Brandon Moore had a tough time holding back the tears.
The former New York Jets guard was officially saying goodbye to the game he loves, and retiring with the only NFL team for which he ever played.
”For a guy that was undrafted and came in through the back door,” Moore said Friday, ”to be escorted out the front door at the end of your career is a great accomplishment.”
Moore was invited back to the team facility to retire as a member of the Jets, officially ending a playing career in which he spent 11 seasons with the franchise. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois in 2002, Moore successfully made the switch from defensive tackle to right guard.
”You don’t realize it when you’re playing how stressful or wound up this job makes you,” Moore said. ”To get a break from that, I’m enjoying it. I spent my whole career looking over my shoulder, waiting for a guy to try to take my job.”
Moore was selected for his only Pro Bowl after the 2011 season, but was widely considered one of the best players at his position.
”I know a lot about the Jet history and, in my opinion, he’ll go down as the best guard in the history of the Jets franchise,” coach Rex Ryan said. ”And if not, he’d certainly be in that conversation as a player.”
With wife Regina and former teammate and current Jets right tackle Austin Howard sitting in the crowd, Moore received a framed No. 65 jersey at a news conference during which he fought back tears at times while reflecting on his career. It was a bit surprising to see, especially from a guy who was known for a tough exterior and even-keeled approach.
”Now that I’m done playing,” the 33-year-old Moore said, ”I root for the Jets even more than I did when I was running out the tunnel on Sundays.”
He was not brought back by the Jets in the offseason, and Moore agreed to sign with Dallas during the summer. But instead, he opted to retire a day later, preferring to remain with his family despite getting a few other inquiries about playing.
”I just wasn’t willing to commit all the things that go into being the Brandon Moore, the player I thought I was in my head,” Moore said.
While some might remember Moore for being the lineman whose backside quarterback Mark Sanchez ran into — the ”Butt-Fumble” — against New England last season, he made his mark on the game by being reliable and effective, season after season.
He ended his career having started 137 straight games, and was a major part of the Jets’ success in going to consecutive AFC title games in 2009 and 2010 under Ryan.
”Some of my best years were here playing for Rex,” Moore said, fighting back tears while speaking to his red-eyed coach. ”All you want to do is win. We didn’t quite finish it, but we were going to die trying. I just want to tell him, `Thank you.”’
After Moore signed with the Jets in 2002, he was waived after training camp before being signed to the team’s practice squad later that year. He spent that winter playing for the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe, was re-signed by the Jets in 2003 and carved out a solid career.
He will lead the team into MetLife Stadium before warmups Sunday, as serve as the Jets’ honorary captain for their game against the New Orleans Saints.
”I look at it now,” Moore said, ”and I had the time of my life.”