go,” Moore said. “Again, it’s recognizing opportunity.”
It was that old lesson about not quitting that kept the college junior in the game that he had a special knack for.
Moore left Virginia and entered the 1991 NFL Draft, but he didn’t forget about the main reason he went to college. Soon after, he attained his bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Communications.
A Leading Lion
With the 10th overall pick in the 1991 draft, the Detroit Lions took Moore. At the time, they had long been a mediocre franchise, having made the playoffs only three times since 1957 when they won the league title.
However, things were starting to move in the right direction for them. They had a young stud running back named Barry Sanders, and he would help take lots of pressure off Moore, allowing him to simply do his thing at his own pace.
Moore did not see the field much in 1991, catching only 11 passes for 135 yards in 13 games. He dropped quite a few passes, and fans wondered whether the Lions had wasted their first-round draft pick on him.
A culprit was his vision; he had worn contact lenses in college, but he decided to ditch them once he had made it to the NFL.
He apparently didn’t tell the Lions about this, but an eye exam would quickly fix the issue.
With Sanders turning opposing defenders into bowling pins (he had a career-high 17 touchdowns, 16 on the ground), the Lions sprouted to a 12-4 record, which was first in the NFC Central and their best season in decades.
A win over the Super Bowl-bound Buffalo Bills in Week 17 gave Detroit and its fans some real hope for the playoffs, as did the emergence of Moore.
The Lions’ first playoff game put them up against the ascendent Dallas Cowboys, who had won 11 games and featured a fearsome trio in QB Troy Aikman, wideout Michael Irvin and running back Emmitt Smith.
But with Moore catching six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, Detroit destroyed Dallas 38-6 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
“I just remember how I was the most relaxed,” Moore said many years later. “I felt like I’d arrived. There was no nervousness.”
There, it would lose to the eventual world champion Washington Redskins, 41-10.
The Virginia product was immediately placed in the starting lineup when the 1992 season started, and he validated the move by catching six balls for 82 yards in Week 1 versus the Chicago Bears.
An injury forced him to miss the next four games, but he continued where he left off once he returned to game action.
On the season, Moore had 51 catches for 966 yards and four touchdowns. However, it was a dismal season for Detroit, as it finished 5-11 and missed the playoffs.
But the Lions would rebound in 1993. Moore put up 935 yards and six touchdowns, and with a 10-6 record and first-place finish, they were back in the playoffs.
In the wild card round, they faced the upstart Green Bay Packers, who had a young, new quarterback named Brett Favre. Just a week before, Detroit had defeated Green Bay 30-20 at the Pontiac Silverdome as Favre threw four interceptions, and it likely felt confident about its opening playoff contest.
Moore was pretty much a non-factor with just one catch for 20 yards. The Lions led by three points with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter when Favre had one of his first clutch moments by finding Sterling Sharpe on a long pass with 55 seconds remaining for the go-ahead touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, Moore failed to make a key third-down catch, and the Lions lost a tough one, 28-24.
The heartbreaking playoff loss, coupled with his poor outing and tendency to suffer nagging injuries, drove Moore to come back stronger the following year. During the offseason, he started to train harder than ever before with the help of his wife Angela, who also happened to be his personal trainer.
Like her husband, Angela Moore was a standout track athlete at Virginia, and she pushed him to build up his body and become his best self.
“She makes me feel guilty when I want to stop,” Moore said. “She gives me the incentive to dig deep.”
As a result, he was like an upgraded version of himself for the 1994 season. Catching 72 passes for 1,173 yards and 11 touchdowns, Moore was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time when Jerry Rice skipped the game.
In addition to his improved production, he played a full 16-game schedule for the first time. He credited his offseason workouts with making him better at withstanding the rigors of playing in the NFL.
In the wild card round of the playoffs, Detroit again faced Green Bay, and this time Moore had a decent performance with 52 yards – until crunch time.
Although the Lions’ offense overall was impotent (Sanders was held to -1 yards rushing), they had a real chance of pulling off the win. Down 16-10 with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter, they faced a fourth-down and 14 on Green Bay’s 17-yard-line.
Quarterback Dave Krieg found Moore in the end zone, and Moore jumped to make the catch. However, when he landed, he was out of bounds, and once again Detroit suffered a gut-wrenching loss to Brett Favre and company.
Once again, the loss spurred an improvement. Moore came back with a vengeance in 1995, recording 1,686 yards, a new team record, and 14 touchdowns while setting a new NFL single-season record with 123 receptions.
He had several monster games, such as his 147-yard, three-touchdown performance in a Week 9 win over the Packers and a Week 14 blowout of the Chicago Bears in which he had 183 yards.
For the first time, fans and the media alike had to ask whether Moore was playing at the same level as titans such as Rice and Irvin. He certainly was about as valuable to his team as they were to their teams, as he helped Detroit finish 10-6.
He was again named to the Pro Bowl, and he also garnered his first selection to the All-Pro first team.
Although Detroit lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a 58-37 wild card round wipeout, Moore was a positive thanks to his 133 yards and one touchdown on seven catches.
He continued his superb play in 1996 with 106 catches, 1,296 yards and nine touchdowns, then followed that up with 104 receptions, 1,293 yards and eight touchdowns in ’97.
During that three-year span, Moore was one of the game’s elite wideouts. Other than Jerry Rice, he became the only player in NFL history to have three consecutive 100-catch seasons, and he earned Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors each year.
After missing the postseason in ’96, Detroit returned to the playoffs in ’97, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-10 in the wild card round.
Moore was still a prime-time player in 1998. He not only finished just shy of 1,000 yards yet again, but it was also the year in which he recorded his 600th reception in fewer games than any other player in league history.
The Lions always traditionally played on Thanksgiving Day, and Moore continued his history of feasting on turkey day with 148 yards and a touchdown as Detroit beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-16. That performance earned him the All-Iron Award, which was a sort of player of the game recognition CBS gave out for the league’s annual Thanksgiving game.
Friday Flashback: QB Charlie Batch throws 21-yard touchdown pass to WR Herman Moore against the #Steelers on Thanksgiving in 1998 with Carnell Lake in coverage. Yes, this was the infamous OT coin-flip game. @CharlieBatch16 pic.twitter.com/mrfAUhreVZ
— BlitzburghUSAVideos (@sdextrasmedia) January 10, 2020
But by now the Lions were in decline. For the second time in three years, they finished 5-11, and it was the end of an era, as Barry Sanders retired after the end of the season.
During the 1999 season, Moore turned 30, and his game and overall production experienced a precipitous drop. He suffered a knee injury that year and thus played in just eight games, posting just 16 catches for 197 yards.
His catch efficiency also got much worse. In ’98 he had caught 63.6 percent of the passes thrown to him, but that mark went down to 51.6 percent in ’99.
It was bad timing for the Lions, as they had just signed him to a seven-year, $33 million contract, perhaps thinking that he still had several more serviceable years left in him.
Somehow, despite a mediocre 8-8 record on the season, Detroit made the playoffs, losing to the Redskins. Moore played reasonably well with 69 yards on three catches, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
It was clear that his body was breaking down though. Although he managed to play in 15 games in the 2000 season, his shoulder bothered him, and he only mustered 434 yards that year.
Three games into the 2001 campaign, Moore tore an abdominal muscle, ending his season, and ultimately ending his time with the Lions.
After appearing in one game for the New York Giants in 2002, Moore’s NFL career was over at the age of 33.
Busy In Retirement
After calling it quits, some pro athletes enjoy a life of rest and relaxation. But not Moore.
In 2013, he started Team 84, which began as a marketing agency. Over time, it served as a holding company for many different types of businesses that provide different types of services to companies across the globe.
Some of the solutions Team 84 offers include technology, product management and producing promotional materials.
Team 84 also does a lot to give back and help those who are less fortunate or in need of a helping hand. The Herman Moore Tackle Life Foundation, which is part of Team 84, focuses on assisting middle school and high school students in areas such as academics, health and nutrition and career and entrepreneurial opportunities.
As one may expect, it also provides opportunities in the realm of sports and fitness through sports camps, fitness programs and mental health support.
Moore has also been involved with Game On Cancer, which is an organization that helps raise money for cancer treatment and research while also helping families of cancer patients with the costs of expenses related to treatment and doctor’s visits.
Game On Cancer has a partnership with the Lions, and Moore has served as a spokesman for the initiative. He experienced the impact that cancer can have on families first-hand when his father, Herman Chappelle, died from prostate cancer in 1999, and he has been dedicated to the fight against the disease ever since.
#GameOnCancer ambassador and @Lions alum, Herman Moore, is a legend both on and off the field. Find out how you can join @HMAN84 in leveling the playing field and raising money for cancer patients and their families: https://t.co/6wo22qyEkD pic.twitter.com/lTqSaquLe3
— Henry Ford Health System (@HenryFordNews) May 7, 2019
The Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, a non-profit in Michigan, is another organization Moore got involved with that helps support kids who are fighting cancer, as well as their families.
In 2015, the former wideout became the ambassador for the Quick Lane Bowl, which is a college football bowl game that is sponsored by Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers. The game is owned, hosted and run by the Lions, making it the only college bowl game that has such a relationship with an NFL team.
Moore was also an ambassador for the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative. The initiative is supported by the National Dairy Council, and it encourages children to eat a healthy diet while spending at least 60 minutes a day doing some type of physical activity in order to help them establish a healthy lifestyle.
In 2003, he was honored by Crain’s Detroit Business as part of their “40 under 40” list which honors exceptional, up-and-coming young entrepreneurs. Moore earned the honor for owning 17 Cinnabon restaurants in two different states and three coffee houses.
Although he is yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he has gotten the nod for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame for his gridiron accomplishments in college and the pros, respectively.