BONHAM, Tex. -- It’s not too often a small town can call one of their own a national champion. For the past three years, the city of Bonham has had the luxury to do just that. Appalachian State head football coach Jerry Moore has won three straight national championships, but his success can be traced all the way back to his high school days in North Texas. Daniel Gotera had the chance to sit down with the coach.
Coach Jerry Moore will be the first one to tell you what makes a man is where he came from. This week, he came back to where it all began and shared with us why, no matter how much success he has, he'll never forget home.
An old football practice field surrounded by a rusted fence and covered in soggy, uncut grass, was once home of the Bonham Purple Warriors. Countless games were played each with varying importance, but for Jerry Moore, one contest over fifty years ago stands out.
"I remember Coach Nelson telling us, ‘Hey the things they’re talking about doing this week, we've been doing all year,’ and we had a great football game, and this place was packed, and it was just unbelievable for us again. It looked like Ann Arbor to me."
A half century later, that game against commerce high school seems like a walk in the park.
"It’s one of those things that I told our players, you know, we'll never do this again. You'll never have an opportunity to play the University Of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in front of 109,000 people. It’s one of those rarities in sports and you're going to be a part of it," Moore says.
It was the start of a season to remember for both the mountaineers and Coach Moore, a 34-32 upset of #5 Michigan helped fuel the team to a third consecutive Division 1-AA title, but all the advice and all the philosophies behind what some call one of the greatest achievements in sports, Coach Moore says, came from his days in Bonham, Texas.
"This was my habitat, I mean I didn’t do anything else, I played a little bit of baseball in the summers, but my coaches had convinced me that if I was going to play college football and get a scholarship this is where I needed to be."
For the first time in a long time, Coach Moore had the chance to come home this week and tour what’s left of the Bonham he grew to love.
"As I got into my junior and senior year, my goal was to be able to kick an extra point and kick it over that fence right there behind the track, and I felt like I could reach that pinnacle when I could do that."
From 1954 to 1957, Jerry Moore spent just about every waking moment on the football field.
"At the end of my sophomore year in high school, I knew I wanted to be a football coach. My head coach, H.B. Nelson, was our Sunday School teacher. He was our mentor. He was the guy we talked to; when I got married I talked to Coach Nelson about it."
After a college career at Baylor, Moore went on to coach at Corsicana High School, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech, and finally, in 1989, Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
No matter how many championships or awards he receives, Moore says nothing would be the same with out those closest to him at home and in Bonham.
"I’m the only guy that’s still in athletics. The rest of them are actually doing real things, but it’s been a part of my life, and I was fortunate to marry a gal that she’s accepted that, and she has much fun as I do,” Moore says.
"This just might be the icing on the cake, you know. There’s nothing like home, and there's nothing like family and know the fact that people have honored him the way they have today I don’t know this may be his all-time high," Jerry’s wife says.
Coach Moore says he doesn't know how much longer he will coach, but as long as he stays healthy, he doesn't see his career ending any time soon.
As for the team, Appalachian State opens up the 2008 season against this years national champs, LSU.
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