For Terps' Moore, night life wrong life

UM's top tackler cast early vote for school, football over parties

October 09, 1999|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Marlon Moore is like every other Maryland football player and student.

The starting sophomore linebacker constantly faces the temptations of the bright lights of the College Park bar scene and the campus party life.

The difference for Moore now is that he can say no to that lifestyle a lot more easily because of a decision he made more than two years ago while he was a student at Potomac High in southern Prince George's County.

Moore decided before his senior year that he would give up the social life with his buddies for an opportunity to get a college education and play football at Maryland.

It all seemed like something of a long shot because of his low high school grades, said Moore, but he plunged headlong into the challenge with the encouragement of Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden and his high school football coach, Eric Knight.

"My friends would call me up on a weeknight and say, `What's up, Marly, you want to go out tonight?' and I'd say, `No, I have a test to study for,' " said Moore, whose Terps will face Wake Forest at noon today in Winston-Salem, N.C. "It was so hard to say no because they'd come down on me so much and say nasty things like, `You old geek, you.' "

But Moore stood his ground and, "I did a total 360 in the classroom. I started doing the necessities to get good grades and suddenly I was making the honor roll."

Soon, the football scholarship offer from Vanderlinden followed and the days of the night life with his friends seemed far behind.

"They're [friends] still at home now and I don't have any contact with them," said Moore. "I really don't want to do anything to risk what I have here. We [Maryland football players] have a lot of stuff in front of us. They [high school friends] want to go out and party and get in a fight and get put in jail."

The College Park bar circuit has developed such a reputation that Moore said he completely avoids it.

"I don't even go down to the Route [1] anymore," said the 6-foot-1, 220-pound inside linebacker.

"There is nothing down there but trouble. Maybe, I go to one party every three weeks. There is no use in messing it [college career] up over one night. It's like Coach Vandy said, `You wake up the next morning and wish to God you didn't do it.' "

The 19-year-old Moore said he "learned my lesson and that's all in the past. It [getting in trouble] would not do anything but cause confusion and bring down Maryland."

On the football field, Moore is certainly lifting up Maryland these days.

He is leading the team in tackles with 46, which gives him a surprising edge over outside linebacker Aaron Thompson, one back at 45.

There was also the big splash Moore made on national television last week against Georgia Tech. He not only had 11 tackles to lead the team, but he made one of the most memorable stops in the game.

With three minutes gone in the second quarter, the Terps were clinging to a 17-14 lead over the heavily favored Yellow Jackets, who were facing a third-and-one at their 32-yard line.

The Jackets tried to send senior tailback Phillip Rogers outside for the first down, but Moore knifed through to throw Rogers for a two-yard loss.

The tackle was replayed a few times by ESPN and the entire nation got a chance to see Moore in action.

But the "celebrity" status still hasn't sunk in for Moore.

"We were in the middle of the third quarter when I suddenly thought, `Wow I'm on TV,' " he said. "I'm still adjusting to the thought of being a starter for Maryland. I didn't even really know what to do after making that third-down tackle at Georgia Tech.

"I know Rod Littles [Terps strong safety] should get half a tackle for it because he made a real big hit. He closed the corner down and forced the runner right into me."

Moore backed up Kendall Ogle last season and recorded nine tackles in 11 games.

While Moore gets a kick out of all the recent attention, it hasn't changed him a bit.

Want proof?

The Maryland players were given last weekend off after the big Georgia Tech game and guess how Moore spent the precious time?

He gave his two younger brothers, Antonis, 10, and Basil, 6, a big thrill by entertaining them for two days in his dormitory room.

"I love my brothers a lot and they love me," said Moore. "They both play football and look up to me as a big superstar. I like spending time with them. After football and studying, I prefer to be with my brothers more than anything else."

There is also a little time for some good-natured kidding between Moore and Thompson (Mount St. Joseph) as they duel for the tackle leadership.

"We've been talking about it since last summer when we stayed together here," said Moore. "We both kept saying we would lead the team. It's been a lot of fun."

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