While Chargers go, South Carroll's Mooney waits Injured rookie tackle looks to next year

December 14, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

The weather is great in San Diego and the Chargers are tearing up the National Football League these days with nine wins in their past 10 games.

But San Diego's rookie offensive tackle Mike Mooney, a product of South Carroll High and Georgia Tech, isn't exactly having a ball.

He's been on the injured reserve list for seven weeks and is coming off a second shoulder operation to repair a slight tear in the rotator cuff and a bone spur.

Mooney, 6 feet 6, 332 pounds, is almost ready to give up on playing any more this season even if the Chargers advance far into the playoffs.

"I want to play, but I guess I'll have to wait until next year," he said.

"We have a lot of chemistry now on the offensive line and I couldn't help them now. I'm young (23) and learning. I go to all the meetings and am gearing up for next year."

The man who helped Chargers coach Bobby Ross win a national collegiate championship (in UPI poll) two years ago at Georgia Tech, played in four games this season for San Diego before going on IR because of lingering shoulder problems.

Mooney, however, maintains high hopes for next season because of Ross, who coached him at Georgia Tech all four years.

"He knows what I can do," Mooney said. "It's not like I have to prove myself to him. I just have to prove myself in the NFL."

Ross and Mooney were reunited in San Diego Sept. 14 when the Chargers claimed him off waivers from the Houston Oilers. Houston had made Mooney a fourth-round pick out in last spring's draft.

The Ross-Mooney association began in 1986 when Ross began recruiting Mooney as a junior at South Carroll. Ross was in his last season at Maryland at the time.

When Ross left Maryland for Georgia Tech, he continued his quest for Mooney and won out over Maryland.

"I wasn't sure Maryland was going in the right direction," Mooney said.

"[Joe] Krivak was coming in, and Lenny Bias had just died. It looks like I made the right decision. But I'm still a Maryland fan."

Mooney said he had to start a different learning process on the offensive line when he joined the Chargers.

"The blocking schemes are all different here than at Houston which ran the run-and-shoot," Mooney said. "Houston was 70-30 in favor of the pass and here we're nearly 50-50. You have to learn to block for the run and the pass in coach Ross' offense."

There has been a lot of talk about Ross making things simpler for the Chargers in his first season by basically maintaining the same offense used by departed coach Dan Henning.

But Mooney said Ross is putting more and more of his stamp on San Diego with each week.

"People have to know that Ross is going to do what he wants to do," Mooney said.

"He likes to pass, but he also believes in a physical brand of football. He believes the players have to make the plays, and he puts the players on the field who can do it."

Mooney believes he will be one of those fortunate players next season.

"He [Ross] will play me when I'm healthy," he said. "He's a proven winner. There are only so many coaches out there the caliber of Ross. There's not a better coach for four quarters. He's prepared for everything. That's why his teams come back to win so much."

In regard to football philosophy, Mooney said he and Ross agree on everything.

But there are minor disagreements between them in other areas, Mooney said.

"Coach Ross doesn't have many faults. He's sincere and honest," Mooney said. "But he doesn't understand that everybody don't like to pop up at 6 a.m. in the morning and be at a meeting."

Although Mooney has moved onto a fast-paced life in the NFL, he still calls the Mt. Airy, Taylorsville and Winfield area home.

"Where I live is really not a part of any of those three towns, but it is close to all three," he said. "I have a decent following from those people back home. I like to go out with my good friends when I'm home. They don't treat me any different."

The local boy who made good does run into problems, however, when "people recognize me and want to talk."

"My friends taunt me from behind when that happens," Mooney said.

"There are times when you don't want to be recognized, but it comes with the territory. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

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