“The Moore Men” of Pacoima share a definitive legacy in the San Fernando Valley. Four brothers — Anthony, Manfred, Kenny and Malcolm — who all left an indelible stamp on the football sports history of San Fernando High School. Manfred, Kenny and Malcolm went on to play at the University of Southern California, while Anthony was a quarterback at Cal State Long Beach.
Of the four, Manfred Moore may have been the most accomplished or the most blessed. He was a member of the Tigers’ 1967 LA City Section Division I championship team. At USC, he was part of the 1972 national championship team that had one of the most dominant college seasons ever. He played briefly in the NFL but had the good fortune in 1976 to be released by the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and get picked up by the Oakland Raiders — who would win the 1977 Super Bowl game.
Moore was also the first African American to play in the New South Wales Rugby Football League in Australia, and the first African American to score an NFL touchdown and a rugby try (that game’s equivalent to an American football touchdown).
Whether playing in those sports took a heavier, mortal toll than was realized at the time is impossible to say. But Moore, according to his family, spent the last five years of his life battling dementia in a senior nursing facility where his treatment was being paid for by the NFL. And he died on Friday, Jan. 11, at the age of 69.
“A well-spoken man, highly intelligent, always positive about stuff,” said Tom Hernandez, a former Tigers football coach who also worked with Moore at events for the San Fernando High Alumni Association.
“He was just a happy person. Very successful. And highly respected.”
Anthony Davis, Moore’s teammate at San Fernando High and USC, had another view.
“Tough on and off the football field,” Davis said. “Put it this way: nobody messed with him. He would hit you, wouldn’t avoid contact, and was a great leader in high school.”
Malcom, the youngest of the Moore siblings, said even though Manfred was the second oldest of the family’s six children he was a standard bearer.
“Manny always set high standards in terms of achievement,” Malcolm said. “He was a great example in every facet. He kinda coached all of us, really, in how to get it done every day.
“He had a real desire to achieve big things. His thing growing up was wanting to be a millionaire. He had that kind of determination. He would not let me leave the house without wearing a belt. That was one of his things. ‘Always wear a belt, look the part,’ he’d say.”
A Noted Athlete
Manfred enjoyed a prestigious athletic career at San Fernando High that included winning a state wrestling championship. But he truly excelled at football. His uniform number 88 is one of six retired jersey numbers in school history.
“Manfred was one of the top players in the City. He was ‘The Man’ out there,” said Hernandez, whose older brother, Robert, was a teammate of Moore’s on 1967 team.
Davis had grown up on the same neighborhood street in Pacoima as the Moore brothers — “a street named Cochran, on a cul-de-sac” — and said his first memory of the family was seeing the brothers playing football in their front yard. “All three were tough hombres. You did not play around with them.”
Following his graduation from San Fernando High in 1968, Moore matriculated to USC. By the time Davis joined him there in 1971 Moore had moved from running back to fullback due to the outsized talent of Sam “Bam” Cunningham.
Moore was a particularly effective blocker. There is a famous photo of Davis preparing to run the Trojans’ vaunted “28-Pitch” sweep play against Oregon in 1972 with Moore as an escort. Also in the photo is lineman Allan Graf, who also went to San Fernando High before playing at USC.
“There we are, the three of us from San Fernando High in that photo,” marveled Davis.
Moore was selected in the ninth round (216th overall) of the 1974 NFL draft by San Francisco. He would spend parts or full seasons — a total of 51 games — with the 49ers, Buccaneers, Raiders and Vikings as a running back and special teams player.
Moore would also play rugby for the Newton Jets in Australia, in 1977. “He made the team, and was the first African American in the league. He enjoyed that experience,” Malcom said. But Moore would return to the NFL, and finish out his playing days with Minnesota.
It was not a career overflowing with longevity, glittering individual statistics or “the greatest single play” ever captured on film. It was about winning. Not many could claim to have won championships at the high school, college and professional levels of their sport.
Remained Committed to the Valley
In 1991, Moore returned to USC to complete his degree work. He enjoyed a second career in finance, reaching a position of vice president with the First Los Angeles Bank. He became president of the Trojan Alumni Football Club. He was also a deacon at Christ Memorial Church in Pacoima.
His religious faith was paramount and permanent, Malcolm said.
“He really loved the Lord and considered himself to be spirit-led. For as long as I can remember, he was a devout Christian. It was one of the main purposes in his life. He embraced it. And that’s the way he lived his life every day.”
Moore also stayed connected to San Fernando High.
When Hernandez became the head football coach at San Fernando, he would call on Moore to occasionally speak to the team about the game and about life, which Moore happily did. When a golf tournament was created as a fundraiser for the school’s alumni association, Moore not only played in the tournament but eventually became a sponsor.
And in 2015, San Fernando High received a Gold Super Bowl Football in Moore’s name from the NFL for being part of Super Bowl History.
“He never forgot San Fernando. He was a special guy,” Hernandez said.
It’s one of the ironies of Moore’s last few years. He didn’t want to forget anyone he felt had made an impact on his life. But dementia is a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury. It can rob a person of all precious memories, or reduce them to puddles of confusion.
Davis, who’s had his own battles with concussive head injuries from his playing days, recalled seeing Moore five to six years ago and thinking, “something is wrong,” even though he didn’t know what it might be. For the family, it was the agonizing view of watching Moore slowly decline from the vibrant, caring soul they had grown up with become someone who might have trouble remembering what had been said five minutes ago.
Malcom said a couple of days before his death, Moore got a visit from some of his friends and former teammates. “He was able to acknowledge them. And that lifted his spirits.”
Shortly afterward, Moore was lifted toward the heavens.
Along with his brothers Anthony, Kenny and Malcolm, and sisters Victoria and Phyllis, Moore is survived by two sons, Jason and Darryl, and stepson Sean.
A memorial service has been scheduled for Feb. 15 at 2 p.m Grace Community Church in Sun Valley.