If there was one Baltimore Colts legend who was the epitome of versatility, it was Lenny Moore.
Moore was a do-it-all flanker and halfback who formed a tremendous pass-catch combo with Colts quarterback, Johnny Unitas.
With Moore at the top of his game, the Colts won back-to-back NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959.
By the time Moore hung up his cleats following the 1967 NFL campaign, he had become the only player in league history to catch 40 career touchdown passes and rush for another 40.
Moore eventually became a seven-time Pro Bowler, 1964 NFL MVP, and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Truly, Lenny Moore’s versatility on the gridiron made him a cut above the rest.
Leonard Edward “Lenny” Moore was born in Reading, PA on November 25, 1933.
Moore’s mother and father had relocated to Pennsylvania from Bamberg, SC during the Great Depression.
The football bug bit Moore when he was in junior high school. In the summer of 2021, he told the Reading Eagle‘s Brian Rippey that he had been thinking about trying out for the football team. Moore listened to his heart and eventually made the cut.
Lenny Moore attended Reading Senior High School in his hometown. He excelled on the high school gridiron for Reading Red Knights head football coach Andy Stopper.
Almost three decades after Moore first met Stopper, he gave his coach credit in his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech for encouraging him to get a college degree.
Moore played on both sides of the ball for Stopper. He played halfback and defensive back for the Red Knights during his high school days.
Lenny earned the moniker “The Reading Rambler” because of his exceptional two-way abilities on offense and defense.
Moore had a breakout senior season with the Red Knights. He had 22 touchdowns in 1951.
I got an autograph from Pro Football Hall of Fame RB Lenny Moore.
Lenny Moore is also an alum of Reading High School, like myself. pic.twitter.com/fC5KUkDXDC
— Jawn Cena (@27inchZenith) July 6, 2021
When Stopper presented Moore to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975, he defined his former running back as “first class” since the day he met him in 1950.
Stopper remembered Moore scoring 18 of his 22 touchdowns in 1951 from at least 10 yards out. Moore averaged a remarkable 31 yards per carry as a senior.
One game that stood out for Stopper was against the Lebanon Cedars. Moore had 229 rushing yards on just 13 carries for the Red Knights in that game.
Recruited by Penn State
Moore’s dazzling display on the high school gridiron caught the eye of Penn State Nittany Lions assistant football coach Joe Paterno.
Paterno, who went on to become Penn State’s head football coach from 1966 to 2011, pored over grainy footage of Moore as a high school football player.
He remembered watching one game in which Moore scored five touchdowns in muddy field conditions. Moore’s nimble footwork helped him elude defenders repeatedly.
“Honest to God, it was like Lenny was walking on water,” Paterno said in 2003 (via ProFootballHOF.com). “Oh, God, was he good. He would have been a great ballet dancer.”
Paterno eventually helped recruit Moore to Penn State. The former became instrumental in realizing Stopper’s vision of Moore earning a college degree.
Lenny Moore was just getting started. His versatility eventually set him apart from other halfbacks in the college football ranks. Simply put, he was a Jack of all trades on the gridiron.
College Days with the Penn State Nittany Lions
Lenny Moore attended Penn State University. He played for Penn State Nittany Lions head football coach Rip Engle from 1953 to 1955.
Moore’s teammates dubbed him “Spats” because of his unusual fashion trend. Instead of wearing the high-top shoes most of his teammates wore, he used white tape to complement his low-top black shoes whenever he took the field.
Moore, a devout Christian, told Rippey some sixty-eight years later that he’d also taped a small Bible to his left thigh. It was a trend that continued when he played for the NFL’s Baltimore Colts.
Moore told the Reading Eagle that he patted the small Bible whenever something special happened on the gridiron. It was his way of thanking God for looking out for him on the football field.
Joe Paterno, who served as one of Engle’s assistants, thought Moore was a unique trendsetter in his college days.
“He set the style pattern on campus,” Paterno said (via ProFootballHOF.com). “Some guys, they don’t try to hide anything. He wasn’t a phony. Lenny was Lenny.”
For his part, Moore told The Baltimore Sun‘sDavid Selig in the fall of 2011 that one of his most prized possessions is a black-and-white photo of him and Paterno which he has kept in his basement all these years.
Moore experienced racial tension and injustice during his time at Penn State in the 1950s. Some businesses refused to accommodate him and his African-American teammates.
Since there were no African-American barbershops near the PSU campus, they had to give each other haircuts.
Moore and his best friend, Nittany Lions fullback Charlie Blockson, talked for hours along College Avenue. They typically praised Engle, Paterno, and other members of the coaching staff who helped lift their spirits.
Finally Getting to Play
Since the NCAA prohibited athletes from joining the varsity squad until their sophomore seasons at the time, Moore did not take the field as a true freshman in 1952.
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) December 29, 2020
The one-year hiatus from the college gridiron hardly affected Moore’s play in 1953. He had 601 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns in nine games in his sophomore season.
Moore took his performance to the next level in his junior season. He had an incredible 1,074 rushing yards on an 8.0 yards-per-carry average in 1954. Moore also had 11 rushing touchdowns as a junior.
Moore had his best outing in the college football ranks as a senior in 1955. He had 179 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Penn State’s resounding 34-13 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on November 12, 1955.
The Nittany Lions averaged six wins per season in Lenny Moore’s three-year tenure from 1953 to 1955.
Moore set several program records by the end of his college football career. He became Penn State’s all-time leader in career rushing yardage (2,380 yards) and career all-purpose yardage (3,453 yards).
Moore’s 1,486 all-purpose yards as a junior in 1954 is also the most in a single season of Penn State football program history.
Moore also had the most career 100-yard rushing performances (twelve) back then. He also led Penn State twice in picks, kickoff return yardage, and punt return yardage during his college days.
“The greatest back I ever coached and the best two-way halfback in the game today,” Engle said at the time (via ProFootballHOF.com).
Truly, Lenny Moore was a Jack of all trades who excelled on both sides of the ball. That trend continued when he entered the National Football League in 1956.
When Moore hung up his cleats in 1967, he established a legendary career worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Pro Football Career
The Baltimore Colts made Lenny Moore the ninth overall selection of the 1956 NFL Draft.
Moore became a member of the Colts in their fourth year of existence. Prior to drafting Moore, Baltimore averaged just four wins per season from 1953 to 1955.
Colts head coach Weeb Ewbank first used Moore as a hybrid flanker and running back whose main duty was to catch passes from quarterback Johnny Unitas.
Consequently, Moore and Unitas became a sensational pass-catch duo that wreaked havoc on opposing defenses for the next twelve seasons.
Moore did not just rack up yards in the air and on the ground for the Colts. He also took the field on punt and kick returns. Moore also played deep safety during his heyday in Baltimore.
“(The) kind of ball was played was good enough for us to be in any era because we did multi things,” Moore told the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s official website in 2021. “We were multiple ball players. We weren’t just tied into just one area.”
Baltimore was slightly better with Moore as its flanker and halfback from 1956 to 1957.
In Moore’s first two seasons in the Charm City, the Colts averaged six wins per season. Unfortunately, they extended their postseason drought to five years.
Despite Baltimore’s struggles, Moore served notice he was an NFL-caliber player. He had 649 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns as a rookie in 1956.
Moore earned the first of his seven career Pro Bowl selections and the first of his two career Second-Team All-Pro selections that year. He also earned 1956 NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
Moore and his then-wife Frances welcomed their first-born son Les in 1957. When Lenny came back from a road trip that year, he was hesitant to hold Les in his arms because he thought he might break him, per The Baltimore Sun.
Frances Moore encouraged her husband to hold their son. He finally relented, held his seven-pound bundle of joy, and beamed like the new father he was.
Baltimore Colts Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jim Parker, Moore’s road roommate, recalled the times when Lenny showed off his newborn son to everybody.
— NFL (@NFL) November 23, 2019
Whenever Parker visited the Moores’ house, he always saw Lenny pinching Les’s cheeks. Lenny allowed Jim to leave only when the former said baby Les looked like him.
Lenny and Les went around Charm City during the offseason. Father and son visited shops along North Avenue and spent time together in Druid Hill Park. Lenny occasionally brought Les with him to Colts training camp in Westminster.
Sadly, 43-year-old Les Moore passed away in the spring of 2001. It was one of the biggest heartbreaks of Lenny’s life.
A Winning Record
The Colts’ fortunes changed in Moore’s third season in 1958. He had 1,638 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns as Baltimore had a franchise-best 9-3 win-loss record that year.
Moore racked up most of his yardage from the air. He had 938 passing yards in his third pro football season.
Behind Lenny Moore’s emergence as one of the NFL’s best halfbacks, the Colts reached the NFL Championship Game for the first time in franchise history in 1958.
Moore picked up where he left off in the regular season. He had 99 receiving yards on five receptions in Baltimore’s historic 23-17 victory over the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL title game.
Lenny Moore was an NFL champion three years into his historic twelve-year pro football career.
Moore also earned the first of his five career First-Team All-Pro selections following the 1958 NFL season.
Moore felt racial tensions in the Charm City as his pro football career took off.
In Moore’s 2005 autobiography (via The Baltimore Sun), he remembered attending a banquet in honor of boxing legend Barney Ross sometime after the Colts won their first NFL Championship in 1958.
When Moore showed up, the organizers told him he had to take the back entrance near the kitchen.
Once Moore made his way inside the banquet, a bartender denied him a drink. Hardly anybody, including his Colts teammates Art Donovan and Jim Mutscheller, warmed up to him.
A furious Lenny Moore left the premises. He decided he was going to spend more time with people he felt at ease with from that point onward.
One of those individuals was Colts defensive lineman Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb. He and Moore liked spending time at African-American jazz clubs in Baltimore.
— Old Football Film (@FilmHistoric) April 21, 2021
From Moore’s perspective, the football field was a more unified world than the city he lived in.
Since Moore first arrived in Baltimore in 1956, he noticed the city was divided into a white section and a black section.
Moore thought the Colts’ 1958 championship-winning squad was one of the most unified teams he had the pleasure of playing for.
“There was not a team any closer than we were when we hit that football field. We were a tight-knit family,” Moore said (via The Baltimore Sun). “Unfortunately, society didn’t give us that same kind of welcome when the same game was over.”
Colts Hall of Fame receiver Raymond Berry was one of Moore’s teammates who fostered unity and camaraderie.
Baltimore defensive back, return specialist, and halfback Lenny Lyles, an African-American, gave credit to Berry, who was white, for helping him learn the ropes of the pro game.
Continued Success and a Warm Welcome
For his part, Moore lauded Berry for his unselfish acts.
“Thank God for Raymond Berry because he showed us we were a team,” Moore told The Baltimore Sun in 2008.
The Colts duplicated their 9-3 win-loss record in 1959. Ewbank’s troops beat the Giants in the NFL Championship Game for the second straight year, 31-16.
When the Colts became a juggernaut in the late 1950s, Lenny Moore and Andy Stopper, his high school football coach, helped ease racial tensions as the decade wound down.
Stopper’s son John, who followed in his footsteps as a football coach, remembered the times Moore and his Colts teammates visited his family in Reading, PA in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Andy Stopper’s other son Drew ran around the vicinity and yelled Moore and the Colts were visiting his family. Children from the neighborhood showed up in droves, shook hands with the players, and got their autographs.
Stopper’s older neighbors also shook hands with Moore and his teammates. The Colts then convened on his front porch and discussed football and social issues afterward.
The Struggles Return
Baltimore went through several lean years toward the end of Ewbank’s tenure with the team.
The Colts regressed and won just six games in the 1960 NFL season. When the league instituted a 14-game schedule beginning in 1961, Baltimore averaged eight wins over the next two seasons.
Ewbank moved Moore to the full-time running back position in 1962. Moore struggled through injuries and missed a combined eleven games in 1962 and 1963.
12,451 total yards, 5,174 yards rushing, 363 receptions and 113 touchdowns.
— NFL (@NFL) November 21, 2019
However, 31-year-old Lenny Moore was far from washed up. He had 1,056 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns in 1964.
Not only were Moore’s 16 rushing touchdowns a career-high, but they also led the National Football League that year. Moore’s 114 points also led the league in 1964.
Moore led a Colts resurgence in the Don Shula era in Baltimore. The Colts averaged eleven wins per season from 1964 to 1965.
In 2003, Shula told The Eagle (via ProFootballHOF.com) that Moore belonged in the upper echelon of flankers during that era. He thought Moore made some incredible catches during their time together in Baltimore from 1963 to 1967.
Unfortunately, Baltimore could not contain Cleveland Browns wide receiver Gary Collins in the 1964 NFL Championship Game.
Collins had 130 receiving yards and three touchdowns on just five receptions as the Browns routed the Colts, 27-0.
Nevertheless, Lenny Moore earned 1964 NFL MVP and NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
Retirement and Legacy
When Moore spoke about winning NFL MVP honors, he thought the sacrifices he made in previous years paid off.
“It was probably the highest award I received as a player,” Moore said in 2003 (via ProFootball HOF.com). “I know the sacrifices I had to make to make it a reality.”
Moore set a new NFL record when he had touchdowns in 18 straight games from 1963 to 1965.
Lenny Moore retired from the National Football League after the 1967 NFL season. He had 12,451 all-purpose yards, 5,174 rushing yards, and 113 total touchdowns in his legendary twelve-year pro football career.
Moore remains one of the most versatile dual-threat players in NFL history. He is the only player in league history to record at least career 40 touchdowns in the air and 40 career touchdowns on the ground.
Lenny Moore considered Johnny Unitas, Art Donovan, Raymond Berry, Jim Parker, Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, Johnny Sample, and John Mackey the best players he took the field with as a member of the Baltimore Colts.
Moore also singled out Lipscomb, Parker, and Sherman Plunkett as his closest teammates on the Colts’ roster.
Lenny Moore currently resides in the Baltimore, MD area, per the Reading Eagle.
The Baltimore Colts retired his No. 24 jersey several years after he last played in the NFL following the 1967 season.
Moore served as a CBS football analyst for one season in 1968. He admitted to the Baltimore Ravens’ official website in the summer of 2009 that he enjoyed doing sports broadcasting. Regrettably, it never opened bigger doors for him in subsequent years.
After Moore’s one-year tenure at CBS ended, he worked for the Army from 1970 to 1974. His role involved mobilizing cadets from Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Delaware into their local communities.
A Bittersweet Achievement
Moore went through some turbulent times during his retirement years. The road to Canton, OH was not an easy one at all.
Doctors diagnosed his second wife, Erma, with colon cancer in 1974. Although Lenny and his family had doubts about whether she could attend his induction ceremony in the summer of 1975, she defied the odds and made it. To Lenny’s delight, his father also attended his enshrinement.
When Moore entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975, he chose Andy Stopper, his high school football coach, to be his presenter.
Moments before Moore became a member of football’s all-time greats, Stopper read Biblical scripture from the book of Isaiah to him.
“But they that have hope in the Lord shall renew their strength,” the scripture read. “They shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Moore wrote in his 2005 autobiography, All Things Being Equal (via ProFootballHOF.com), those powerful words consoled him during one of the most trying times in his life.
Part of Moore’s enshrinement speech reads:
“You know, as I look back and I reflect back over my football years and just basically a simple guy from Reading, Pennsylvania who didn’t have pretty much a sense of direction where he was going… I have learned an awful lot of things.”
When Moore took the stage, he cried like a baby when he described how elated his wife and children were during his enshrinement ceremony.
Sadly, Erma Moore passed away two months after her husband’s induction into the Hall in Canton, OH.
Moore Family Tragedy
Moore then worked in the Baltimore Colts’ community relations department from 1975 to 1983. His tenure with the Colts ended abruptly when the team left Baltimore for Indianapolis in the spring of 1984.
Moore’s 43-year-old son Les passed away in the spring of 2001 due to scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder that ravaged his lungs, pancreas, and kidneys.
Les Moore had followed in his dad’s footsteps and played high school football. Lenny has been keeping his son’s old football cleats inside a closet next to a cleat owned by the late Colts defensive lineman Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb.
Lenny’s Baltimore Colts teammates Johnny Unitas, Art Donovan, Jim Parker, Jim Mutscheller, Stan White, Tom Matte, Lydell Mitchell, Roy Jefferson, Roy Hilton, and Rick Volk attended Les Moore’s funeral service and paid their respects.
Moore established the Leslie Moore Scholarship Foundation in his son’s honor.
Moore’s first wife, Frances, died of stroke five weeks after Les succumbed to scleroderma. Lenny and Frances had four children together. He has a fifth child, a son, from a different relationship.
Moore was working for Maryland’s State Department of Education as a juvenile justice program specialist at the time of his son Les’s death in 2001. He served the state for a total of 26 years until his retirement in 2010.
It did not get any easier for Moore in 2001. His doctors diagnosed him with prostate cancer that year. Fortunately, he has been cancer-free in recent years, per The Baltimore Sun.
Lenny Moore’s second wife Edith passed away in April 2020. She was 92 years old.
The couple married in 1976. Their inner circle told AFRO‘s Sean Yoes they had been inseparable until she died. Lenny was so distraught, people had to pull him away from her casket at her funeral.
Still a Fan of Baltimore Football
Moore is a fan of the Baltimore Ravens and watches as many home games as he could.
Lenny Moore is also a member of the Reading High School Football Hall of Fame, the East-West Shrine Game Hall of Fame, the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor.
Moore’s three daughters from his first marriage—Carol Herron, Terri Williams, and Toni Bowser—are currently taking care of their 88-year-old father.