Derland Paul Moore, a legendary New Orleans Saints defensive tackle who played 13 seasons in the Crescent City, died Thursday, Sept. 24 at the age of 68 following a long illness.
Moore was the Saints' second round draft pick in 1973 (29th overall) and suited up in 170 games (146 starts) from 1973-1985, ranking 10th in team history The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder finished his 14-year NFL career with the New York Jets in 1986. Moore led the Saints in sacks in 1980, earned Pro Bowl honors in 1983, and was later inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. He was also selected to the Saints' 40th anniversary team and named one of the team's 50 greatest players in 2016 when the team celebrated its 50th season.
While every award Moore received was special, one honor stood out above others.
"It was damn nice to be selected on the 50th team in New Orleans as the best of the best," Moore said. "That was a damn nice feeling. There are some good guys involved in that. John Hill was part of that. John passed away a year ago. John and I actually lived together for three years, so we were close friends. To be a part of it with him and Archie Manning, Stan Brock, Tommy Myers, Rickey Jackson and the rest of those guys was special."
Moore recorded 12 career sacks, all as a member of the Saints while playing for five permanent head coaches and three interim coaches. During his 13 seasons in New Orleans, Moore took away his share of experiences with the Black and Gold. While the coaching situation wasn't ideal, Moore turned to a savvy veteran for guidance upon entering the NFL.
"Jake Kupp, our offensive guard, was about a 10- or 12-year veteran at the time I arrived," Moore told SB Nation. "Every day after practice, he'd say, 'Derland, let's go do some pass rushes.' I was a little bit behind in my pass rushing technique because we didn't rush the passer that much in the Big 8 (conference). It was mostly 'crunch a bunch'. You just didn't throw the ball that much. Jake, and I don't even know why he did this because he had to be tired being in the league that long, but every day after practice he would get my ass over there and we would do about 10 to 15 pass rushes. He just did that on his own, just to teach me. I could never thank the man enough for helping me."
Kupp was drawn to the then-rookie defensive lineman immediately upon Moore's arrival in New Orleans.
"When Derland came to the Saints you could see there was something special about him," Kupp said Friday, Sept. 25. "He had a special talent. He had a confidence about himself, yet there was a humbleness about him. It was just fun being around him, so naturally, we just started coming together after practice. Even though it was helpful for him, it was helpful for me too working against a talent like Derland Moore."
When speaking on his unique talent, Kupp compared Moore to a modern day star defensive tackle: "He kind of reminds me of Aaron Donald," Kupp said. "Very compact and strong. Oh, was he strong. And because of his compactness, when he got into you, you felt it."
Moore was born in Oct. 7, 1951 in Malden, Mo. He attended Poplar Bluff High School and played varsity football for three years, 1966-1968. In addition to football, he competed in track, where he threw the shot and discus. Moore was offered a track scholarship to the University of Oklahoma, but had his sights set on the gridiron.
"Track was my entry into college football," Moore said. "I was involved in Junior Olympics in Poplar Bluff. A gentleman who was my mentor, Sam Giambelluca, was badgering my dad to have me do shot put. I hadn't even practiced it that summer. I set the record and won the AAU meet there in Poplar Bluff. It just so happened that the regionals were at the University of Oklahoma."
Oklahoma track coach J.D. Martin offered Moore a full scholarship on the spot. Although other top schools recruited Moore for his track and field talents, none carried the weight of Oklahoma. "My God, Oklahoma," Moore said, "if you get an opportunity to go there…That was the golden nugget!"
Moore accepted the scholarship offer for track and tried out for the Sooners football team as a walk-on. Not only did he make the freshman football squad, Moore went on to start every game as a defensive tackle his first year.
Every player that ultimately achieves their dream of playing in the NFL encounters a series of instrumental people in their life, but there's always that one person that made the biggest impact. Moore found that person while playing at Oklahoma in legendary Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson. "Jimmy Johnson was all about technique and taught me to be more than just a one-way player," Moore said. "Jimmy demanded and wouldn't accept anything but your absolute best. He brought out things that I didn't even know I had in myself."
Growing up on a farm in Poplar Bluff not only filled his days with work, but life lessons as well. "You learn work ethic," Moore said. "You have to if you want to eat. There was always something to do. You never had to look around for something to stay busy."
Aside from a great mental makeup, the hard work also helped Moore build raw strength. That strength paid dividends on the football field and in track.
Prior to signing with the Oklahoma Sooners, Moore kicked the tires at a few schools, including the University of Missouri.
"At the University of Missouri, I asked them if I could walk on," Moore said. "They told me it would be a waste of my time and theirs too. So, we played the University of Missouri every year and I made sure that they paid a price. They got the 120 percent game. I got a game ball every year we played against Missouri. Dan Devine was the head coach at the University of Missouri. It was my sophomore year and I nailed one of the running backs. He went flying underneath their bench. It was on their side of the field and the game was played in Oklahoma. So, I got up and there's Dan Devine right there and I said, 'Hey Coach Devine, Derland Moore. Remember? I wasn't good enough to play for you.' Then I was jogging on the field and I heard his voice, 'Would you allow me to reconsider?'"
Moore spent his post-football life in Mandeville. He is survived by his wife Frannie, children Michelle, Brad and Chip and six grandchildren.
Photos of Derland Moore with the New Orleans Saints.