Baseball Paid Bills, Football Fills Passion

Running back Mewelde Moore has been a professional baseball player for three years, but the fourth-round draft pick of the Vikings is looking forward to leaving his minor league baseball career behind and finding a place in the NFL.

The Vikings weren't the first professional team to select Mewelde Moore in the fourth round.

In 2000, Moore, then an 18-year-old at Belaire High in Baton Rouge, La., signed a minor-league baseball contract after the San Diego Padres drafted him. The Padres gave him a $250,000 signing bonus, even though they had an idea Moore's heart belonged to football since he also signed a letter of intent to play running back at Tulane.

Moore took the baseball money out of necessity. His mother's bills were a mile high and she was about to lose her home.

"I wouldn't even call what I had in baseball a career, actually," Moore said. "When you play baseball and still go to school to play football every year, you can put two plus two together and figure this guy must want to play football."

Moore played three seasons for Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. He has a career average of .210 with one home run, 12 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

His playing time diminished when it became obvious football was always going to be his primary goal.

"Pretty much, all I want to do is play football," Moore said. "When I went to bed at night when I was a kid I used to go to sleep with a football in my head and dreamed about playing the game like Walter Payton and Bo Jackson and guys like that on the gridiron. I never thought about picking up a baseball and swinging a bat around."

The 5-10, 209-pound Moore and former Stanford running back Darrin Nelson, who played for the Vikings, are the only players in NCAA Division I-A history with 4,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards receiving. Moore also is the only NCAA Division I-A player with at least 1,250 yards rushing and 60 receptions in the same season (2001).

Moore could be the eventual successor to third-down back Moe Williams, who turns 30 this year.

"Some people have described Mewelde as a faster Amp Lee, and Amp Lee was a darn good football player for us coming out of the backfield," coach Mike Tice said. "That's Moe's role, as we all know. Moe's getting up there in age, not that this is going to force Moe out or take any reps away from him, but you always try to find (room) for a good player."

Moore will return kicks, even though he returned only five in his career at Tulane. Asked if he has the ability to return kicks, he said, "That's like saying, `Do birds fly?'"

Moore also said there's no question he is done with baseball.

"I'm a Viking," he said. "I'm in purple and gold and that is what I bleed now. That is where I am going to be."

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