By Richard Rourk
Recently one of Unicoi County High School’s greatest athletes passed away. On Jan. 26, Bob Moore passed away peacefully and The Erwin Record reached out to local historian and author Lewis “Lou” Thornberry and Moore’s wife and talented artist Dottie Moore to share Moore’s story.
Bob Moore played among the best Unicoi County High School football players of all time. According to Thornberry, who played collegiately at Duke University, several players from UCHS, which was then known as Erwin High, went on to play collegiate football.
According to Thornberry, Moore had a stellar senior year on the gridiron for Erwin High in 1955. “He was all-state, made the All-East Tennessee teams picked by both Knoxville papers, won the Big Five scoring title with 121 points, and made the All-Big Five Teams as selected by the coaches and also by the Johnson City Press-Chronicle,” Thornberry said.
Thornberry wrote about Moore’s career in his book, “Remembering Old Erwin.”
“One of the best indicators of Moore’s break-away ability is revealed in the four touchdowns he scored on punt returns; 95 yards, 73 yards, 72 yards and 55 yards,” Thornberry said.
According to Thornberry, Moore also completed eight touchdown passes, which were not included in his points scored total. Four of his longer touchdown passes were for 75 yards, 56 yards, 49 yards and 30 yards.
“Moore was the tailback on that successful 1955 squad which finished the season with 10 wins and a single setback, but Bob’s football career didn’t end after that final 33-7 trouncing of Science Hill,” Thornberry said.
According to Thornberry, Moore was able to live out the dream of many high school football players, especially in Tennessee, when he accepted a collegiate football scholarship to the University of Tennessee.
“NCAA college football was different in the 1950s as freshmen weren’t eligible for varsity football, and most major colleges had freshman teams that played a limited schedule of their own,” Thornberry said.
Moore is listed as a Vol player in the UT-Vanderbilt Freshman Program for Oct. 26, 1956. In the program, Moore was 18 years old, listed as a tailback, weighed 172 pounds, and his hometown was Erwin, Tennessee.
“That’s another difference between college football today and 50 years ago,” Thornberry said. “Unlike today, 32 of the 40 players listed on the Tennessee freshman team were under 200 pounds.”
Even though freshmen couldn’t play in varsity games, they could practice against varsity players.
“The varsity that Moore and his teammates battled wasn’t just another team,” Thornberry said. The 1956 Vols went 10-1, losing only to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. Coached by Bowden Wyatt and led by Johnny Majors and Bill Anderson, the Vols were ranked as high as second in the national poll.
“Throughout that 1956 season, Moore and his teammates provided offensive and defense opponents for the talented SEC champs,” Thornberry said.
According to Thornberry, Moore was redshirted during his sophomore year which meant he practiced in 1957, but he didn’t dress out with the varsity. This is still a common practice in college football to allow a student-athlete more time to train on the field and in the classroom.
According to Thornberry, the players must learn a wide variety of different formations on both sides of the ball as the practice squad. The 1957 varsity posted 8 wins and 3 losses with the final victory coming over Paul Bryant’s Texas A&M Aggies in the Gator Bowl.
“In 1958, Moore made the varsity as a wingback and he can be seen proudly wearing number 18 in the team photo,” Thornberry said.
According to Thornberry, a medical issue involving pneumonia ended Bob’s playing days after the 1958 season, but he remained at the University of Tennessee where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering in 1961.
It was at the University of Tennessee that Moore met his wife and life long companion, Dottie, through mutual friends. Dottie Moore, like Bob Moore, is very talented in her own right. Dottie Moore is a fiber artist that has traveled the world sharing her talent.
Dottie and Bob Moore spent 55 amazing years together. The Moores had two children, Jay Moore who resides in San Diego, and Holly Moore-Lohmann who resides in Bend, Oregon, with her two children, Quinn and Noa.
“Bob was the rock and the stability in the relationship,” Dottie said. “That allowed me to be a professional artist for 45 years.”
The Moores were able to travel together and according to Dottie, they were able to share lots of wonderful times together. Moore is remembered by his neighbors especially the furry ones.
“Bob is famous here for feeding treats to all the neighborhood dogs,” Dottie said.
Upon graduation, Moore worked for two years at Eastman in Kingsport. He then returned to his alma mater and earned a masters degree in Guidance and Counseling. According to Thornberry, Moore taught for nine years in Greeneville, Tennessee. He was then appointed to the principalship of the Greeneville Junior High School. He spent seven years in that position while earning his educational specialist degree in administration at East Tennessee State University.
Moore was offered a position at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“He was offered the Community Education Coordinator position at York, which combined his skills in engineering, education and computers,” Dottie said.
According to Dottie, the position allowed Moore the opportunity to come up with the curriculum at the college to train future employees for the area companies.
According to Thornberry, during October 2006 Moore and 25 of those 1956 UT freshman teammates gathered for their 50th reunion in Knoxville, again showing their commitment to their colleagues and their university. Their special guest was Hall of Fame tailback and coach, Johnny Majors, who had inspired them as a freshman so many years ago.