Saints honor Moore for community service
Lance Moore has had what he describes as a somewhat "bittersweet" last few months.
The 29-year-old Westerville native had one of the most successful professional football seasons of his seven-year career with the New Orleans Saints, but the team's off-the-field issues and 0-4 start helped keep it from making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Just before the Saints' season ended with a 44-38 loss to Carolina on Dec. 30, Moore received news that helped temper the disappointment he felt about his team's difficult year.
Moore was named the Saints' Man of the Year for his contributions off the field and is their nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which is given by the NFL to one player for his volunteer and charity work as well as his excellence on the field.
"You play a sport that often honors your athletic accomplishments," Moore said. "But this is for something that's bigger than football. It shows you really care about the community."
In addition to working with the Lance Moore Community Cares program, which serves disadvantaged children and families, Moore serves as a spokesman for the Saints Copeland's Kids Club and regularly speaks at schools in the New Orleans area.
A 2001 Westerville South High School graduate, Moore also has participated in football clinics, hospital visits and holiday food and toy drives. He is involved with home renovation projects in New Orleans with the United Way, as well as purchasing sports equipment for schools.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year honoree will receive a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice. The winner of the award, named for the Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, will be announced during the weekend of the Super Bowl, which is Feb. 3 in New Orleans.
"That would be a wonderful honor, when you think about Walter Payton and the way he was one of the greatest players and greatest men," Moore said. "The older I've gotten, the more I've realized how important it is to do for the community. I'm kind of one of the go-to guys for community programs. I'm always involved in hospital visits, and that's one of the things I enjoy the most. I realize the importance of giving back."
Moore overcame odds to reach a position in which he can help the less fortunate.
As a wide receiver for Westerville South, Moore set state records for receptions (103) and touchdown catches (24) in 2001.
He then attended the University of Toledo on a full scholarship, playing in 50 games and setting program records for receptions (222), yards (2,776) and touchdowns (25).
Moore, who throughout the spring of 2005 was recovering from a shoulder injury that occurred in his final college game, wasn't drafted by the NFL that year.
He attended training camp with the Cleveland Browns that summer but was waived. He signed with New Orleans on Sept. 26, 2005.
After spending the 2005 season on the Saints' practice squad, he played mostly on special teams in 2006 but had 79 catches for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns during the 2008 season. Injuries limited him to seven games the next season, although he had two receptions in the Super Bowl as the Saints beat Indianapolis 31-17.
Moore has averaged 61 catches over the past three seasons. This season, he had 65 receptions for a career-high 1,041 yards with six touchdowns.
After the NFL alleged the Saints implemented a bounty program from 2009-11 that rewarded players for deliberately attempting to injure opposing players, coach Sean Payton was suspended for this season.
"It's been a lot of hard work and it hasn't been easy, but I knew if I worked as hard as I could that I'd have an opportunity," Moore said. "I think I've done a good job. Next year should be better, especially with us getting our head coach back. You just had to come to work every day with a positive attitude because what happened wasn't under our control. The punishment that we got from the commissioner wasn't anything that we could do anything about.
"It was definitely tough not having our lead dog, and we started off extremely slow, but we won seven of our last 12 games, which shows the team that we can be."
Moore recently spent time in central Ohio and said a couple years ago, he spoke at Westerville South.
According to South boys basketball coach Ed Calo, Moore bought shoes for every member of his program last year.
Both Moore and his younger brother, Nick, who plays for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, played for Calo.
"(Lance is) a great young man," Calo said. "We're so proud of him as a football player making it into the league. But speaking for myself, I'm much more impressed with him as a man. He visits quite a bit, and we love having him back. He's just openly generous."