"Weight" of expectations felt every time Warren Moon took the field

Talk of Fame Network

He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame now, but there was a time when quarterback Warren Moon couldn’t get into an NFL huddle.

That was back in 1978 when Moon went undrafted out of the University of Washington, signed with the CFL and led the Edmonton Eskimos to five straight Grey Cups. His success there led to interest from the NFL, with Houston … and Moon … winning out when he signed with the Oilers in 1984.

Moon went on to great success in the NFL, but it wasn’t easy serving as one of the pioneers of African-American quarterbacks – with Moon saying on the latest Talk of Fame Network radio broadcast that he felt “the weight” of expectations from all parties.

“No question I felt that,” he said. “I felt it every time I went out on the field. You’ve got to remember that when came back (to the United States) in ’84, I was the only African-American quarterback starting in the National Football League. There were only two in the league, and that was me and my backup. Doug Williams was in the USFL at that time. Vince Evans was in the USFL at that time. So none of those guys were in the league.

“So, yeah, it was a big burden on my shoulders, and I felt it not only from the pressure that was put on me by people wanting to see me excel because of the money I was being paid but there were a lot of people who wanted to see me fail, as well. I had the whole African-American race that was really relying on me to be the guy to be the savior for that position. So I felt it every time I went on the field, no question about it.”

When Moon agreed to a five-year, $10 million contract extension in 1989, it did more than make him the highest-paid player in football. It demonstrated to Moon that he had arrived; that he was the quarterback that he – and few others – thought he was … and could be.

“Nobody wanted me to even play the position, starting back in high school,” he said. “Now, all of a sudden, I’m sitting there as a free agent and the highest-paid player in the league and getting ready to sign the richest contract in the history of the game. I felt like right there I had proved something, and now it was just a matter of going out on the field and getting it done.

“That was always going to be the defining factor because it doesn’t matter how much someone pays you in advance; it’s how you earn that money. I knew I had to go out there and earn that money.”