conversation turns to the most decorated iron men in sports, rarely--if
ever--does the discussion include Kyle Moore-Brown of the Arena Football
League's Colorado Crush. True, Moore-Brown has played in far fewer games than
A.C. Green did in the NBA or Cal Ripken did in baseball, but ask yourself this:
Were either of those two routinely pancaked to a turf that can generously be
described as "fuzzy concrete"?
are commonplace for Moore-Brown, who has started 191 consecutive AFL games
(including playoffs) and, like most AFL athletes, plays both ways, lining up at
center on offense and at nosetackle on defense. For about 52 minutes each game,
the 6'4", 319-pound Moore-Brown endures a relentless pounding. "It's
rough out there," says Moore-Brown, 35. "We play a physical game, and
that turf is awful on the joints."
Despite such a
punishing workday, Moore-Brown, a Newark native, has not missed a start in his
11-plus seasons. He made his AFL debut with the Albany Firebirds in 1995 after
two failed tryouts with the Detroit Lions. The Firebirds' offensive coordinator
at the time was Mike Dailey, who quickly discovered what kind of player
Moore-Brown is. "We had one game where Kyle broke the thumb on his right
[snapping] hand," says Dailey, who's now the head coach of the Crush and
has been with Moore-Brown every step of his career. "Without a word he just
switched to snapping with his left and played the rest of the game. It's things
like that, which might set another person back, that he just fights
Moore-Brown's streak is--it's the longest in AFL history--his durability was
evident as far back as college. In three years at Kansas (he sat out his
freshman season for academic reasons), Moore-Brown, then known as Kyle Moore,
played in all but one game and was a big reason the Jayhawks reached their
first bowl game in 11 seasons in his senior year.
It was also in
Lawrence that Moore first met Gilbert Brown, who would go on to play 10 seasons
at defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers. The two became inseparable pals,
and a potentially tragic accident in 1993 only deepened their friendship.
spring break in Brown's hometown, Detroit, Moore took the wheel of Brown's
truck to start the 13-hour drive back to Lawrence. After six hours Moore asked
Brown to drive for an hour so that he could take a nap. But the groggy Brown
fell asleep at the wheel, veering across a three-lane highway before crashing
over an embankment into a watery ditch. The two were awakened by the impact,
and as they sat collecting themselves, the first thing they saw was a priest at
their window. "I thought we were dead," says Moore-Brown. "Then I
look over at Gilbert, and he says, 'Big Dog, I messed up my truck real bad.' I
said, 'Your truck? Man, you almost got me killed!'"
But the two were
unhurt and continued to spend vacations together in Detroit with Brown's family
as Moore forged a special bond with Gilbert's father, Leroy. (Kyle's own
father, James Howard, spent much of Kyle's life in prison before his death from
AIDS in 1995; he had been convicted of murder when Kyle was five.) "Leroy
told me the things I needed to hear, when I needed to hear them," says
Moore-Brown. "My mother raised me right, but I never really had a man to
look up to."
When Leroy died,
in 1998, Moore asked Gilbert if he could add the Brown name to his own. "I
was honored," says Brown, "and happy he wanted to take our name. I love
him for it."
Leroy Brown would
no doubt be proud of what Moore-Brown has accomplished. He has been part of two
AFL champions (1999 and 2005) and will be going for a third with the American
Conference--leading Crush when the playoffs get under way on May 27.
Moore-Brown will be ready to go for virtually every minute. "Truth is, I
don't play for the streak, I play for my teammates," he says. "As long
as I'm not letting them down, well, I'm going to keep doing it."