Moments after Georgia Tech routed North Carolina 24-7 late last month, several Yellow Jackets mentioned that a pregame speech delivered by team chaplain Derrick Moore inspired them. This weekend against Virginia, they could need inspiration again in a key ACC battle.
Thanks to YouTube, some know Moore as Georgia Tech’s fiery pregame speaker who breaks concrete blocks with sledgehammers to drive home his point. While the former Atlanta Falcons player also possesses a calm, inviting side to his persona, he is most importantly a staunch supporter of his athletes. Before last week’s 28-23 win over higher-ranked Virginia Tech, Moore spoke briefly to The Telegraph to give a glimpse into the man who brings out the Yellow Jackets’ emotion:
QUESTION: How long have you been at Georgia Tech, and what brought you here?
ANSWER: I’m in my eighth year at Georgia Tech. I was fortunate that when (former head coach) Chan Gailey came to Georgia Tech in 2002 that there was a desire to bring someone aboard who could help serve as a mentor to the Georgia Tech players, and that was what I was when I came here. I’ve been here ever since.
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QUESTION: I want to ask about accountability. After the UNC game, players credited you with getting them excited for the game. They said your message on holding themselves accountable and winning the game for themselves and no one else, got them inspired. Why give that message then?
ANSWER: It was very important for them to hear that message, I felt, because I thought they should know a team is only as good as the pieces that make it up. They should know that every part, every piece has value. Accountability is where every man knows the responsibility and the role that he plays. I said that if they understand that, and understand how important they are to each other, then the propensity of us to succeed will be great.
And that’s not just something that applies to football. Because in life, we have to be accountable to ourselves and to one another, as well.
I challenged the young men by saying that playing football is not a selfish act. It’s not about me and what I can do. It’s about having the people who come to battle with you and knowing that they and you are doing everything you can to win, and will win. That really resonated with them and they really took that lesson to heart and went out and got the job done.
QUESTION: Do you typically provide a lesson or teachable moment in your pregame speeches?
ANSWER: It’s so intertwined. I recognize things that happen around the team during the week and try to capture things that may happen with them. For instance, I may use little pieces Coach (Paul) Johnson used in practice or pieces the other coaches used during the week and make those relevant to the game.
You see, we’re dealing with 18-21-year-olds, and the thing you have to remember is that they operate in the now. (Laughs). They don’t see the future. They don’t see 10 years from now, and often they even forget yesterday. (Laughs).
So they operate in the moment, in the present, and you have to remember to bring those tools with you when dealing with young people. But yes, I do like to give lessons (in pregame speeches). They get football out of it, but they also get some life out of it, as well.
Often, I’ll get former athletes or former players call me after they’ve graduated and they’ll talk about how (the speeches) have influenced them even now. They’ll call up and remember a certain speech I gave before a particular game and talk about how that has positively affected them in the business sector or in their more personal lives. That’s really what it’s about.
The means to the end is the game. But the end itself is life.
QUESTION: Where does your own inspiration come from? Did you grasp it during your NFL days?
ANSWER: I grew up in south Georgia and played high school ball at Monroe High in Albany. I was actually a walk-on at Troy. I was a late-bloomer on the field and didn’t really hit my stride until later on. I had talent, but I needed something beyond that to succeed.
But all my life has been inspiration. Through the things I’ve seen and experienced from growing up, I learned how to start using the internal and also the external for ways to positively impact my life. That’s been my story and now, I’m able to use those tools to help other people get a grasp on inspiration through divine and religious means.
My whole career has been about motivating myself. It wasn’t just talent alone that allowed me to play seven years in the NFL (for the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions). I needed something deeper. It was inspiration and motivation. And I wouldn’t have made it without them.
QUESTION: How did the idea of using a sledgehammer when speaking come about? (Go to Coley Harvey’s blog at macon.com to watch a clip of Moore’s speech before the 2006 North Carolina game. The sledgehammer makes an appearance).
ANSWER: Everything I do is original. I’m a big-time student of the people around me. I like to watch the players, and so everything is inspired by them. I try to figure out where they are in that moment. And for that game against North Carolina on the clip that has circulated, I felt they were in a moment that needed something like that. I felt a sledgehammer was appropriate in relating what they ought to feel for that game. That was the focus of that game. Plus, football is about personality. You need to find something that creates a particular personality.
Because in the speech — I’m going on memory now — but I think I said the words, ‘Power, speed, wits, smarts.’ I was going into things that they needed to have to beat that opponent; traits that seem to define a sledgehammer. I think I remember saying I felt they should be like a sledgehammer because when it hits most things, it destroys them. I felt we needed that type of mind-set for that game.