Bad news never had good timing.
The last Tuesday in August was as routine for Malachi Moore as any other day since he had arrived at Boston College. A freshman just getting adjusted, he had finished summer school. Training camp was coming to the last of its howling dog days. The Sept. 1 season opener against Miami was in everyone’s sights. Moore was working on his morning weight lifting.
Then, he got a call to see defensive line coach Jeff Comissiong in his office. Moore’s father was on the phone.
There was no other way for Boris Moore to tell his son.
His mother, Karen, had a stroke.
She was only 48.
“At that moment, I wasn’t really thinking that something like that would happen,” Malachi said.
He was on a plane home to New Jersey the next day. They went to the hospital to see her as a family. She passed away that Thursday.
“It was tough,” Boris Moore said. “It was certainly unexpected. And you can imagine any 18-year-old boy, the relationship with their mom. Every boy, every kid wants their mom. Even as a grown man, there are times when I just want to call my mother.
“For Karen to be taken away so suddenly, and at this point in life, when he was going through so much transition — he was entering college, he was a Division 1 football player, all the demands that go along with football at a D-1 school, not to mention the academics at BC — it was difficult.”
Malachi stayed home that weekend. He and his father watched the Miami game on TV. He didn’t wait long to head back to Chestnut Hill, though. His mother was the one who got him into football, the one who took two trips to BC with him, the one who fell in love with the school the same way he did. He wanted to be there.
“A lot of people don’t understand how I’m handling it,” Malachi said. “It’s hard, I’m not going to lie. It’s probably one of the hardest, most stressful years of my life. My mother loved football. She actually was the one who got me into football.”
She is on her son’s mind and in his heart, if not in his presence. When he runs onto the field, Malachi draws a cross in the air with his fingers and points to the sky to remember her. He has her birthdate — “3-4-64” — written on his gloves. She was with him last Saturday, when he found out four hours before kickoff against Florida State that he’d get his first taste of Atlantic Coast Conference football.
He embraced the moment.
“My mother’s death gives me strength,” Malachi said. “I think about her all the time, nonstop, especially when I’m on the field. That gives me strength.”
The only reason Moore traveled with the team to Tallahassee was in case of an emergency. He had been on the scout team the five weeks before that.
His responsibilities were simple — lift weights and get lots of protein.
Kickoff was at 5:30 p.m. At about 1, Comissiong told him he wanted to meet. A nerve injury in Mehdi Abdesmad’s neck made it impossible for him to play. Comissiong told Moore he’d be suiting up.
“I was tweaking out,” Moore said. “I’m not going to lie.”
His nerves were jumping. The first thing Moore did was call his father. Malachi is an overthinker, and his mind was a mosh pit. Florida State football. 85,000 fans. First college game. Boris just wanted to settle him down.
“I told him to go get it,” Boris said. “I said, ‘You’re stomping with the big dogs now.’ I said, ‘There are going to be 85,000 people there and you can shut them up.’ ”
Before they got off the phone, Malachi threw it out there, more wishful thinking than anything else.
He said, “Dad, what if I get a sack?”
He took the field extra early. He took in Doak Campbell Stadium. Walked the grass at Bobby Bowden Field. The nerves eventually thawed.
“It was just a dream come true,” he said. “I was too happy to be nervous. It was pretty much just go-time from there. I really didn’t have a choice.”
He played above his age. His moment came just before the end of the first quarter. On third and 4, Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel dropped back, then drifted out of the pocket. Before he could look up Moore was in his face.
He wrestled Manuel to the ground for his first career sack — just BC’s fifth of the season. The Seminoles were forced to punt. It was one of only two Florida State drives that didn’t end in a touchdown in the first half of the 51-7 beating.
It was the kind of play coach Frank Spaziani knew Moore could make, even if he wasn’t expecting it so soon.
“He made the play because he’s an athlete,” Spaziani said. “He was in the right spot and then he was just a football player. He was doing his job, the guy came over and he went and sacked him. That’s the stuff he has.”Continued...