ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In the winter of 2000, Tom Young walked into the Derby High School gymnasium and saw a 6-foot-4 freshman named Sherrone Moore outhustling his ninth-grade opponents on the basketball court.
Then, Young noticed the ease with which Moore handled the basketball and his physical presence as a defender.
That freshman would make a great lineman, Young thought. Little did Young know Moore would also forge a future in college football. Little did he know Moore would join one of college football’s most prestigious programs at Michigan.
“He was so enthusiastic about basketball, and gave football a try,” said Young, Moore’s football coach at the high school outside Wichita, Kan., from 2000-04. “But by his senior year, it was the other way around. He saw basketball as an opportunity to develop as a better athlete.”
Moore’s combination of athleticism and his unique path to college football made him into an offensive lineman at Oklahoma. His enthusiasm and his aptitude for working with people took him into coaching, then brought him to Michigan. Moore joined Jim Harbaugh’s staff as a tight ends coach earlier this month.
“It’s an outstanding opportunity,” Moore told the Derby (Kan.) Informer. “[Being a part of] a tradition-filled and prestigious place like Michigan is something most people dream about. I’m just honored to have the opportunity to be on staff.”
When Young approached Moore about trying out for football in the winter of 2000, Moore’s response encouraged his future coach.
“Just ask,” Moore told Young, grinning.
“And I laughed and I said, ‘I’m asking!’” Young recalled. “As a football player, he was a really hard worker. He had the potential, but, like a lot of big kids are when they’re young, he was somewhat slow-footed. But he worked his tail off to be a better player, but he was so motivated and so smart.”
But when Moore graduated from Derby in 2004, he didn’t have many offers to play college football. He joined the football team at nearby Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan.
“For whatever reason, Kansas isn’t a hotbed for colleges to come to recruit,” said Todd Olmstead, an assistant coach at Derby. “There are only two Division I programs in the state and three Division II programs, but the junior college conference is unbelievable here.
“For a lot of kids who don’t get recruited or didn’t get recruited by the schools they wanted to go to, that’s the route they take. Then, they end up going to a bigger school. That’s the path Sherrone took, and it’s the path I’d say, probably, 90 percent of kids who do that, end up at big-time Division I schools.”
Moore helped Butler win two Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference championships, and 247Sports in 2006 rated Moore the nation’s No. 4 junior college tackle.
He joined Oklahoma in the fall of 2006, and helped the Sooners to two BCS bowl games in 2006 and 2007. Moore became a graduate assistant at Louisville in 2008, the start of another future in football.
On the coaching stage
Yet neither Young nor Olmstead thought Moore would have a future in coaching. At Michigan, though, Moore is coaching in his third college program. He spent three seasons at Louisville as a graduate assistant, then as a tight ends coach in 2011 and 2012. He spent the last four seasons at Central Michigan, three as a tight ends coach, and then last season as assistant head coach/recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he became successful, as a coach,” Olmstead said. “Whatever field he went into, he would have been successful at that.”
Moore is also Young’s first player to coach Division I football. The same things that made Moore successful in becoming a Division I football player, Moore believes, have helped him forge his coaching career: his work ethic, his intelligence and his enthusiasm.
“Seeing that, it makes you feel good,” Young said. “We think we did something right and, because of that, he thought this was a worthwhile profession to get into. And I always like it, when I’m able to sit down at a conference to see him talking at, just to see how he’s grown, and to learn from him.
“He’s a person that really deserves that, to be successful.”