(Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)
(Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Everyday Life, but No Ordinary Thing

Brandon Moore went back on a deal with the Cowboys to retire, a decision that left him wearing winter boots instead of shoulder pads in August. He’s not sweating the move

When Brandon Moore’s former position coach came calling last week, the long-time Jets guard agreed to sign with the Cowboys—only to have a change of heart less than 24 hours later and retire after 10 seasons and 142 NFL starts. Moore, a 33-year-old former undrafted free agent turned Pro Bowler, gave The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas a first-person account of how he came to the toughest decision a professional athlete can make: walking away from the game you’re still able to play.

By Brandon Moore

I was watching TV with my wife, winding down, about to lay down in bed on Monday, Aug. 5 when I saw my phone go off around 11:30, and I saw the text.

“Would you be interested in coming and playing for the Cowboys?”

It was from my old coach, Bill Callahan. My first thought: Wow!

Back in March, I was excited for free agency. After 10 seasons with the Jets, my contract was up, and I guess I wasn’t in their plans. But I was ready to give it some more. I felt like I had some more. Teams contacted us, but they weren’t serious. Nobody was beating down the door. As the months went by, my life had to go on. Before I got the text, my worst fear was that I would be settled down, ready to move on and then somebody would come calling in the middle of training camp. I didn’t want to be put in that position, to have to make that hasty decision.

brandon-moore-celebrate-touchdown
Moore (65) will miss these kinds of moments the most: celebrating a 2008 touchdown with Leon Washington. (Kathy Willens/AP)

When training camps opened, my wife Regina and I were closing on a house in New Jersey. We had been renting ever since the Jets moved from Long Island in 2008, and we had extended our lease several times, because my career was in limbo. Was I going to play? Where I was going to play? When it got to be May or June, we had to make a decision. We bought a house. We enrolled our 6-year-old daughter, Mikayla, in first grade, and our 3-year-old son, Isaiah, in preschool. We decided to lay down roots here and make this our home.

My former teammates reported to camp while I was arranging for movers and orchestrating junk removal. All those everyday things people deal with, that’s what I was doing. I had, to a certain degree, moved on. I hadn’t fully closed the door, but I was behind it—the door cracked a little bit—about to close it.

My mindset was that if an ideal situation came along, or if something very, very intriguing came along, I would consider it. But it’s easy to say that until it happens, which is what occurred with Dallas.

I knew if I played this season, it would have to be for a contender. I entered the NFL wanting to be the best football player I could be, to contribute along with the guys around me, to win a lot of ball games and to win some championships. That’s why I played, and that’s what I was going to continue to play for. I didn’t want to go to just any team to be around football and pad my bank account. I wanted to go to a team with a great quarterback, stud receivers, a good offensive line, a solid defense—all things the Cowboys have. Plus, a coach I really care for, in Bill, and a great organization with a well-respected history. They had the team to make me consider not retiring.

When Bill texted me, my wife had the same reaction as I did: “Oh boy!” You’re surprised, and then it hits you: You have to make a decision, and you can’t believe the timing—just two days ago you moved into a new house that’s still cluttered with boxes. I called Bill the next morning, at about 8 a.m. on Tuesday. He told me about the team, about the guys who were there, about how much I would like it. As we talked, I got a little excited.

My agent went back and forth with their salary-cap guy that day, negotiating a deal. Meanwhile, my wife and I went back and forth, too, playing out different scenarios. Would she and the kids stay in New Jersey? Would they move to Dallas? We looked at the Cowboys’ schedule, figuring out when I could come back—during the bye week or after the Thanksgiving Day game?—and when our daughter would be out of school. My family is back in Gary, Indiana, and my wife’s family is back in Chicago, so we are our own support system, and we had to see if we could make it work.

Money wasn’t a factor. It boiled down to whether I wanted to go through the grind it takes to be a consistent, productive, efficient player on Sundays. Did I really need to go do that?

You weigh all your options, and you pray about it, and you ask for guidance. But you know, sometimes you pray for something and you can’t get the answer right when you want it.

Tuesday night, around midnight, we agreed to a deal with the Cowboys. Afterward, I didn’t really sleep. I’d doze off, but wake up every 30 minutes or so. I just had a sick feeling, that nauseous feeling. I kept wrestling back and forth, wondering if I had made the right decision.

You look at the clock and realize that if you’re going to go through with this, you’re going to have to leave for the airport in a few hours. The scenario I wanted to avoid was getting to Oxnard, Calif., where the Cowboys were in camp, and thinking as I put my pads on, What the hell am I doing here? I kept asking myself if that would happen.

By 5 a.m., I still wasn’t 100% sure I wouldn’t have regrets about going. But I knew I wouldn’t have any regrets about staying. That’s when my answer turned to “no.” My wife asked me the same question I’d been asking myself: “You sure about that? I don’t want you to have any regrets.” I told her I wouldn’t.

When I went to call my agent and Bill, I had another sick feeling, sort of like being called to the principal’s office. It was a nervousness in my gut that I hadn’t had in a long time. Everyone had gone to sleep last night believing the Cowboys had a new guard. This was a big-boy decision, kind of going back on your word, which is something I take very seriously.

I called Bill around 8 that morning, or about 5 in California, and I told him, “I can’t go through with the deal, and I wanted you to be the first person to know.”

It feels disappointing to let your coach down, knowing that he would stand on the table to get them even interested in you. The Cowboys don’t know who I am, besides just my name, except for maybe a personnel guy who watches film. They were going off Callahan’s recommendation. And all the work that happened to get this deal done, you think about going back on that. But you also know this isn’t the game you played as a kid in a pee-wee league, where your mom’s cheering you and you’re just happy to be out there. Other people’s livelihoods are involved in your performance. I would want to give my best to Bill, to the Cowboys, to the name on the back of my jersey, and to the game—and I don’t know if I would have been able to do that.

There was no dramatic scene. I didn’t have my wife run up behind me as I was going through airport security, then turn around with my bag and run into her arms. You just realize you’re about to go all the way across the country in a few hours, and you literally don’t have any clean clothes, because we didn’t have a washer and dryer in our new house yet. I had been going to the grocery store wearing Timberlands, my winter boots, because that was the easiest box to open.

Everyone had gone to sleep last night believing the Cowboys had a new guard. This was a big-boy decision, kind of going back on your word, which is something I take very seriously.

A day before, hours earlier, you were making plans for your house, plans for the future, and settling in as a retired player. It flips your world upside down. And it’s not just a family thing, it’s your body, too. You start envisioning Wednesday afternoon practice, and maybe needing to medicate yourself for that practice, or being in the training room and asking trainers to stretch you, and seeing the chiropractor late on Thursday night, and the massage therapist on Friday. All these things you’d have to do just to get out there to play at the level you are familiar with, and you start thinking about whether it is really worth it.

For any player considering retirement, the first thing you ask is, Can I financially do it? That’s not to say you play for the money, but you have to determine if you can live with what you have, or if you’ll have to transition into a career that doesn’t pay as well as the NFL. In this case, money wasn’t a factor. It boiled down to whether I wanted to go through the grind it takes to be a consistent, productive, efficient player on Sundays. Did I really need to go do that?

brandon-moore-tunnell-flag
Nothing can replicate the rush of running out the tunnel in NFL stadiums, especially the way Moore did on Sept. 11, 2011. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

I look at it like this: From the time I first put on pads in the seventh grade, I had the time of my life playing football. And from seventh grade through last season, I always tried to get the guy across from me and the guy next to me to respect me as a football player. I’m proud of what I’ve done. I don’t have the championships, I don’t have all the big accolades some great athletes have. But I gave it my all, I played at a high level, I grew as an athlete and as a player, and that’s all you can ask. I feel comfortable with that. I have no regrets.

The past week has been weird. You get all these texts and emails and calls, people congratulating you, showing gratitude for what you’ve done. It’s an awkward feeling. I guess it is somber in a way—though not regretful in any way—because it’s the end of something you have been doing for such a long time. That part of you is over. The door is now closed.

On Wednesday night, my family went out and had a steak dinner. I got the biggest rib eye I could get. My wife told our daughter to wish me a happy retirement, and she brought a little play camera (an old camera we don’t use anymore) and she took pictures.

I know I’m not going to find something else to replace the passion I have for football, something that replicates the feeling you get on Sundays running out of the tunnel. But I’m sure I’ll find something I’m very competitive at, and passionate about, and find ways to get thrills out of that. I’ll take my time. And I’ll try to get my weight down to a normal, healthy size. I played at 305, so if I could get down to 250 and work from there, I’d feel like that would be an accomplishment.

Damien Woody, my former teammate, still lives right around the corner from me. He retired after the 2010 season, but would sometimes come to watch us practice. I’d always ask him, “Man, you don’t miss it?” And with the straightest face, he’d say, “Nope.” Then he’d smile. I would think to myself, This is weird. How does he not miss this? But you get to a point where you feel you’ve given all you can, and you move on.

I see now what he meant by that. I’m at that place, to a certain degree. I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever get over that feeling when you turn on the TV and some big game is on, and it’s the fourth quarter, and you’re watching the offensive line in the heat of the moment. You never lose that feeling of, Man, what I wouldn’t give to get in that stance and run off the ball at somebody. But if I played 20 years, I don’t think that would go away. My old high school coach, he’s got to be about 70 years old, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind getting in that stance one more time.

That’s just the game. That will never leave.

58 comments
TBFan
TBFan

Continued...used up and discarded. Best of luck Brandon on all your future endeavors!

TBFan
TBFan

Great article & a neat perspective from a player who played the game at a high level over a lengthy period of time but still managed to retiring his terms. I like those kind of stories much more than the ones where respected players get

AndreasJennische
AndreasJennische

Great article. It's a close-up of everyday life of a professional footballer. Really liked it.

psychprof
psychprof like.author.displayName 1 Like

what a great personal statement!  i especially appreciate that he's making this decision for family reasons more than anything else, such as being pushed out by injuries or being cut in camp.  this piece really brought you into the mind of an otherwise normal PARENT who happens to be a pro football player.  wish you the best!

morganweb@gmail.com
morganweb@gmail.com like.author.displayName 1 Like

Good article.  Not sure Peter King should continue having these guest columnists.  Most of them have been really good.  Pretty soon it might be, Peter Who?  

DanDahl
DanDahl

Congrats on a great career Brandon, and thank you from another Jet fan for giving everything you had for the team.

Spiel
Spiel

What a thoughtful, well written essay from a guy whose heart is in the right place.  Sounds like it's time for life's next adventure (Peter King should hire you!).  Best wishes, Mr. Moore.  

evil.aaronm
evil.aaronm like.author.displayName 1 Like

I've been in your position, Mr. Moore, where I initially told a potential employer, "Hell yeah!" and then realized it wouldn't be a good fit.  I feel your anguish and pain.  I drove to the company and talked with the hiring manager, in person, letting him know that while I respected him and the company, I couldn't give him 100% of my devotion, and it wouldn't be fair to him.  Beyond that, the timing of this article is ironic: I'm playing in what's hopefully my last ever box lacrosse games this weekend - I can't play at the level I demand of myself, anymore - and it's kind of hard to go into the games knowing this is it, for me.  I hope I can accept retirement as gracefully as you did.  I don't think I will.  I'll probably end up injured, at some point, because I'm too stupid to know when to quit.  Good for you, sir.

Marima
Marima

Terrific article.  As a Patriots fan, Brandon Moore's memory will live on forever from that infamous Thanksgiving Day buttfumble game.  Now, I'll also remember him as a man of integrity as well.  Wish him and his family a happy and healthy next phase of their lives.

Old_guy
Old_guy

Well done.  Good on Moore for being true to himself and his family. 

ThePaperTexan
ThePaperTexan

Wow.

Completely blown away in this age to hear an athlete's story of such immense integrity and maturity focused on what's truly important in life.

jmike122
jmike122

Class act all the way around. Hope part of your new found passion will be to put your experiences with life in the NFL in a book someday.

WilliamMeis
WilliamMeis

Great article. Man, SI is a million times better than ESPN.

daddybrooks
daddybrooks like.author.displayName 1 Like

Nicely done.  I think you should have a 2nd career writing.

BrycesonStevens
BrycesonStevens

Awesome article. If you have ever had an extended career outside of high school knowing when to walk away is the most gratifying thing.

AndyPyle
AndyPyle

Dumb. You'll regret it 1 year from now. You have the rest of your life to retiree. But it's his decision.

mugzbo
mugzbo

@AndyPyle Shut up, cornball. If you have kids, they probably hate you. If not, when you do, they'll definitely hate you.

gontoan
gontoan

I enjoyed a lot reading this article. Sometimes we forget elite athletes are people with the same problems that we have.

Have a nice retirement. I wish you the best.


KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

If Mark Sanchez had to pick one ass to run into and fumble, I'm glad he chose yours.  

cmalva
cmalva

Nice work fellow Illini alum!

FredJKuo
FredJKuo like.author.displayName 1 Like

Awesome reflection Brandon!  Happy retirement.  You'll always be one of my favorite Jets!


DjangoZeaman
DjangoZeaman like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

What an excellent article. I'm really impressed by MMQB! This and the Kluwe piece are top of the line.

JoeRiccobono
JoeRiccobono

I just read you have a degree in English, it's nice to see you're putting it to good use Brandon! Thanks for all the effort over the years, it will not be forgotten!

Grubczar
Grubczar

Good read.  Nice to see someone knowing when its time to hang it up.  Your kids will appreciate you more, and likely win more accolades than Romo. 

Grubczar
Grubczar

Good read.  Nice to see someone knowing when its time to hang it up instead of forcing the body, team mates and fans through the ego-centric mindset of so many athletes.  You're kids will remember you for being there for them instead of Romo.  My guess is they'll end up with more accolades and championships than Romo anyways...

JasonHilliard
JasonHilliard like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

As a Cowboy fan, I was disappointed when this decision came down.  After reading this, I have nothing but respect for the man and wish him well in his retirement. 

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

Refreshing to hear an honest take on the decision process of whether to play or retire.  Glad he made a decision that benefits him and his family.

RescuedfromESPN
RescuedfromESPN

I feel bad that you had to be the butt in the buttfumble. Have a great life post retirement Brandon.

eddie767
eddie767 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Why is it,when a player leaves on his terms some ppl think he's weak but when one is forced out he's a warrior? Mr.Moore is a young man w/young children. They need him more than a team. And for that one idiot who said he'll become a statistic,bankrupt and all those other negative things,if he bought his first house after he became a free agent,that proves he's a thinking man. Who buys a house if they don't have a job,someone who has the financial wellbeing. He did what he wanted to do,now it's time to do what the family wants. Enjoy your wife,children,and hopefully the rest of your life w/o these idiots who think they know what's best for you.

KBinCville
KBinCville like.author.displayName 1 Like

Sounds like you chose to have a normal life and be a full-time husband and father. Although you'll always miss football, I doubt you'll ever regret being there everyday for your kids and wife. Best wishes and congratulations on a fine career.

BillieBob
BillieBob like.author.displayName 1 Like

I think it was the nightmares...waking up screaming, thinking Sanchez's head was still lodged in your butt. 

George S
George S

FTA " I wanted to go to a team with a great quarterback, stud receivers, a good offensive line, a solid defense—all things the Cowboys have."

The Cowboys have a good offensive line? Someone had better alert the media.

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

A lot of guys retire early.....both on their terms and a forced decision. There's more to life that "pig skins."

PigglyWinks
PigglyWinks like.author.displayName 1 Like

Wish you success in what life path you will now go down.

AkivaCohen
AkivaCohen like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Brandon - from a die hard Jets fan who has watched you play with pride over the years, just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for the blood, sweat, and tears over the years.  And selfishly, I'm glad you backed out; you're one of the all-time great Jets, and the fact that you spent your entire career in one uniform means something.

Congrats on a great career, and I'm sure you'll go far in "civilian" life.

ThunderSack
ThunderSack like.author.displayName 1 Like

Great article!

I hope to see more articles from you in the future.

John277
John277 like.author.displayName 1 Like

i was one of his high school teachers and he is a heck of a young man well not young anymore but he is also a talented piano player.  Great job Mr. Moore.  

jp4america
jp4america like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

I really like this article.  Mr. Moore sounds like a well-grounded guy who struggled with the same decision all men and women do when they retire from the job they’re passionate about.  And I think it's great to know there are people out there (like Brandon) who can walk away from money and fame to settle down with family and move on to the next chapter in their lives.  Popular myth would have us believe they'd hang on well past their prime just to collect a paycheck and remain in the limelight.  

bookmason2
bookmason2 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

Always nice to see someone who has their priorities straight. Enjoy your life, ignore those who don't respect your choices.

peauxsucent
peauxsucent

  Well, we are glad you kept your wishy-washy Buttfumble a$$ where you are.

OK
OK like.author.displayName 1 Like

Moore,

Had Jerry Jones guaranteed you a starting spot, offered you more offshore money, and given your wife a cushy box in his stadium nee mausoleum, you'd be at Cowgirls' training camp opening Jerry's car door every morning and offering him a fresh copy of The Wall Street Journal and a trip in your arms to his office. Anyone who believes this tripe is dumber than a Cowboys' cheerleader looks.

Cool
Cool

@OK If your mommy hadn't offered you big bottles to sip from as a baby, do you think you would be less attracted to the male anatomy?

OK
OK

@Cool

Nice to meet you, Mrs. Moore or Mr. Moore's agent.

Michael190
Michael190 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@OK

Glad to hear you know everything, including someone's real thoughts and intentions. Just because that's what you'd do doesn't mean that's the way everyone thinks. He doesn't need the money anymore...it sounds like you probably do.

OK
OK like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Michael190

Within 10 years, he'll be:

1. Bankrupt;

2. Divorced;

3. Owing a fortune to his wife in child support and alimony;

4. Parking cars for Rich Cimini; and,

5. A page five item on Peter King's "13 Things I Think ... Brought to You by Starbucks".

OK
OK

@scBlais @Michael190 

History of NFLers in retirement is on my side. Not yours, mindless obedient sychophants.

History says Moore's bound for divorce, bankruptcy, and a big bill for alimony and child support.

History says Moore's lying through his teeth and would've taken the Jerry Jones's pathetic offer had the money, the starting spot, and luxury box been guaranteed.

But bow to the House of Peter King and the NFL Spin Machine. He who laughs last ... laughs at all of you.

scBlais
scBlais

@OK @Michael190 But the real question is, in 10 years will you have finally moved out of moms house?

Michael190
Michael190

@OK @Michael190

@OK - Who let you out from under your bridge? At least a couple of your points from your 2nd comment are mildly amusing, but I think it's time you went back.

michael158
michael158 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Cool @OK @Michael190 I really don't think @ok has any brain cells left.  Or for that matter, if he every had any brain cells.

Cool
Cool

@OK @Michael190 Why is it that white trailer park trash people like you feel the need to make such stupid comments?  Is it jealousy, or is it the cheap beer that seems to be gnawing on the last brain cell in your pea brain?

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