Lost Lettermen spoke with former Tulane star and current Pittsburgh Steelers running back Mewelde Moore as part of a season-long interview series with those who have been involved with the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
The 2011 season marks the 20th year of the national award, which honors players who stand out for their commitment to making a difference in their communities. Moore was a 2003 member of the Good Works team.
The 29-year-old Moore was a three-time All-Conference USA selection while with the Green Wave and was a member of the Super Bowl XLIII champions with the Steelers.
The running back also played professional baseball while in college and still has a dream of one day making it to the major leagues.
What advice does he give to two-sport athletes? Does he think Tulane football can be relevant again? And what’s it like playing behind stars like Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall? Let’s find out.
Lost Lettermen: Looking back on your college career, was it tough balancing both training for the college football season and playing professional baseball in the summers?
Mewelde Moore: Baseball players train? I didn’t know that (laughs) … No, I played football and then played baseball; that was pretty much my deal. It was really one of those things where in baseball I used to over-train, and I think that may have hindered my game a little bit. … Everything should be a little bit more flowing, not so tight. In football, sometimes heavy weight training and stuff can tighten you up a little bit. That was one of the contrasts between the sports. I would always try to enhance my body with extra weights and extra running, and pretty much overdo it. Too much of everything … it works for football but doesn’t work for baseball.
LL: What advice do you have for players who are trying to be two-sport athletes? Would you focus on one if you had it to do all over again?
MM: I’m happy with how I did it. I’m blessed and I thank God for being able to play football and play running back this long. I’ve always had the goal to play X amount of years and play as long as I can play and stuff like that. Because I’ve been playing so long, I haven’t had the chance to get back to playing baseball. Football is a young man’s sport, and baseball you can play forever. Jim Thome, he’s pushing 50 now and he’s still cranking out 30 home runs a year. … It’s one of those things where those opportunities are still there. I still have dreams of playing Major League Baseball, and I’m not going to let those go, either.
LL: Do you stay involved with Tulane football as a fan? If so, what has the program lacked over the years, and what does it need to be a consistent force?
MM: Absolutely. I’m always involved with Tulane. Tulane is my home; it’s family. My first year in professional football (Hurricane) Katrina happened. And when Hurricane Katrina happened, there was a lot of work to be done. The first thing we did was a (fundraiser) … to bring funds in to try to rebuild our school. It was a success. There still was more work to be done. Every year, I’m always available for our charity golf event. That I enjoy. … I’m here and there, so whenever I get the call, and I’m available, I’m there. I try my best to do everything I can to help out my school.
I know a lot of change is going on in the conferences. If we ever get a chance to get in a conference where we can attract big guys – defensive lineman, offensive lineman – who have a chance to go to the NFL. That’s what it comes down to. … If I’m a running back, and I’m tops in the nation, and I have seven, eight great offensive lineman who I know are going to open up a hole for me., it makes it easier for me to decide I’m going to go to this school. Not only am I going to play, but I’m going to have a chance to play great and go to the NFL.
That’s the one thing – (recruits) say I want to go to a school where I get attention, but I took the road less-traveled … and understood that if you can play, NFL scouts will look at you. Kids see Tulane as such an academic school that they might have a little more trouble getting eligible to play. If anybody puts a little effort, a little time in their studies, stays on task and the job at hand … yes, Tulane is challenging … but if you have the mental capacity to retain information, you can get all (the academics) done and still be an excellent athlete.
LL: Being from Baton Rouge, what was your recruitment like? Did you want to go to LSU?
MM: If you look at the bigger picture, me coming out of a less-privileged area … if Major League Baseball has the ability to find players coming out of the smallest parts of the world without TV, then the NFL is going to find you with TV. It was one of those things were it was a no-brainer to be able to get that education with the prestige of Tulane to have a degree under my belt.
LL: Transitioning to your pro career, what does it mean to be a member of the Steelers’ rich tradition?
MM: The biggest thing is playing for the Steelers is like playing college football all over again. We travel everywhere and the tailgate is crazy. I’m blessed … you take your job so serious (with the Steelers), everybody takes their job so serious. That’s what you want. You want football players; it’s an enjoyment playing with a group of guys, class A, standup citizens. I have a lot with that, the great spirit, and I thank God for blessing me with it.
LL: What has it been like to play with star running backs (Peterson, Mendenhall) and compete for playing time?
MM: It’s what you want. You want to compete against the best. That’s what makes the NFL the NFL. There’s no other place in the world like it. There’s soccer leagues all over the world, basketball leagues all over the world; there’s even baseball leagues all over the world. But football is it … it’s the mecca. The mecca of football is in the NFL. To be able to compete for playing time, and actually get that playing time against the best guys in the world – these guys are potential Hall of Famers and all that – it means a lot. It means a great deal. I take it with pride and it means a lot every time you step out on the field because you know you have to give it your best to be able to play and achieve greatness.
LL: Why do you think it’s important for college football players to give back to their communities?
MM: The most-important thing is we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be role models and ambassadors of the game of football that we grew up to love, that we played for a number of years as little kids. … As we dreamed to play football, to play in the NFL, now there’s kids out there who are dreaming of getting a chance to fill the shoes that we are in as players
LL: What did you do to contribute to the community while you were at Tulane?
MM: At Tulane, I was going to school and helping out in my community because it was something that I wanted to do. I was in the business program (at a local school) … the kids were very good. They wanted to learn and, at the same time, I was learning and growing with the kids. It was a wonderful program, and it was a part of what we did. We went to hospitals and did all kind of things to get involved in the community and helping out. The biggest part of it is there are so many different ways you can help out. Any way that I could I would give undivided time, attention and effort to help out with a cause greater than myself.
LL: Can you tell us about the Knowledge First Foundation, which was founded in 2006 [Editor's Note: Moore runs the foundation]?
MM: There’s a big gap fundamentally between those who have and those who have not, and the knowledge in between. The Knowledge First Foundation is just that. Knowledge equals power – being able to empower the less-privileged, and that’s all colors and creeds. There’s no bias in that regard in helping out our fellow man, trying to help them with the dreams and fulfilling their goals. That’s our No. 1 thing … we want to empower kids to be literate and able to read, and we want to help them (with financial knowledge). It’s important to know what the dollar really means, how they should spend and how they should use their funds. It’s a process.
College football fans can learn more about the members of the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and vote for the player they think deserves to be named this year’s Team Captain by visiting ESPN.com. The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Captain will be announced during the Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN on December 8.