by Ben Johnson 

The University of Northwestern – St. Paul board of directors promoted the Eagles’ football defensive coordinator Matt Moore to head coach in April of 2017, and the 2017-2018 football season is now officially underway under his leadership. In terms of football acumen, Moore has it all: experience, strategy, knowledge and wit. However, his road to head coach was different than ever seen before at Northwestern.

Coach MooreMoore is the first UNW alumnus to be the head coach of an Eagle collegiate team, and he never thought that he would end up enrolled at Northwestern in the first place.  Moore is a no-nonsense looking kind of guy who stands about six feet and two inches tall, weighs 230 pounds and sports the same drill-sergeant style salt and pepper hairstyle that he had when he was in college.  The glare that Moore occasionally throws from the sideline during football games keeps his players in line, but before long, the sharp, focused and stern look turns into a warm and welcoming smile.

Moore never thought that he would be the type of guy to smile during a hard game or pursue Jesus while playing football until he came to Northwestern.  “It was pretty random,” said Moore. “I took a year off of college [in Illinois] and was a roofer. I had a friend of mine who was going to school [in Minnesota] write me a letter telling me to come up to school at Northwestern.” It was April of 1995 – he applied, was accepted, and then moved up to the cities.

On his first day on campus, he met the football team, and the whole team left for breakaway together. For the returning players, breakaway was a normal retreat that the football team does every summer before camp starts. At breakaway, the players share stories, play games, sing songs and stay in small, cute, wood cabins where no normal burley football player would die being found.

“If you’re not used to these things, it’s intimidating and unexplainable… When I first got here, I’m here at this place and I’m used to smash-mouth football.  Intense, and that kind of thing,” said Moore. “All of a sudden, it’s relationships and ‘lovey-dovey’ stuff.”

Now, Moore is leading and facilitating the same relationship-oriented training that the coaches before him had taught. Assistant defensive coach Chad Miller explains what it was like playing on the football team in the late ‘90s with Moore.  “We played three years together at Northwestern,” said Miller. “He was always super intense, and we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but he was a very good player, and we had a great time playing together.”

Coach with playerThat seems to be a recurring theme on the Northwestern football team. There are more than 20 players who come from outside the state of Minnesota, which gives many opportunities for people from different places with different backgrounds to come together and work for a similar goal.

“Throughout the teaching and coaching of head coach Jimmy Miller,” said Chad Miller (not related), “we all learned to be better men, and [Moore] grew in his faith and in manhood; since becoming a husband and a father, he’s really changed and softened to become the man that he is today.”

Moore met his wife, Carrie, when he was teaching elementary in the Mounds View School District when some of his friends suggested that she was someone that could deal with his intensity and that he should ask her on a date.  Soon after, they married. Since then, Moore and his wife welcomed two children, Brody (6) and Ava (3), into the family. The Moore family attend Eaglebrook Church and enjoys playing at the park and going on long walks around Northwestern together.

At the time of Moore’s arrival to Northwestern, Jimmy Miller was head coach for the Northwestern Eagles.  “I really enjoyed coaching Moore,” said Jimmy Miller. “He really understood the game even as a player; whenever we had recruits on campus, we would always send them to Moore.”

During one of the first games of Moore’s senior year, he hurt his shoulder and was sidelined for three weeks following the injury. During one of his first visitations at the hospital, Jimmy Miller called and asked him if he would coach, if he was not able to play that week. That was Moore’s first exposure to coaching.  “Moore’s fair with everyone, but there’s also a line in the sand that he’s not going to let you cross,” said Jimmy Miller. “He has a great love for the players and a great love for the game.”

After Moore healed from his injury, he continued to coach and play at the same time. Right after Moore graduated, he coached the defensive line for two years, transferred to Greenville College and was the defensive coordinator. He then coached in Texas for a short time, and finally coached at Bethel University.  “When I left Bethel in 2004, I began teaching full time and planned on being finished with coaching,” said Moore. “But I ended up coming up the following year to help with two-a-days at Northwestern.  At that point, because of the emphasis at Northwestern, I decided that I was never going to coach anywhere else but Northwestern.”

Moore has a strong desire to be there for his players and to help them grow relationally as men.  “When I talk about relationships,” said Moore, “I’m not just talking about relationships between players, or with coaches, but I’m talking about their relationship with Jesus.”

 

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