Crowell Feels No Need To Fill Moore's Shoes In Detroit
Sept. 21, 1999
Standing six feet-five inches tall and blessed with good speed, world-class leaping ability, and a pair of soft hands, Herman Moore possessed all the natural tools to become a college football standout.
In the fall of 1988, Moore played his first game wearing the orange and blue and immediately began carving his name in the Cavalier history books. It took the wide receiver from the quiet town of Danville, Va., only two years to attract national attention. Entering 1990, Moore had already garnered honorable mention All-America and second team All-ACC recognition.
That year he joined quarterback Shawn Moore to create one of the most potent offensive weapons in Virginia football history. The football team found success in the “Moore to Moore” connection and steam rolled its way to the program’s first ever national number one ranking.
At the conclusion of the season, Moore hung up his Cavalier jersey and entered the NFL draft. After only three years, he broke two NCAA records, tied two others, and set the ACC record for most receiving yards in a season. He left Virginia as the all-time career receiving leader with 2,504 yards and was selected by the Detroit Lions as the 10th overall pick in the draft.
By 1994, Herman Moore was four years removed from the University of Virginia, but his legacy still remained fresh in the minds of Cavalier fans. Germane Crowell made his Virginia debut at receiver that season, and immediately the comparisons began between the heralded freshman and Moore.
At six feet-three inches, Crowell’s size and physical attributes bore a striking resemblance to Moore, and expectations ran high for the first-year player from North Carolina. Living in Moore’s shadow and expected to follow in his legendary footsteps, Crowell set out to accomplish the arduous task of making his own place in the Virginia record books. In his first game ever as a Cavalier, Crowell made five catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns. The three-year letter winner built on his auspicious debut to become one of UVa’s top all-time receivers. He set the school record with nine 100-yard career receiving games, and currently ranks second in career receptions and fourth all-time in career receiving yards. He received honorable mention All-ACC recognition his junior and senior years.
In the spring of 1998, the Detroit Lions selected Germane Crowell in the second round of the NFL draft, and once again it appeared he would have to overcome the stigma and expectations of being “the next Herman Moore”.
“The comparisons started immediately once he arrived in Detroit, and early on it took its toll on him,” said Moore. “Being from the same school, holding a few of the records with me, same build, same size, the only difference is that he’s a little faster. I think he got a little tired of it, and he wanted to have his own identity.”
Initially it looked as if Crowell would face the same obstacles he had to overcome as a Cavalier, yet the situation in Detroit proved to be much different. For four years he had worked hard to escape the shadow of Moore’s legendary accomplishments and leave his own mark on Virginia football. Now, for the first time, the two were paired as teammates working together to help the same team achieve success.
Crowell soon recognized he and Moore no longer represented two players from separate eras connected by constant comparison. Instead, he realized the two now shared the special experience of playing football at Virginia. This common background served to form a unique bond between Crowell and Moore, a bond that greatly benefited the young rookie.
“It helps ease the transition when you see a guy that came from the same tradition and played under the same program,” said Crowell. “When I came into the NFL, [Herman Moore] gave me some real helpful pointers and helped ease me along.”
As Crowell adjusted to life in the professional ranks, he began to understand Moore’s invaluable role as a teacher and mentor. He actively sought Moore’s counsel and often approached the all-pro receiver for advice. He used his teammate’s eight years of NFL experience as a guide to help him avoid the common pitfalls and distractions that overwhelm many rookies.
“I’ve looked to him for leadership. He’s taken me under his wing and showed me a lot of things, especially the things I don’t need to do, and the things I do need to do,” said Crowell. “He has helped me out a lot.”
By the end of Crowell’s rookie season, it was quite obvious the young receiver had learned from a true pro. In 1998 he averaged 18.6 yards-per-catch and amassed over 460 receiving yards on the year. He also tallied three touchdowns, two of which came during plays of over 50 yards. With Crowell’s numbers far surpassing his own rookie season statistics, Moore took great pride in his protege’s success.
“I took him under my wing, and he and I are very good friends. I thought he did extremely well his rookie season,” said Moore. “He still has a lot to learn, but his promise is tremendous. I look for him to be a very good player.”
After such a stellar first year, Crowell still managed to keep everything in perspective. With the retirement of Detroit’s all-pro running back Barry Sanders, Crowell is now expected to produce even bigger numbers.
No longer a rookie, he will be called upon to make key plays in important game situations. As Crowell continues to mature, Moore understands he must now help his teammate adjust to the new role of big-play receiver.
“He treats me with a lot of respect and I appreciate that. At this particular point, he and I are on the same plane, and there are a great amount of expectations that come with that,” said the Lion all-pro receiver. “I don’t take it easy on him, but I also understand what he is going through. He is a young man who really takes criticism well, and he uses it to his benefit. The most promising thing about him as a young player is that it doesn’t cause him to go into a shell when you tell him he is doing something wrong.”
Crowell has quickly learned that even a critical word from Herman Moore ultimately serves as positive advice. Entering his 10th season, Moore possesses the experience and accolades to prove he understands exactly what it takes to achieve success in the NFL. The four time Pro-Bowl selection, reached 600 career receptions faster than any one else in NFL history. In addition, Moore and San Francisco receiver Jerry Rice are the only two players in league history to post three consecutive seasons with 100-or-more receptions.
While Crowell strives to someday join the ranks of the NFL’s elite receivers, Moore stresses that the young player needs to stick to the basics.
“I told him to keep his head level and at first go out and try to perform at the level where he is most comfortable,” said Moore. “I told him to just be himself. Don’t allow anyone to change who you are, because that is the only way you got here.”
The pair from Virginia have joined forces to create a potent offensive duo while developing a solid friendship. The positive relationship between Moore and Crowell caught the attention of several teammates, including former Lion’s running back Barry Sanders.
“Germane had a great first year, he just has to keep building on his rookie season,” said NFL’s second all-time leading rusher. “He needs to continue to watch guys like Herman and get the most out of his ability. Germane is going to be able to make a lot happen if he stays on the path he is on right now.”