ARLINGTON, Texas — If someone came up to you and asked who was the most recent player to throw a touchdown pass in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, your mind might automatically jump to the …
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ARLINGTON, Texas — If someone came up to you and asked who was the most recent player to throw a touchdown pass in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, your mind might automatically jump to the NFL.
You might answer with the Cowboys’ Andy Dalton (started nine games in 2020), Philadelphia Eagles starting QB Jalen Hurts (Dallas’ Week 17 opponent) or even the Cowboys’ $160 million man Dak Prescott, who was hurt most of last season.
If so, you’d be wrong.
The correct answer is a little closer to home: it’s Michael Moore, quarterback of the Chatham Central Bears, who threw a 63-yard touchdown pass in Arlington’s $1.15 billion architectural masterpiece on May 17, five months after the Cowboys’ 2020 season came to an end.
Donning a navy blue jersey and his white Chatham Central helmet — the vibrant red Bears logo popping in the stadium’s bright lights — Moore led the East against the West in Dallas’ Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, hosted at AT&T Stadium.
Late in the game, Moore threw a 63-yard bomb to Grassfield High School (Virginia) wide receiver Demani Ward, sealing a 42-29 win for the East and putting the cherry on top of a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
For a student-athlete from the small-town Bear Creek, getting to play at one of the country’s most recognizable sports venues is something most can only dream of.
“It was one of the coolest things that I’ve ever done, especially in sports, in my life,” Moore said following a baseball game against Jordan-Matthews the day after the Blue-Grey game. “It was so awesome. … Anything you could imagine it’d be, it was that and more.”
The process to be selected for the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl starts with the Blue-Grey combines.
To participate, a student-athlete must be nominated for one of the combines via a form on its website. Once invited, players attend the combine, where evaluators look at each player’s skillset and measurables to determine who would be best suited to play in one of the four bowl games.
In Moore’s case, he attended a combine in Greensboro his junior year, performed well and was subsequently invited to one of the larger Blue-Grey combines at the Washington Football Team’s training facility in Ashburn, Virginia.
Then, after a year of waiting, he got the call — two weeks before the game was scheduled to be played.
“I was stoked man,” wrote Moore in a text message to the News + Record. “As soon as I got the call I knew it would be the best experience and a great chance to show what I have.”
With his invitation, Moore became one of 48 players selected to represent the Eastern U.S. in the game, including one of six players from North Carolina and one of four quarterbacks on the roster.
“It’s awesome (to be one of 48 players),” Moore said. “It’s such a great feeling.”
The week of Moore’s trip to Dallas was hectic, to say the least.
In addition to being the team’s star quarterback, Moore also acts as a pitcher for Chatham Central’s baseball team, which is in the midst of a strong 6-2 campaign this season.
Two weeks ago, on May 13, Moore had a career game, throwing a no-hitter and hitting a walk-off grand slam to trigger the mercy rule in an 11-0 win over the South Stanly Rowdy Rebel Bulls. The following night, he played an integral role in a 9-2 conference win over the Gray Stone Day Knights by hitting a double and driving in three runs.
Then, it was time to hop on a flight.
Moore and his father, Alan, flew out early Saturday morning and arrived in Hurst, Texas — the home of L.D. Bell High School, where Team East practiced — just in time for him to register, meet some of his coaches and get to work.
Playing in any sort of all-star game typically comes with its share of challenges, namely trying to develop team chemistry between a bunch of players who haven’t met each other before — hence why every minute of practice matters.
On Sunday, after a tough practice battle with the other two available quarterbacks — Daron Bryden from Bloomfield High School (Connecticut) and Damien Flores from Swansboro High School (North Carolina) — Team East’s offensive coordinator and NFL veteran trainer, Rodney Beasley, gave Moore some good news.
“The offensive coordinator actually told him that all three quarterbacks were throwing very well … and that he’d probably just draw the starter out of a hat,” Alan Moore said, laughing. “But after Sunday’s practice, he took Michael to the side and told him he earned the start.”
So it was set: the next day, May 17, Moore would be the starting quarterback on the Dallas Cowboys’ iconic field, blue star and all.
Moore and the rest of his teammates took Greyhound buses to the stadium — as if it were a typical NFL Sunday — ahead of the big game, arriving hours before kick-off to allow them the opportunity to warm up and get a couple of extra reps in before showtime.
Once noon rolled around, Alan estimated there were anywhere from 3-4,000 people in the stands, easily the largest crowd his son had ever played in front of.
“I couldn’t really believe how big the place was … when you walk in, it’s just immaculate and it was really, really first-class,” Alan said. “And to look out there and see Michael, your son, it was really just surreal. I couldn’t believe it was happening. … To see him out there in that environment, on an NFL field, in front of all of those people and cameras, it was surreal, it sure was.”
The game itself was intense. This wasn’t your typical all-star game or NFL Pro Bowl. These kids, many of them showcasing their talents for scouts, recruiters and college coaches, gave plenty of effort in a contest where the final score wasn’t necessarily important.
The East rotated its quarterbacks every series, meaning that by the time the game was over, Moore had led his team on seven offensive possessions.
Early on, there were plenty of struggles.
The team’s starting center got hurt on the first day of practice, which led to a guard taking over snapping duties for the remainder of the trip, including on game day.
In the first three Moore-led possessions, the East turned the ball over three times, twice on interceptions, the third via fumbled snap. On both the first interception and the fumble, the snap was at Moore’s feet instead of his chest, throwing the play off from the get-go.
“He had a couple of early turnovers, but honestly they were just rolling the ball back to him,” Alan said. “If the snap on the first one would have been to him, he had the guy open for a touchdown and he would’ve hit him, but the timing of the play was off.”
On Moore’s fourth drive, in the third quarter, he led the East down the field with a hurry-up style of offense, gashing the defense for chunk play after chunk play, including a couple of nice throws to wide receiver Davion Fields of Old Bridge High School (New Jersey).
Moore was starting to find his flow.
The drive was capped off by a seven-yard touchdown run by running back Willie Edmunds of George Washington High School (Virginia) to give the East a 28-20 lead.
The snaps never stopped being an issue, though, as many of them were so high that Moore — even at 6-foot-5 — was still having to jump up to catch them. On the first play of Moore’s next drive, in the fourth quarter, the snap sailed over his head and flew out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety for the West.
However, Moore was saving his best for last.
On his final drive, with the East sitting on a 35-29 lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, he stepped back as Ward streaked down the sideline and got behind a pair of defenders. He let the ball rip, landing perfectly in Ward’s arms around the West’s 35-yard-line, who used his speed to take it the rest of the way to the house.
The beautiful 63-yard touchdown pass acted as the nail in the coffin for the West, giving the East a 42-29 win.
“We had a first-and-10 and they thought we were just going to run the clock out,” Moore said. “We called a play-action and hit on a deep ball for about 65 and that kind of sealed it up.”
“I was just like, ‘I can’t believe this,’” Alan added with a chuckle. “It was like you had to teach yourself to wake up, but there it was. I had to look around for flags to make sure. That was really cool.”
Moore is verbally committed to attend Catawba College in Salisbury, where he’ll play football for the Indians this fall.
As was the case for many Class of 2021 high school seniors, the recruiting process was rocky for him over the last year, primarily in part to the NCAA granting senior student-athletes an extra year of eligibility to make up for time lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools simply don’t have the roster space and scholarships available to accommodate another class this season.
Despite not garnering as much recruiting interest as he likely deserved, Moore appeared optimistic about joining the Catawba football family, praising the coaching staff and the way they treated him on his campus visit.
“Recruiting has been kind of slow for me, but I finally got something (from Catawba) and I went down there and loved it,” Moore said. “And the coaches wanted me there, so it just felt right.”
His weekend in Texas — most notably that final touchdown pass in front of a loud, exuberant crowd — was the perfect way to cement an impressive career at Chatham Central.
Moore finishes his four-year varsity stint with the Bears as a four-time Yadkin Valley All-Conference selection at quarterback and the 2020-21 YVC Offensive Player of the Year.
He still has some left in the tank, however, with five baseball games left on the Bears’ schedule, not including a possible postseason run. As goes the life of a three-sport athlete.