Moore a vital cog of Packers in '60s

He was 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds of unbridled football fury. Blessed with deceptive speed and a long-stride gallop, he often left frustrated defenders grasping at thin air. He'd blow past them on a blazing kickoff return or knife through them for a critical first down. He knew how to throw the option pass. He was a fine receiver who could also wipe out a defender with a savage block.<p>

When Packers fans think back to Vince Lombardi's great teams of the 1960s, they usually remember a backfield loaded with talent. Paul Hornung. Jim Taylor. Elijah Pitts. But Green Bay was blessed with another talented back from 1960-65 — a versatile performer who was equally comfortable at halfback or fullback. This guy played with quiet efficiency, always ready to respond when Lombardi yelled, "Get in there!" He never grumbled about playing time even though he could have started for many other teams of the era.

Remember No. 25, Tom Moore?

"No, it didn't bother me," Moore said recently when he was asked about his reserve role. "As long as I played enough — which I did — and felt a part of the team, that was satisfying. And, I guess I looked at it like, if I'm not out there getting beat around then that's just that much longer I'm going to last!"

Was it tough to be ready at a moment's notice, especially under the demanding Lombardi?

"No," replied Moore. "I felt like at some point in time, that was going to take place during the game. I enjoyed practice, much more, I guess, than I did playing in the game and I really applied myself. I was in real good shape, well prepared and, you know, I just felt like at any time I could step in. So, no, I didn't find it hard because at my position, it wasn't like quarterback, which took a lot of preparation. You just had to be in great shape and know the plays."

Green Bay's top draft choice in 1960, Moore starred at Vanderbilt, where he racked up 1,606 yards rushing in three seasons and took all-Southeast Conference honors in 1958 and 1959.

In his rookie year with the Packers, Moore led the NFL in kickoff returns, averaging 33 yards per return. He also got his first taste of pro football immortality when the Packers clawed their way to the NFL championship game, only to fall to the Philadelphia Eagles 17-13.

He chuckles at the thought of being the Packers' No. 1 pick, without all the hoopla surrounding top draft choices today.

"Well, when I signed with the Packers I got a $2,000 signing bonus and I used part of it to buy a car," said Moore. "I bought a Pontiac and, I think it was $2,500."

So much for the fanfare. Yet, Moore loves to recall his arrival in Green Bay.

"I distinctly remember it because the year I was drafted they wanted us to come up during the summer for a two- to three-day session to look us over," said Moore. "I drove up, got to Green Bay in the afternoon and checked into a downtown motel. I had a little time to kill so I was walking down the sidewalk and hadn't gone far and people started speaking to me, calling me by name! I was thinking, 'My goodness I've never been here before!'

"But they knew you were going to be there and they were looking for you. They were ready. And I was delighted because I had spent some time in Chicago and I hated every minute of it. I'm used to living in an area where you can get into your automobile, and that's the way it was in Green Bay, and immediately you're out in the country. I don't know how long I might have lasted in a big city so I was delighted to be in Green Bay."

Moore was a vital cog in the Packers' championship teams of 1961, 1962 and 1965. He's obviously proud of being part of those backfields with Starr, Hornung and Taylor.

"Well, it was quite a thrill," Moore said, "especially in the early years when our offense was the stronger part of the team and we really did control games with our offense. Each time you were asked to carry the ball, you just knew there was going to be a hole there, and there was."

He came to admire Starr as a role model.

"Bart was a good player who maximized his talent and he really helped the team, ran the team. I always felt it probably was Bart's team and he was a true gentleman, too."

Moore got the most out his talent, too, and his value to the Packers became even more obvious in 1963 when Hornung was suspended for gambling. Starr called his number 132 times and Moore responded with 658 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and six touchdowns, including a sparkling 77-yard score against the Detroit Lions at Milwaukee County Stadium. He also caught 22 passes for 210 yards and a pair of TDs.

Even though the Packers finished second to the Bears that year, Moore shined again in the postseason. He caught a 99-yard touchdown pass from Starr as the Packers whipped the Cleveland Browns 40-23 in the Playoff Bowl in Miami. Playing for Lombardi was the highlight of Moore's career and it had a lasting impact on his life.

"The way he did things was the right way and there is no easy way," said Moore. "He had a good system and you had to apply yourself every minute that you were playing. Of course, I always felt like he worked harder than we did so I never resented that.

"The things you learned were just the basic principles that you need to know for your work or to live your life. That was particularly meaningful to me. If you applied yourself and just gave what you had, that's all he asked and that would be sufficient and you could probably out-do most people that maybe had more talent.

"It was a great learning experience and you respected the man greatly, probably more so when you got out from under him. While you were there, you feared him a little bit, you hated him a little bit and you loved him a little bit. When you got away, though, you realized what a job Lombardi was doing and what it meant to you."

Moore was traded to the Los Angeles Rams following the '65 campaign but he continues to be amazed at how Packers fans treated him whenever he came back.

"It was quite interesting because even though I had been in Green Bay for six years, still when I was with the Rams and we flew in you'd get a little bit of a shock when you'd land way out of town and you drove through the cow pastures to get to the stadium and here was this big stadium and parking lot and a little old town.

"During that first trip when I was with the Rams, we stayed in downtown Green Bay. We were walking down the street, myself and several other players, and people would call out to us. The taxicab driver and pedestrians would shout your name, 'Hey, Tom!' The Ram players were just flabbergasted! They just couldn't imagine that you could have that type of a situation. Then, during the game, I saw at least one fan banner that said 'Welcome Back, Tom.' It was unusual, unlike any other professional team, certainly."

Moore played one year each with the Rams and the Atlanta Falcons before retiring and getting into the real estate business. He continues to make his home in his native Tennessee, about 20 miles from Nashville.

"I guess my favorite pastime is boating," said Moore. "I own a houseboat that we use and then each year, at least once or twice, I am able to get up into northern Minnesota and Canada to go canoeing. And I've also done some whitewater canoeing."

He enjoys spending time with his son, David, and daughters Karen and Kelly. Moore, whose son, Barry, was killed in a 1978 motorcycle accident at the age of 15, also has six grandchildren.

Naturally, he follows his favorite team and is pleased that the Packers have revived their winning ways.

"I love to watch a winner, especially when it's Green Bay," said Moore. "But I didn't like to watch when they weren't doing so good. I'm really glad for the Packers. Up there you have that base of fan support and that means a great deal. I'm tickled to death with 'em!" If Moore has one regret, it is that he didn't save many mementos from his career.

"When I played, I was fortunate enough to get about four game balls," Moore recalled. "But I don't even have them any more. They got destroyed along with my rings. We won the championship three times while I was there. We got a ring when we beat the Giants in '61. The next year we got a watch that didn't hold up — I still have it. And then I had another ring. Many years ago, someone broke in and stole my rings. About a year later, the Nashville police called to tell me they had arrested a guy who was wearing one of my rings and so I got it back."

Though he may not have many material reminders of his days in Green Bay, Moore says no one can ever take away his memories of the best part of his life.

"You were in great shape and you were young," he says. "You were making a bigger salary although certainly nothing of the magnitude that players make today. You worked for six months and had six months off. I loved being in Green Bay, being part of the team and having people acknowledge that I was a Packer player."

Indeed, Moore embodied what it meant to be a Packer in that era. Hard-working. Talented, yet humble. A solid performer and a team player all the way. That's what Lombardi demanded — and Tom Moore delivered.

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