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Warren Moon
Leigh Montville
July 26, 2006
Though not blessed with exceptional speed or size, Warren Moon showed wisdom beyond his years through every stage of his carefully plotted life and triumphed over adversity with a little help from his rocket of a right arm
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July 26, 2006

Warren Moon

Though not blessed with exceptional speed or size, Warren Moon showed wisdom beyond his years through every stage of his carefully plotted life and triumphed over adversity with a little help from his rocket of a right arm

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SHE KICKED off her shoes to dance. Felicia Hendricks liked to dance, and this was a party, and kicking off your shoes seemed to be an obvious thing to do. Her boyfriend told her she was crazy. Why take off your shoes? Someone could steal them. They could be lost. This was somebody else's house. Why take off your shoes in somebody else's house? Anything could happen.

"Don't worry, Warren," Felicia Hendricks said. "No one will take my shoes."

How about this guy? He was so different from the other kids she knew. Daddy. That was his nickname. Harold Warren Moon. Everybody's daddy. The average teenage boy in Los Angeles in the early '70s seemed to be a pinball of emotions and noise, bouncing off the city walls, screaming into the adolescent night. This boy ... well, just the way she had met him said as much about him as anything. They were sophomores in the same chemistry class at Hamilton High. He seemed, from afar, to be quiet and shy. When she first spoke to him, she asked him for a pencil. There was a test, and she did not have a pencil. He had three, sharpened, lined up on his desk. She wanted to borrow just one of them.

"No," he said. No?

"You should have brought your own pencil," he said. "You knew there was going to be a test. How could you come to a test without a pencil?"

So different. She grew to like him, to like his methodical and solid ways, his quiet, his calm, his good sense; but he could drive a person to distraction.

The party, that night she kicked off her shoes, was a celebration in a couple of ways. First, Hamilton had beaten neighboring Crenshaw High in football, and second, Moon, the Hamilton quarterback, was still alive. There had been a death threat during the week. A Crenshaw player had told Felicia that if Hamilton won, Moon was going to be killed. Simple as that. In other places on the national high school map, this perhaps could be dismissed as pregame trash talk. But in L.A. in 1973 the gangs had begun their lethal rise--the Crips and the Bloods and all the rest--and this Crenshaw player was a known gang member. When he talked, it paid to listen.

Moon, for one, had listened. Felicia pointed out the guy on the street, and Moon went straight for him. Felicia thought there would be trouble, a fight. Moon put out his hand to shake. "Hi," he said. "I'm Warren Moon. Good luck on Friday night." So different. Following a sensible discussion with the Crenshaw player, he had nevertheless sensibly informed his mother, his coach and the appropriate authorities, and then he proceeded to play the game, in which he sensibly cleaned Crenshaw's clock.

Now there was the victory party. Felicia danced and Moon danced, and at some point in the festivities, some kids from Crenshaw arrived. Moon stopped dancing. Were they here for him? No. A Hamilton kid was dancing with a Crenshaw kid's girl, and as the fight began, as the kid from Crenshaw grabbed a lamp and swung it at the Hamilton kid's head, Moon grabbed Felicia's hand and pulled her out the front door. He started running down the street, and she ran with him. When the sound of pistol shots came from the house, Moon and Felicia dived to the sidewalk together.

"My shoes," she said. "They're still back there."

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