By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
Warren Moon has never let anyone or anything get in the way of his goals. The only player in history to be enshrined in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Moon’s 23-year professional football career was anything but easy or for that matter ordinary.
Coming out of the University of Washington in 1978, Moon went undrafted in the NFL. Teams were interested in the African-American quarterback, but they didn’t want him in his natural position. Moon, secure and confident in his abilities, refused to be converted so the Los Angeles native headed to the Canadian Football League where he played quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos leading the team to a record five consecutive Grey Cup championships (1978-1983).
His successes with Edmonton were gratifying, but Moon was not letting go of his dream of playing quarterback in the NFL. In 1984 he finally got the chance when the Houston Oilers won a bidding war for the now in-demand player.
After 10 years in Houston, Moon moved on to play seven more years for the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs before retiring at the age of 44 following the 2000 season. During that time, he was selected to nine Pro Bowls, named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player and AFC Player of the Year in 1990 and was bestowed the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 1989.
While his dream had always been to play in the NFL, Moon never envisioned the football career he ultimately had and is still amazed by it.
“I played a lot longer than I ever thought I was going to go,” he said. “Who thinks they’re going to play 23 years? Who even thinks they’re going to play 15 years?”
Upon his retirement, Moon began working with his former agent, Leigh Steinberg. Moon’s role was in business development, an area of his agency that Steinberg was looking to expand. At the time, the CEO of Steinberg’s company was David Meltzer. Not too long after Moon joined Steinberg’s team, the agent stepped away from the business to address some personal issues he was dealing with. It was then that Moon and Meltzer along with another Steinberg employee, Scott Carter, decided to strike out on their own and in 2010 they formed Sports 1 Marketing, which offers a variety of services from sponsorship to business consulting to media and works across many industries. They also made a decision that everything they did was going to have a philanthropic element.
“We have a simple business philosophy,” Moon said. “We want to make a lot of money so we can help a lot of people and have a lot of fun doing it. We want to know that everything we do is helping someone.”
In fact, the company’s tagline is “Make a Lot of Money. Help a Lot of People. Have a Lot of Fun!”
Moon gave an example of how it works. “The Unstoppable Foundation came to us. They develop villages in Kenya and provide educational opportunities [and things like] clean drinking water. As a company we sold sponsorships to their annual gala to raise money. So we make money off the selling the sponsorships.”
Charity and philanthropy have been part of Moon’s life throughout his career. He has run the Crescent Moon foundation for almost three decades, providing scholarships every year to underprivileged children who might otherwise find college impossible.
Since its inception, the foundation has presented more than 300 scholarships and Moon has seen the recipients go on to lead successful lives. While attending a function in New York, he was approached by a woman who had been one of his scholarship recipients. She has gone on to a successful career and now runs her own foundation helping others.
Having built a solid business and foundation of his own, Moon is a strong proponent of NFL players doing everything they can to be prepared for life after their playing days are over.
“I reached the mountain top in my sport,” Moon said. “The only thing I didn’t do was win a Super Bowl. I was able to use the NFL as a stepping stone for the rest of my life. Even if you have a great 10-year career [in the NFL], what do you do with the rest of your life? Even if you have enough money, you’re a competitive person you’re not going to want to sit around the rest of your life.
“I love the fact that I’m able to make a difference in people’s lives. People won’t remember touchdown passes, but the legacy you leave – how did you make an impact on society? That’s more important than what you did on the football field.”
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.