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Living His Dream

Posted Nov 30, 2011

There were many who thought an NFL career was a far-fetched dream for rookie safety Rahim Moore. But there were a few who believed in the kid from inner city Los Angeles including a Hall-of-Famer who paid a visit to Moore's home in high school.

Rahim Moore was devastated.

The first day of the 2011 NFL Draft had come and gone, and he hadn't heard his named called by Commissioner Roger Goodell. He sat in a back room, crying, wondering why he wasn't chosen. He wanted to prove all the people wrong; the people who had been saying since he was a little kid that he would never make it out of south central Los Angeles, that he would just be another insignificant statistic. He had a dream to play in the NFL, and he was so close to making it come true.

"I was crying and I was mad," Moore said.

But at that moment, someone walked into the room. Someone who had been his inspiration growing up and was a soon-to-be a Hall of Famer. Someone who had incidentally met Moore years earlier and gave him advice he carries in his heart to this day.

***

Deion Sanders just finished shooting a Nike commercial in the inner city of Los Angeles one day five years ago. The eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback retired from the NFL a few years prior, but was still a celebrity and role model for the kids playing football in the schoolyard. Dozens of children and parents turned out to the shoot to see the man nicknamed "Primetime."

After it was over, Sanders met with a woman in the crowd, who asked him to come to her house and pray for her and her three kids. Sanders obliged and entered the house to find three bundles of energy running around. One of those kids was a junior at Dorsey High School, Rahim Moore.

"I remember him laying on my mom's bed, relaxing," Moore said. "He was so tired."

Sanders spent a few hours at the Moore household, praying and talking with Moore, his mother and his siblings. For the most part, they were just hanging out, laughing, enjoying each other's company. Rahim spent some time picking one of the best defensive backs' brain about the NFL and asking for advice as a player who also played in the secondary. Sanders gave Moore some practical tips, including ones he uses today. Moore remembers Sanders telling him he would always backpedal 100 yards after practice, continually honing and perfecting his craft.

Moore soaked in all the advice Sanders gave him on his unexpected visit.

"It meant a lot to me," Moore said. "I didn't end up telling a lot of my friends because I don't know if they ever were going to believe me or how they were going to take it. But it definitely meant the world to me. It was a blessing."

Sanders was so touched and moved by Moore's mother's strength, kindness and perspective through her modest living conditions, that he asked Nike to give her a $5,000 shopping spree at NikeTown with money that came out of his pockets.

Moore remembers the trip to NikeTown fondly.

"That was the first time my mom bought me some shoes in a long time," Moore said. "She bought me some Jordan retros from the Nike store and I still have those today."

To this day, he has kept them safe and never worn them. They've become symbolic of his dream journey.

***

But Sanders wasn't the only NFL personailty Moore looked to for guidence. In fact, Moore went to high school with one of his current Broncos teammates, running back Jeremiah Johnson.

While the two are three years apart -- almost to the day -- they constantly showed up at the same set of football fields in their Pee-Wee and Pop-Warner days. As they got older and moved on to the same high school, it was Johnson who approached the younger Moore as a freshman and told him to move up to the varsity team.

"He was a guy who I've known, who I used to look up to when I was younger, watching him play, being recruited," Moore said. "I always wanted to be in him and (former USC and Dorsey running back) Stafon Johnson's shoes. He's truly been a blessing to me. He's always giving me words of encouragement, he's always staying on me, making sure I'm taking care of business. He's like my brother on the team."

Johnson and Moore kept in touch as they parted ways after high school. Johnson went north to the University of Oregon, while Moore continued in high school at Dorsey. As college came, Moore stuck in the Pac-10 as well, opting to stay local and play for UCLA.

Their paths crossed once in college, when Johnson was a senior and Moore a freshman. On one play, Johnson had a sweep to the outside and found himself one-on-one with none other than Moore. But as a sign of respect for his high school buddy, Johnson got the first down, then let Moore make the tackle.

"It was just one of those things where I was proud to see a fellow (Dorsey) member out there," Johnson said. "Proud to see a friend, proud to see a family member out there reppin' DDP."

Rahim was keeping the dream alive.

***

Three years later, Moore was tabbed as an All-American safety and opted to leave school early.

It was time for him to turn the dream into reality.

But there he was, in tears after the first day of the draft when he had not been chosen. It was then that Moore's mom found Sanders and asked him to once again talk to her son.

Just as he did five years prior, Sanders pulled Moore aside and gave him a wider perspective on his situation in life.

"I pulled him aside and said, 'Dude, this isn't just about you. This is about everything. Do you know what your mother's been through to get you to this spot? She bought one dress. Go buy her a dress, get your butt back tomrorow, and endure it. You're going to be blessed. God is going to send you right where you need to go,'" Sanders said.

Sure enough, the next day Moore came back and was drafted in the second round by the Denver Broncos. He made it. Having accomplished his goal, he sometimes refers to himself as "Rahim the Dream" so as not to forget his journey.

As it turned out, getting drafted by the Broncos also meant two former high school teammates and close friends were about to be reunited.

"I was estactic to see (Goodell) call his name," Johnson said. "It was funny because I was sitting there playing with my daughter and my wife and all of the sudden I hear, 'Rahim Moore, Denver Broncos.' I was like, 'What? I get to know somebody on my team!' He's a great guy. He's a great kid. He's got a good head on his shoulders."

Moore considers Johnson not only a teammate, but a big brother. He goes to Johnson for anything, be it for advice or just someone to talk to. The relationship also goes the other way, as Johnson said if he's ever feeling down, he just needs to be around Moore to get his spirits up.

"I've been with him since he was little," Johnson said. "So it's like talking to a big brother. I mean it's truly a blessing to have him here. It kind of keeps me level as well. Sometimes you come to work down, and I see my boy and it's like, I'm good now. It's a blessing to have him on my team and on my side."

Since he's known him much longer, Moore's relationship with Johnson grows much deeper than that with Sanders. Sanders and Moore's mother still talk a couple times each month, but Moore himself hasn't pressed the issue and said he'll probably get together with him in the offseason at some point.

But for now, he's focused on football and helping the Broncos win games. He's learning from some of the best veterans in the business in safety Brian Dawkins and cornerback Champ Bailey, and that's something that isn't lost on him. Those two players have been to more than a dozen combined Pro Bowls, a place where Sanders believes Moore is headed.

"They love it here in Denver," Sanders said. "Being here with Brian Dawkins has been a blessing to him, to learn from a guy like that. That kid that was in that hall. He was a junior at the time in high school and he made it. He's a great kid and a safety that's going to be a Pro Bowler one day.

"You can never stop dreaming."

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