“There is no greater joy in life than moving a man from Point A to Point B against his will.” – Joe Moore
The Joe Moore Award is presented annually to the toughest, most physical offensive line in college football. It is the only major college award to honor a unit or group. The JMA winner is determined by vote. The voting body is comprised solely of people who played or coached the position, including 128 FBS offensive line coaches, media members who played O-line and a legacy committee comprised of colleagues of Joe Moore and players he coached. “The O-line position is extremely difficult to evaluate,” said Randy Cross, a college football Hall of Famer and JMA voting committee member, “especially when doing so for entire units with different styles of play.”
First awarded in 2015, college football’s biggest trophy goes to some of the game’s largest players. Crafted by legendary sports sculptor Jerry McKenna, the trophy stands nearly four feet tall, is almost five feet wide and weighs more than 800 pounds. Presented each December, the JMA remains on display on the recipients’ campus until it is presented to the following year’s winner.
Widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in college football history, Joe Moore coached collegiately for 19 seasons. He spent eight years at Pitt, two at Temple, and nine at Notre Dame. Moore, who died of cancer in 2003, developed some of the finest offensive linemen ever to put their hand in the dirt. In nine seasons in South Bend, Moore sent all but two of his starting offensive lineman to the NFL. In nearly two decades of coaching, he mentored 52 linemen who went on to play professionally.
At Pitt, Moore built one of the greatest O-lines ever assembled. His 1980 unit featured Russ Grimm — a converted high school quarterback — at center. The right tackle was Mark May, winner of the 1980 Outland Trophy as college football’s best interior lineman. Jimbo Covert played along the defensive line as a Pitt freshman in 1979. The following season, Moore moved him to offense, where Covert became a two-time All-American at left tackle. When May graduated following the 1980 season, he was replaced by Bill Fralic, who became a three-time All-American at tackle. Fralic was the second player taken in the 1985 NFL Draft and is quite possibly the finest offensive lineman Joe Moore ever mentored.
Grimm and May later anchored “The Hogs” – the offensive line that led the Washington Redskins to multiple Super Bowl titles. Grimm landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while May, Covert and Fralic were all enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Covert won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears and was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. “I owe everything to Joe Moore,” said Covert. “He had a unique way of pushing you beyond even your own expectations and then took great pride in seeing you succeed.” May and Fralic are among the nine players in Pitt Panther history to have their numbers retired by the school.
Aaron Taylor played tackle for Joe Moore at Notre Dame. A two-time All-American and 1993 Lombardi Award recipient as the best college lineman, Taylor was a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers. He played in two Super Bowls before knee injuries cut his career short. Now a college football analyst for CBS Sports Network, Taylor founded the JMA to honor his former mentor. “Coach Moore was a man of principle, and the principles he embodied helped us become the best versions of ourselves. He helped us become better football players, and made us better men. The Joe Moore Award is an appropriate symbol of that legacy.”
A crusty, chain-smoking Army veteran, Moore preached fundamentals. “You cannot play football unless your feet are under you,” barked Moore in his trademark gravelly voice. Nothing he did was for himself or his ego. Moore enjoyed taking a kid and making him into a man. He twice turned down Chuck Noll’s invitation to join the Pittsburgh Steelers because his passion was teaching collegians. “When God decided to create a football coach he created Joe Moore,” said Covert, “then broke the mold.” Jordan Halter played offensive tackle at Notre Dame from 1989 to 1993. “Our head coach was Lou Holtz,” said Halter, “but we played for Joe Moore.”
The offensive line is the heart and soul of a football team. Generally the smartest guys on the team, O-lineman are humble and selfless. Their jobs are demanding and precise, and they sacrifice personal glory for the success of the team. Offensive lineman don’t seek attention, and they never get the girl. Sometimes called The Big Uglies, offensive linemen battle in the trenches, where the game’s heavy lifting takes place. O-lineman toil in obscurity — unless they miss an assignment or get called for a penalty, which captures the attention of everyone watching.
Teamwork is what defines football as a sport. It is displayed in its greatest glory in the play of the offensive line, for it is there that individual achievement only matters if the entire unit is performing. Teamwork is a bond. It’s the greatest form of individual achievement because it requires total sacrifice, focus, and effort. The road to success is paved with teamwork.
The inaugural Joe Moore Award was won by Alabama, in 2015. The Crimson Tide’s offensive line was anchored by Barrett Jones. The versatile Jones was named All-America at three different O-line positions [center, guard, tackle] and is the only player in history to win the Outland and Rimington trophies, the two most prestigious individual awards a lineman can receive. Jones is now a JMA voting committee member. In 2016, college football’s largest trophy went to Iowa, coached by Joe Moore protégé, Kirk Ferentz. The 2017 race was the closest in the three-year history of the award, with Notre Dame narrowly edging the other two finalists, Auburn and Alabama. “The thing voters felt separated Notre Dame’s O-line from the other deserving units was their technique and how they consistently finished their blocks,” said Cole Cubelic, chairman of the voting committee.
David Edwards is a 6’7”. 320-pound junior right tackle for the Wisconsin Badgers. The undisputed leader of an offensive line that last year sprung running back Jonathan Taylor to an FBS record for rushing yards by a freshman, Edwards was named All-America in 2017. This year, the former high school option quarterback hopes to help the Badgers offensive line, dubbed the High Council, win the 2018 Joe Moore Award. “Wisconsin has a proud tradition of producing offensive linemen. Joe Thomas is the best there ever was. Travis Frederick, Kevin Zeitler, and Robert Havenstein are dominant NFL stars. Our unit wants to uphold that tradition – even elevate it – week in and week out. Forget the Heisman, the Joe Moore Award is the most prestigious in college football. Winning it would be a great honor.”
“They love me some of the time, they hate me some of the time, but they’ll kill for me all of the time.” – Joe Moore