In the 2011 movie “Moneyball” based on the Michael Lewis book by the same name, actor Brad Pitt, playing A’s general manager Billy Beane, has a pointed conversation with a colleague.
“You don’t have a crystal ball. You can’t look at a kid and predict his future, any more than I can.”
This is an apt quote when looking at the future of a prospective professional athlete.
As much as scouts think they’ve found the next “it” player, more times than not they are wrong.
Of course, there’s the flip side.
Scouts will also dismiss or marginalize an athlete, usually with an excuse as to why the prospect won’t be a professional.
In time, the athlete gets a shot and he or she does make it as a pro.
In fact, the athlete becomes one of the greatest players in the game.
This was the case with Warren Moon.
Oilers QB Warren Moon in the Astrodome after a regular season game against the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Photo by William Snyder for The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images pic.twitter.com/FMR93jmg3X
— Astrodome Conservancy (@AstrodomeFans) October 24, 2021
He was a good player at the University of Washington.
However, most pro scouts did not see a future for Moon in the NFL, primarily making their decision based on an outdated stereotype.
For the next few years, he played north of the border before getting an opportunity to prove himself in the NFL.
Moon took that opportunity and ran with it.
After playing 17 years in the National Football League, Moon retired and became a mentor and example to many aspiring pros like him.
This is the story of Warren Moon.
Harold Warren Moon was born on November 18, 1956 in Los Angeles, California.
He was the middle child with six sisters.
Moon’s father died when he was seven, leaving his mother to care for their seven children.
Since his father was no longer around, Moon learned to help around the house by cooking, sewing, ironing and completing other chores that needed to be done.
By the time he reached high school, Moon knew that he could only play one sport.
The rest of the year, he had to work to continue to provide for his mother and sisters.
That one sport would be football.
Moon further surmised that he would play quarterback because, quite frankly, he was a better all-around athlete than most of the kids on his team.
Looking ahead to his future, Moon plotted a course to ensure a chance at a college scholarship.
With the knowledge that his local high school did not offer good academic or athletic opportunities, Moon engaged in a little deception.
He used the address of a family friend as his own so he could enroll at Alexander Hamilton High School. Hamilton was known as a sports factory that delivered a rigorous curriculum.
Although he rarely played his first two years at the school, Moon stuck with it.
As a junior, he took over the starting quarterback position.
By the time he graduated, Moon was one of the best high school signal callers in Los Angeles.
As a senior in 1973, the Yankees reached the playoffs and Moon was named to an all-city team.
Being named all-city had its perks.
Moon was recruited heavily by the likes of USC and Arizona.
However, each college wanted him to play a different position.
Instead of accepting a four-year opportunity, Moon refused to be pushed out of the position he loved.
To prove he had the skills necessary to be a college quarterback, Moon took an unusual route for someone of his stature.
He enrolled at West Los Angeles College, part of the community college system in California.
Clay Matthews was a walk-on at USC. JJ Watt walked on at Wisconsin. Aaron Rodgers started at a Junior College. Tom Brady wasn’t drafted until the 6th round. Warren Moon, Kurt Warner & Wes Welker weren’t drafted at all. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not capable,keep grinding!🙏
— Mount Pisgah Strength (@pisgahstrength) August 23, 2020
In two seasons at West LA, Moon set numerous records.
Additionally, he continued to excel in the classroom.
“My tenure and experience at West LA College really prepared me to compete educationally and further me academically at a major university,” Moon said many years later. “It athletically helped develop me into a Hall of Fame career.”
Moon was ready to matriculate to a larger program, but only a few four-year schools were interested.
Two states and many miles north, the University of Washington had their eyes on Moon.
Specifically, Huskies offensive coordinator Dick Scesniak had seen film of Moon’s West LA games and knew he was a diamond in the rough.
With the blessing of then Washington head coach Don James, Moon became a member of the Husky football team.
In 1975, Moon played in eight games and completed just under 40% of his passes for 587 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Washington finished that season 6-5.
During the Huskies 1976 season, the team took a step back to 5-6.
— 𝕃𝕦𝕧 𝕐𝕒 𝔹𝕝𝕦𝕖 (@BudsOilers) August 16, 2019
Moon was the full-time starter, playing in 11 games and passing for 1,106 yards, six touchdowns and eight picks.
As a senior, Moon and the 1977 Huskies finally made some noise.
That year, the team had a 7-4 record and secured a Rose Bowl berth against a mighty 10-1 Michigan squad.
Despite being a supposedly superior team, the Wolverines were getting blown out 17-0 at halftime.
In the second half, Washington kept pouring it on and led 27-7 at the end of three quarters.
The final score was a 27-20 win by the Huskies.
Moon was named the game’s MVP after throwing for a touchdown and running for two more.
For the year, Moon passed for 1,772 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions (including his Rose Bowl numbers).
Warren Moon through the years. 1975-1977 Washington Huskies (thread) pic.twitter.com/MDVSBDQdZt
— 𝙃𝙚𝙡𝙢𝙚𝙩 𝘼𝙙𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙩 (@HelmetAddict) February 6, 2019
He was named the Pac-8’s Co-Player of the Year.
After completing a solid senior campaign, and almost single-handedly beating one of the best college teams in the land, Moon was ready for an NFL opportunity.
That opportunity would not come anytime soon.
Moon goes to Canada
At this point in his life, Moon was fully aware of what was going on.
He first saw the stereotype as a senior in high school and he was seeing it again after his senior year in college.
At the time, the NFL had a poorly kept secret regarding black quarterbacks.
In short, the stereotype was that they couldn’t play.
Never mind the fact that most NFL teams did not actually give black quarterbacks an opportunity to succeed.
Their belief was that certain skill positions in the league were “thinking” positions and black athletes did not have the tools for those spots.
“In football, the ‘thinking’ positions down the middle — quarterback, center, [inside] linebacker — were the ones that we weren’t allowed to play,” said Moon in 2017.
Just like the colleges that had tried to get him to switch to a ‘non-thinking’ position, NFL teams also envisioned Moon in a different role.
“Despite the fact that there were a lot of African-Americans playing in the National Football League in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, there was a stereotype that we weren’t capable of succeeding at certain positions. If you played those positions in college and you got drafted, you knew you were probably going to get moved in the NFL. Supposedly, we weren’t smart enough or had the leadership qualities or whatever it took. At every position, for African-Americans, conquering that myth at quarterback was so important,” he said.
Moon didn’t want any part of the NFL’s racial stereotype against black athletes and decided to take his chances in the Canadian Football League.
Warren Moon with the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos, now to be called the Edmonton Elks as of today. pic.twitter.com/uUoqFjaW5J
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) June 1, 2021
Instead of waiting to see where he would be selected in the upcoming 1978 NFL Draft (many experts believed he would be a late-round pick) Moon signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL.
“You just have to keep believing in yourself,” Moon said in 2017, “and go wherever you have to go to prove you can do it.”
Five-Time Champion in Edmonton
Once he arrived in Edmonton, Moon got to work proving his worth.
In 1978, he backed up Tom Wilkinson but still saw enough playing time to pass for 1,112 yards and five touchdowns.
Edmonton was already a good team.
With Moon, the Eskimos became great.
The team won the ‘78 Grey Cup against Montreal 20-13.
In 1979, Edmonton lost only two games and repeated as champions, defeating Montreal in the Grey Cup again 17-9.
Moon started edging Wilkinson out for starting opportunities that year, throwing for 2,382 yards and 20 touchdowns.
— 𝙃𝙚𝙡𝙢𝙚𝙩 𝘼𝙙𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙩 (@HelmetAddict) June 21, 2017
By 1980, Moon was fully in charge. That season, he passed for 3,127 yards, 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
He was voted the MVP of the Grey Cup when Edmonton three-peated in a 48-10 blowout of Hamilton.
1981 was more of the same.
Moon completed over 62% of his passes for 3,959 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 picks.
He collected another championship after leading the Eskimos to a 26-23 win against the Ottawa Rough Riders.
In Moon’s fifth season with the club, Edmonton went 11-5 in 1982 and faced the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup.
After passing for a whopping 5,000 yards and 36 touchdowns in the regular season, he was the game’s MVP for the second time after passing for 319 yards in the Eskimos’ 32-16 win.
The victory marked five straight Grey Cup victories for a quarterback who NFL teams did not think could play.
1983 was considered a down year for the franchise.
That season, Edmonton finished 8-8 and lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the semi-final game 49-22.
In his only season without a championship, Moon had his best numbers.
That year, he threw for a CFL record 5,648 yards and added 31 touchdowns and 19 picks.
Warren Moon was born November 18, 1956. Despite success at U of Washington, Moon was undrafted and played for the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL where he won 5 Grey Cups. He then played for Houston Oilers where he set numerous NFL records & became first black QB in the Hall of Fame pic.twitter.com/mtGdStdl2X
— Kid Phantasm (@cbbruuno) November 18, 2019
Moon was named to the CFL All-Star team, Western All-Star team and won the Schenley Award for the Most Outstanding Player.
After playing six years in Canada, Moon decided to give the NFL another opportunity.
He announced his intentions and received interest from a few teams.
Moon was about to see his dreams come true.
Signed by Houston
As word spread around the league that Moon was coming to the States, several NFL players expressed their excitement.
One such player was soon-to-be Washington quarterback Doug Williams.
“Man, Warren was a great quarterback,” said Williams, the first African-American passer to win a Super Bowl and Moon’s close friend. “He didn’t get a chance to come right into the league, but once he finally got in there was no doubt about how good he was.
“You couldn’t deny it because he went out there and did it. You saw it with your own eyes. And I’ll tell you this: You better believe there were a lot of teams that wished they hadn’t passed on Warren [when he came out of Washington].”
The Seahawks expressed interest in having Moon return to the Pacific Northwest to play (he already had an off-season home near Seattle).
However, the Houston Oilers were also committed to signing Moon.
After a short bidding war, Moon picked the Oilers as his destination.
30 Years Ago Today: Houston Oilers QB Warren Moon becomes the highest paid player in NFL ($2M/year) with a new five-year, $10M contract.
Deal would be worth $21M in today's dollars.
Fifteen NFL QB's will make at least ($21M) that THIS SEASON. pic.twitter.com/hs5su4Kx3S
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 7, 2019
His decision came down to two factors.
One, Houston had Hugh Campbell as their head coach.
Campbell was Moon’s coach in Edmonton for his first five seasons.
Second, his new contract was guaranteed by Houston, something the Seahawks did not offer.
After earning $240,000 for Edmonton in 1983, the Oilers would pay Moon $6 million over five years.
That made him the highest-paid player in the NFL.
“This was strictly a business decision I had to make,” Moon said at a news conference. ”It’s what’s best for me and my family. It’s tough leaving all my friends in Seattle, but it’s something I had to do, and I’m happy with my decision. I wanted to go where I was wanted, and everyone here, especially the fans, have made me feel welcome.”
A Slow Start for Moon
Moon’s early years in Houston were not much to write home about.
In 1984, he passed for a team-record 3,338 yards along with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
However, Campbell wasn’t the answer as coach.
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) June 20, 2018
The Oilers went 3-13 in ‘84 then began the 1985 season 5-9 before Campbell was fired and assistant Jerry Glanville took over.
In the midst of the turmoil, Moon’s numbers suffered in ‘85 as well.
Behind a patch-work offensive line, he passed for 2,709 yards, 15 touchdowns and 19 picks.
Following the year, Houston toyed with the idea of trading Moon to a different team.
In their eyes, they had not seen the player they paid big money for.
At the same time, the franchise hired a new quarterback coach named June Jones who had previously played in Canada.
In fact, Jones had played against Moon in 1982.
When he arrived in Houston, Jones heard about the tentative proposal to send Moon to the Raiders.
Without hesitation, Jones shared his objections about the idea with GM Ladd Herzeg and owner Bud Adams.
“Ladd Herzeg was going to trade Warren to the Raiders,” Jones told the Touchdown Wire NFL Podcast in July of 2021. “I can remember, I had just come down from Canada a couple years earlier, and I had played against Warren. I knew him, and then I watched all the film from the three years that Hugh Campbell was at the Oilers, and Warren just got killed.”
Jones convinced the Oilers front office that Moon was a much better quarterback than what he had shown.
Essentially, the organization just needed to beef up their offensive line.
“So, I talked Ladd into at least letting me work with him in the OTAs in the spring. I took Warren, and talked them into not trading him after OTAs, because [Herzeg] still wanted him out. I said, ‘Let’s go through the preseason, see how it goes, and then you can make your decision.’ I knew Warren was going to excel in what we did. I just knew it. He was so accurate with the ball, he got the ball out, and he now knew the progressions. And we had a really good football team. I want to say, we went from the worst in the league to making the playoffs [the 1987 Oilers went 9-6 in a strike-shortened season a year after finishing with a 5-11 record], and we were one of the top offensive teams in football over the next couple of years,” Jones said.
Thankfully, Moon looked good in the lead-up to the ‘86 season and the team decided not to draft Purdue’s Jim Everett.
Glanville was named the franchise’s full-time head coach in 1986 and Houston repeated its 5-11 record from the year before.
Under Jones’ tutelage, Moon improved in passing yards with 3,489, but he tossed a league (and career) high 26 interceptions against just 13 touchdowns.
Things turn around in 1987
As Moon began his fourth season with the club, the Oilers began to show signs of life.
Glanville’s quirky nature began to rub off on Houston and the team started to play with some swagger.
The coach was known to wear all black and leave tickets at Will-Call for Elvis (even though the crooner was long dead).
OTD in 1986, Jerry Glanville signs a 5-year contract as head coach of the #Oilers
Glanville had served as interim head coach for the last two games of 1985 after Hugh Campbell's departure
— 𝕃𝕦𝕧 𝕐𝕒 𝔹𝕝𝕦𝕖 (@BudsOilers) January 20, 2021
He also celebrated quick-strike offensive play along with bad-to-the-bone defenses.
Before long, the Astrodome, where the Oilers played, became affectionately known as “The House of Pain.”
Glanville wasn’t afraid to jaw with opposing coaches and exasperated league officials.
Moon thrived in Glanville’s offense, although not at first.
As the team made the postseason for the first time in seven years, Moon threw for 2,806 yards and finally passed for more touchdowns than interceptions, ending the season with 21 and 18 respectively.
The following year, Moon’s totals fell to 2,327 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight picks.
However, he was selected to the first of nine career Pro Bowls that season as he led Houston to the postseason again.
The Oilers came up short in the Divisional round for the second year in a row, losing to Denver in ‘87 and the Bills in ‘88.
Moon Leads the League
In 1989, Moon had his best totals to date in Houston.
In addition to 3,631 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 14 picks, he also rushed for 268 yards and four scores.
Moon’s legs were another asset for the Oilers.
If he was flushed out of the pocket, Moon could motor, many times picking up first downs and racking up touchdowns.
During his Houston career, Moon would tally 21 total rushing touchdowns.
After the ‘89 season, Moon was named the league’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his charity work.
That summer saw Glanville move on to the Falcons.
He was replaced with Jack Pardee and the franchise continued to hum.
Moon passed for an NFL best 4,689 yards in 1990.
He also led the league in attempts (584), completions (362), and touchdowns (33), and tied Dan Marino’s record with nine 300-yard games in a season.
In a game against Kansas City, Moon torched the Chiefs for 527 yards passing.
That would be the second most yards ever in a single game.
During a game against Cincinnati, Moon’s 369 yards and five touchdown passes made him the first person to throw for over 20,000 yards in two different leagues.
Moon’s exploits that year led to him being selected as the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Today in 1990, Warren Moon passes for 369 yards and five touchdowns as the Oilers beat Cincinnati 48-17, becoming the first person to throw for over 20,000 yards in two different leagues (Moon passed for 21,228 yards in the Canadian Football League). pic.twitter.com/ZtTufsTOrV
— Texas Sports History (@TXSportsHistory) October 14, 2018
1991 saw Moon repeat his assault on the record book when he passed for 4,690 yards, 23 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Moon joined Marino and Dan Fouts as the only quarterbacks to post back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons.
Moon also set NFL records with 655 attempts and 404 completions.
Meanwhile, the Oilers defeated the Jets in the Wild Card round before falling to Denver by two points in the Divisional round.
A Huge Lead is Erased and Moon is Sent Packing
Moon’s impressive two-year totals were a thing of the past in 1992.
That season, he passed for just over 2,500 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 picks.
However, he missed five games due to an injury which affected his totals.
Houston managed to finish 10-6 despite Moon’s absence and faced Buffalo in the Wild Card round.
By halftime of the contest, Moon had passed for 222 yards and four touchdowns to stake the team to a 28-3 lead.
Just minutes into the third quarter, the Oilers increased their lead to 35-3 on a pick-six.
At that point, Houston looked to be headed to the Divisional round and a push to an elusive Super Bowl.
That’s when the Bills dug in and found new life.
Before a stunned national audience, Buffalo reeled off five straight touchdowns to take an improbable 38-35 lead.
Moon then calmly led Houston to a game tying field goal that sent the game into overtime.
However, he threw an unfortunate interception in the extra period that was turned into a game winning field goal by the Bills’ Steve Christie.
We’ll of course have the Bills/Texans game on all the TVs at 4:30 pm tomorrow, but to get everyone pumped up we’ll be showing “The Comeback” – the 1992 Bills/Oilers AFC Wild Card game – on a loop starting at noon. Let’s go Buffalo! pic.twitter.com/LBZOPBB9VJ
— Lock 32 Brewing Co (@Lock32_Brew_Co) January 3, 2020
The 32 point comeback was the largest in NFL postseason history.
Although he tossed an untimely pick, Moon passed for 371 yards and four touchdowns in the game.
In 1993, the Oilers began the season with a 1-4 record.
However, Moon helped to right the ship by leading the team to an eventual 12-4 record.
That was the best season yet in Moon’s tenure with the club.
Houston met the Joe Montana-led Chiefs in the Divisional round and were upset 28-20.
After the disappointing end to the ‘93 season, the Oilers chose to part ways with their ten-year signal caller.
During his decade with Houston, Moon set a franchise record with 70 victories that would last until 2004.
Moon also departed Houston as the franchise leader in passing touchdowns, passing yards, pass attempts, and pass completions.
Signed by Minnesota
The Minnesota Vikings had spent the previous two years floundering.
They would have a good regular season only to see the postseason end in the first round.
With the Oilers shopping Moon, the Vikings saw an opportunity to get to the next level.
— 𝕃𝕦𝕧 𝕐𝕒 𝔹𝕝𝕦𝕖 (@BudsOilers) April 13, 2020
For his part, Moon wanted to stay with Houston, but it was obvious the feeling was not mutual and he signed with Minnesota.
“I don’t really want to leave here,” Moon said from his home in Houston, “but I do have a team that wants me.”
For the next two years, Moon would do very well, passing for over 4,000 yards in ‘94 and 1995.
He also tossed a league-high 33 touchdowns in ‘95.
Despite his great totals, the Vikings could not get past the first round of the postseason and missed the playoffs completely in ‘95.
In 1996, Moon missed a large chunk of the season due to a broken collarbone.
His injury meant a then career-low of 1,610 yards, seven touchdowns and nine picks.
Minnesota made the playoffs again, but were crushed by Dallas 40-15 in the Wild Card round.
After the ‘96 season, the Vikings asked Moon to take a $3.8 million pay cut to back up Brad Johnson.
He refused and Minnesota released him.
Return to the Pacific Northwest and a Back-up in Kansas City
As the calendar turned to 1997, Moon was turning 41 and many NFL teams believed he was near the end of an illustrious career.
Seattle didn’t believe the narrative, however, and finally signed the guy they wanted in 1984.
The Seahawks belief in Moon paid off in ‘97 when he passed for 3,678 yards, 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
He also added 40 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground.
QB matchup the last time the Seahawks won in Indianapolis (9/14/1997): Warren Moon vs. Jim Harbaugh pic.twitter.com/L9WWITsiPf
— Riley Michel (@rileymichel) September 8, 2021
Although Seattle missed the playoffs at 8-8, Moon made the Pro Bowl and was even named the game’s MVP.
The following year, Moon played in only 10 games and passed for just over 1,600 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight picks.
He was released by the Seahawks after the season and signed with Kansas City to serve as a back-up to Elvis Grbac.
“I think he’ll be very helpful to Elvis Grbac in his development,” Chiefs head coach Gunther Cunningham said. “I think the players will respond well to him because I think he carries respect throughout the league.”
In two seasons with the Chiefs, Moon played in three games and passed for a total of 228 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
— Kansas City Chiefs Clips (@kcchiefsclips) April 15, 2019
After the 2000 season, Moon retired from the game at 44 years young.
In 17 years as an NFL signal-caller, Moon had 49,325 yards passing, 291 touchdowns, 233 interceptions, 1,736 rushing yards and 22 rushing touchdowns.
Combining his CFL totals, Moon has 70,553 passing yards and 435 touchdowns.
Additionally, Moon was voted to the Pro Bowl nine times, named NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, was a two-time league passing leader and one-time NFL passing touchdowns leader.
He has had his number 1 jersey retired by the Oilers/Titans and has been placed in the team’s Ring of Honor.
Life in Retirement
A year after retiring from the sport, Moon was elected into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Then, in 2006, he was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His Hall bio says, “I started wearing number one in college because I always wanted to be the number one guy. I always want to remind my teammates that I’m the man who can get it done.”
For years, Moon worked as a television and radio broadcaster for the Seahawks.
In 2014, Seattle won Super Bowl XLIX and Moon was given a Super Bowl ring for his role as the team’s broadcaster.
Three years later, Moon was suspended from his broadcasting duties after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed a female employee of his Orange County-based company, Sports 1 Marketing.
The Seattle Seahawks have released a statement in regards to the ongoing Warren Moon situation. pic.twitter.com/s0Wvv3NRoj
— 247Sports (@247Sports) December 7, 2017
The former employee, Wendy Haskell, alleged Moon forced her to sleep in bed with him on business trips.
As it turned out, Moon had been accused of similar behavior while with Minnesota in 1995.
A cheerleader for the Vikings accused Moon of offering her sex for cash.
Moon settled both cases out of court.
In 1996, Moon was acquitted of spousal abuse charges against his wife, Felicia, who he later divorced in 2001.
Even with his legal troubles, Moon is viewed as a trailblazer for other black athletes hoping to make it in the NFL.
He has tutored the likes of Cam Newton before Newton was the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Moon currently resides in Redmond, Washington.