By Julie Bykowicz
July 30, 2008
Better known for his star turn as a halfback in the 1950s and 1960s, Lenny Moore has spent the past two dozen years helping troubled teenagers. Moore, 74, works for the community and family partnerships division of Juvenile Services, where his NFL connections help him arrange trips to training camp, exhibition games and other Ravens events.
"I know folks out there need people like me to give them hope," Moore said, sitting on the bleachers with the youths. "I like giving these boys exposure to certain situations that they would never have the opportunity to be a part of."
The kids who came to Westminster yesterday were selected for their good behavior inside two Juvenile Services facilities, Cheltenham Youth Facility and Victor Cullen Center.
He'll escort two more juvenile groups to training camp next month.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame member has quietly been doing things like this since 1984, when he first took a position with juvenile justice.
When his latest supervisor, Stacey Gurian-Sherman, joined the department, she said she could not believe "the Lenny Moore" would be part of her team. She said she has been bowled over by his generosity and commitment.
"He is a Hall of Famer in ways that most people don't know about," she said. "He was a star player for the Colts, and he is a star player for this agency. He loves these kids in a way that he is able to communicate to them."
When the boys arrived yesterday, Moore, wearing a straw hat and a towel around his neck, sat them down for a pep talk.
He told them about his life as a football player - that he made thousands of dollars, not millions, that he worked at another job in the off-season, that there were no media stars in the vein of Ray Lewis, the player the kids were dying to meet.
He told them they needed to take responsibility for their own behavior and realize they could set the course of their lives however they wanted.
"Many of these kids don't understand there is opportunity for them," he said.
He read them a thank-you letter that a boy at a substance abuse treatment center had sent to Moore after he had spoken there.
"You gave me a lot of motivation from that speech you gave us," it read. "A lot of people always blow me off if I ask for something. And you actually made me feel a lot better."
Yesterday's field trip, said Gurian-Sherman, was part of the "carrot and stick" approach that juvenile services workers - like many parents - take with kids.
"We want to give them experiences that we know all teenagers enjoy," she said. "When you show youth that you're committed to them in a positive and fun way, you get back positive energy."
Most of the juveniles attending training camp didn't know their destination until they pulled into the McDaniel College parking lot.
"We tried to keep it a secret," said Sharon Brooks, a Cheltenham employee. "But when we rolled up here - they were excited."
They called out the names of players - kicker Matt Stover, punter Sam Koch - who practiced near them. They rushed to the sidelines when Willis McGahee pulled up in a golf cart to sign autographs.
And when McGahee promised to return with Lewis, they roared with anticipation.
Minutes later, McGahee and a sweaty Lewis pulled up, causing a minor mob scene as the kids shouted in disbelief and thrust T-shirts (some still on their backs) at Lewis for autographs.
The kids Moore works with were born a good 25 years after the former Colt stopped playing football. They wouldn't have seen his 73-yard run, after Johnny Unitas handed off the ball, during the 1958 conference title game.
They wouldn't have seen his three catches for 126 yards, including his 60-yard touchdown, in the 1959 championship, or any of the magic that ushered him into the Hall of Fame in 1975.
And Moore knows this. He passed out autographed photographs of himself and posed for snapshots with the kids but said he would be "happily shocked" if they knew him the way they know Lewis.
One 15-year-old from Washington, detained at Cheltenham, said meeting Moore was "real cool. My brother knows all about him."
Another Cheltenham kid, an 18-year-old from Capitol Heights, said he wasn't terribly familiar with Moore's career but had heard of him.
"I never thought I would meet a Hall of Famer," he said.
Moore's Juvenile Services co-workers were more familiar with him, and in some ways were even more tickled to get his autograph.
Earl Winfield, a residential adviser at Victor Cullen and once a college and Canadian Football League player, said he was "thrilled" to meet a star he had idolized as a young player.
"What's great is that he is a good man. Helping people is his life," Winfield said. "They don't make them like that anymore."
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