Former Jet Rob Moore didn't exactly hone his eventual All-American and All-Pro pass-receiving skills at Hempstead High School. "We were a wishbone team," Moore said with a laugh. "I think I had only 22 catches for my high school career. But I was happy to be a down blocker."
Moore, 43, in his third year as wide receivers coach at his alma mater, Syracuse University, played on two Rutgers Cup and Nassau County championship teams for coach Buddy Krumenacker at Hempstead in the 1984 and '85 seasons.
His favorite high school memory was a two-touchdown performance in a victory over Freeport when he was a junior. "I didn't get many chances to catch touchdown passes," he recalled.
At Syracuse, however, he flourished as a downfield receiving threat, earning All-American honors and setting the Orange's career record for touchdown receptions and receiving yards.
Then it was on to the pros, where he was thrilled to be chosen by the Jets with the first overall pick in the 1990 supplemental draft. Even though he said he was a Giants fan as a kid, his favorite receivers were Jets stars Wesley Walker and Al Toon, and Moore got to play with Toon for three seasons.
"Playing for the Jets was a blessing," Moore said. "Not only did I get to play close to home , but I got to be a mentor to some kids in Hempstead. I can remember being on the other side of the fence as a little kid and, a couple of times, hopping the fence and taking a couple of balls home. To have other people come out to watch you practice was awesome, one of the best experiences of my life. I was living the dream."
After five successful seasons with the Jets, however, Moore's dream was shattered with the suddenness of an alarm clock. Just before the 1995 draft, he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals.
"I just got voted to the Pro Bowl and then I got traded. I was definitely disappointed and so was my family," Moore said. "But it was actually good for me because it made me grow up and see football as a business."
Moore took care of business in Arizona, earning first-team All-Pro honors in 1997, when he caught a career-high 97 passes for a league-leading 1,584 yards. He had five prolific seasons with the Cardinals before injuries ended his career after the 2001 season.
By that time, even though he was doing some TV and radio work for the Cardinals, he had decided he wanted to be a coach. After a couple of seasons at high schools and a junior college in Arizona, there was an opening at Syracuse before the 2010 season.
"Coach [Doug] Marrone flew out to Arizona to interview me and make sure I understood the commitment it takes to be a coach," Moore said. "I have a vested interest in Syracuse because I'm a graduate. I understand how badly the former players and alumni want us to win and how important the football tradition is. I've learned a lot and I'm still learning. I do a lot of homework, that's for sure. I didn't realize how many things I didn't know."
And no one has asked him about the wishbone in decades.