A Once Dominant Defender Continues Success with Oregon Athletics Behind the Scenes
A forgotten three-year starter of the 90’s Oregon defense remains a valuable “behind the scenes” part of Ducks Athletics to this day. A rare recruit out of Alaska, Dietrich Moore opted to become a Duck, flying south for the winter in 1996 to settle in Eugene. Little did he know at the time, he would go on to shine as a Duck in ways he least expected.
Wisely recruited by Oregon, Dietrich Moore immediately began to make his presence felt as a true freshman. Midway through the 1996 season, Oregon put him in to assist the struggling Rich Stubler defense, desperate to find a way to shore up the gaps in the “edge defense” scheme that Coach Stubler had brought with him from the CFL.
Moore (a.k.a. “Dee-Moe” by his team) had a fumble recovery that played a huge part in ending a five-game losing streak against Arizona, followed by nine tackles and one pass deflection in the home finale of his freshman year versus California. Moore’s talents earned him starting safety midway through the 1997 season, and a transition to Outside Linebacker as a junior in 1998 (where he started every game as a junior and senior). Moore’s speed and defensive experience gave Oregon a huge advantage with him at Outside Linebacker, making him a hybrid-like linebacker/safety to roam the field.
With Moore now an employee of the University of Oregon, I had the chance to catch up with him to relive his glory days and learn some of the little-known facts about his collegiate days at Oregon and his continued contributions to the program.
Q: WHAT MADE YOU COME TO OREGON?
At one point I had about 13 schools that were recruiting me throughout the process; and Oregon was the last to start recruiting me. What made it kind of a neat situation, (I think a blessing in disguise) my second cousin lives here. I met him for the first time when I was a junior in high school (when he came to Alaska for a conference), and he kept telling me ‘you need to come and be a Duck!’ I was like, ‘Oregon, WHAT?!’ ‘Who are the Ducks?!’ ‘Where is this Eugene, Oregon you’re talking about?!’
He left with one of my highlight tapes and next thing you know (probably about a week later,) I got a five-page handwritten letter from Charlie Waters (who was the Defensive Coordinator here at the time) and so instrumental in the Gang Green Defense that I learned quickly about. With Oregon being the last school to recruit me, to get a handwritten letter from a coach at a university really put Oregon on my map; especially after receiving generic typed up letters from all these other colleges. I knew I needed to learn more about this place. I’ll say that letter pretty much sold me on this program, and it immediately jumped into my top three.
From there, it was just taking a few recruiting trips. I liked the place, coaches, players; but the thing that I think really sold me on Oregon was that they believed in me no matter what. I sustained a pretty significant ankle injury in high school and a lot of schools stopped calling me. Oregon basically said ‘we know what you can do, we believe in you, and so if you decide to come here we’d love to have you. That belief in me, and the fact that the coaches were willing to take a chance on someone that essentially had a significant injury and didn’t play the way they wanted their senior year was something special. I appreciated it, so I chose Oregon.
Q: WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST GAME? WHAT POSITION WERE YOU? DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO BE PLAYING THAT DAY OR WAS IT SPRUNG ON YOU ALL OF A SUDDEN?
“The fourth game of my freshman year, the coaches brought me out of my redshirt status. My first game came against Arizona State down in the desert, I’ll never forget it, I was playing safety at the time. My first play was a goal line play in a goal line package I was part of. Jake ‘The Snake’ Plummer was the QB there at the time. I blitzed off the edge, he had play-action away from me, and I started to follow play-action; then he pulled outside and away from me. That was the first thing I did wrong! He ended up throwing a touchdown. Coach (Stubler) didn’t yell at me or get mad, he just basically asked me what I did wrong and to tell him what I saw. He asked me if that was the right thing, and I was like ‘NOPE!’ So, my first play was one that didn’t go right; but that’s what happens when you’re young and inexperienced. But, it’s part of the growing pains, and I like to think things got better after that.”
(Note: Arizona State was a dominant team in 1996 with Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman; winning the matchup against Oregon 48-27 and finishing 11-0 regular season and falling just short of winning the national championship)
“I knew I would play that day, because I was put in a specific package, so I knew I would be in the game at one point. As they got closer and closer to scoring the touchdown, I was waiting for the defensive package (that we used at that time) to be called down in the goal line area; so I was just waiting it out. I pretty much started playing immediately, played the last seven games, and had significant playing time with a lot of growing pains. Looking back, I still wish I could have redshirted. I think that would have made me a better player, but at the same time I think I became a good player because I think I was thrown into the fire and kind of forced to figure things out that way. So, things worked out for a reason; given I became a three year starter after that year.”
Q: WHAT IS THE TRANSITION LIKE FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO COLLEGE AND HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO ACCLIMATE?
The transition from high school to college was a rough one. The recruiting process is always tricky. They tell you to choose an institution because of the coaches, but obviously you have to choose an institution partly because of the coaches with the understanding that one day they could be there; the next day they could be gone. That was certainly the case with me. When I heard that Charlie Waters was resigning and there was going to be a new coach, I was disappointed, but at the same time I knew he had to for family reasons, family first.
My first two weeks during fall camp were rough, mostly because I came in with expectations that things were going to be a certain way, and they weren’t. But, over time, I started to feel more comfortable with what was going on. I was really behind the times – coming out of high school, the only thing we played was zone defense. So then when I came here as a safety, they asked me to play man-to-man coverage and do all these things that I’d never done in high school; that made the transition tough. But one thing I’ve always had as a benefit to me is mental toughness. I remained mentally tough through that rough transition patch. Everything happens so much faster at this level than in high school.
For me, I was really wanting to be accepted, being the only guy from Alaska! Everyone was looking at me like ‘you guys play football in Alaska?!’ At first I felt like an outsider, but I was quickly accepted because my abilities on the field quickly legitimized my stature within the program and how guys viewed me. For me, my experience wasn’t an easy transition, but I think it made me a tougher person and definitely a better football player.
WHAT WAS THE MINDSET OF BEING A LINEBACKER VERSUS A SAFETY WHEN YOU CONVERTED? HOW DID YOUR ADJUSTMENT PROCESS GO? WERE YOU MORE LIKE A HYBRID POSITION?
The switch from Strong Safety to Outside Linebacker was quite unique. For me, it was rather smooth – I think because at that time I was an experienced player (1998.) I had a feel for the game, a pretty good feel for our defense as a whole, so the more you know about your defense as a whole, as long as you can athletically do it, you can play any position you want. So, making the transition, I had the mindset that I was ready. I was a little bummed at first when they moved me. Then I realized that I was still going to be playing/starting; but they were trying to get more out of me to cover more athletes on the field, that was a sacrifice I was certainly willing to make for the team.
Our defensive coaches changed from my second to third year (as did our defense) so my position did become a hybrid. A hybrid is a position that blends two different positions. So, I was essentially listed as an Outside Linebacker. The type of person that plays my position (called the “SAM Linebacker”) is someone who fits more the stature of a safety that has safety athleticism, but can play close to the line; can take on 300 lb. linemen and fullbacks coming to block, blitz off the edge, and cover receivers from time to time. There were times I would cover slot receivers effectively, and then the next play I’m blitzing off the edge, then taking on a lineman/fullback the next play. Not many safeties can do all those things, so that’s where the hybrid position came from. I loved playing that position, because I had so much flexibility and did so many different things within the defensive scheme.
[Note: By mid-season 1997, Moore was the outright starter at strong safety, finishing the year fourth in tackles with 59, despite starting only seven games. In 1998 Moore as a junior was moved to Outside Linebacker under new Defensive Coordinator Bob Foster, where he was a “hybrid” linebacker while still playing as a safety roaming the field. Moore finished 1998 very strong, starting each game and ranking second place defensively with 81 tackles, three pass breakups, one interception (for a touchdown,) two quarterback sacks, and nine tackles for loss. As a senior in 1999, Moore finished fourth in total defense with 66 tackles (11 for loss,) five QB sacks, and five breakups; to finish with 217 career tackles for 96 yards for loss.]
Q: HOW DID HAVING THREE DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS IN FOUR YEARS AFFECT YOUR CAREER AS A DEFENDER?
It was tough, especially in the beginning. The toughest part was going from Coach Stubler’s defense to Coach Foster’s defense. But one thing about Coach Stubler – I really think the way he taught really made me a tougher/better football player more than anything. Just his personality, that was just what he did. He was the one that initially moved me to the line of scrimmage, so I think that definitely made me a tougher/better football player. I respect him because he gave me an opportunity to play beyond college in the Canadian Football after graduation. So, that was great.
When Foster came in, he was an older guy, but he was very energetic and he basically changed everything that we did defensively. He’s the one who brought in that “hybrid position,” so that transition was easy because I felt like I wasn’t any longer bound by specific things; rather I had so much flexibility in terms of what I could do. When Coach Aliotti came in when I was a senior, we were an experienced group with Matt Smith, Peter Sirmon, Brandon McLemore, Michael Fletcher, and myself. When he came in after coaching true freshmen all over the defense at UCLA; to come back to Oregon where he had an experienced group I think worked great for him. And for us as well, because he kept the system the same. He was very energetic, was superior at motivating, and carried on and fit in.
The unique thing about that was, my senior year we basically had two defensive coordinators! Coach Foster stayed on staff as a position coach, while Aliotti took over as D-Coordinator, so we had the best of both worlds. Having three defensive coordinators in four years isn’t ideal; but I think our situation was unique enough to where, though it was tough in the beginning, having coordinators that pretty much kept our schemes the same while incorporating their own twists worked great for us.
Q: TALK ABOUT THE MENTAL APPROACH IN FILM STUDY FOR YOU INDIVIDUALLY, AND FOR THE TEAM AS A WHOLE.
I was a student of the game. Fortunately for me, I was also a pretty good student in college. My ability to break down film was big; breaking down film is challenging. Especially when you’re watching yourself on tape, it’s really easy to watch the good things you’re doing, and sometimes you don’t know what to look for. Don Pellum, my linebacker coach, taught me how to be a student of the game. He and I used to watch film together and he would tell me, ‘this is how you watch film’ while pointing out the keys to look for. So I was self-scouting; looking at the things that I need to do based on how I’ve been taught to do those things; and making sure that’s the same things I see on film. If not, I was looking to correct that.
When scouting other teams, we were taught to look at a lot of things teams are doing from a play standpoint, or based on down & distance. To become an intuitive football player, you have to find tendencies. Teams have to find tendencies no matter what sport when it comes to certain situations in the game. On early downs (first and second) you always make notes of plays they like to run in those situations, like do they choose passing on second & 8 and what percentage of the time? It really helps you play the game in that regard.
For me, since I played so close to the line of scrimmage, looking at small things helped… like is a lineman going to tip off when they run this way, is he going to pull, or what. Also, listening to our defensive linemen; if they are yelling out a pass play, everything permeates throughout the defense; and vice versa – if I see something I’ll yell out the keys and it helps the whole defense. So film study really helps the whole defense. It all starts with that, it’s a game of inches and a game of percentages. That’s where the film study comes in. Watching film year-round is crucial, and I had to use VHS tapes back then, unlike things online now! I think that’s important to understand lots of time was sacrificed, but honing in was the key to success. Watching film, taking care of body outside of practice, etc. Many times my friends were out doing their things, but I had to stay in and do my homework for school and football studies, that’s basically how it went.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SINGLE PLAY YOU HAD? WHAT MAY FANS NOT KNOW ABOUT IT?
This one is really special, not just because of the play, but for what happened the day before: My favorite play happened in 1998 against Arizona State at Autzen Stadium. We were already up pretty big in the game, and it was at the point where things were already getting out of hand a little, and a question of when the coaches were going to pull the starters. I knew my time was going to be up soon; and then there was a pass play.
Arizona State was driving close to our 30 yard line and marching beyond. Quarterback rolls out and we’re playing the zone, and I’m just moving in my zone with the QB like we’re taught. He throws the ball, I read it, jump up and snatch it up! Then, it’s off to the races, 78 yards for the touchdown! And, it ended up being the play of the game; so that was also special. I still have the game-ball today (with the Arizona State logo on it!), so that’s a long lasting memory!
The interesting thing about that was: I talked to my mom on the phone the day before at one of her friend’s houses. Her friend said something in the background, telling my mom to tell me to get an interception and/or score a touchdown!! My mom then made the comment that she envisioned my first interception going back for a touchdown…and then, the next day it really ended up happening!! It’s a nice memory to have to go along with something that ended up being such a big deal. I always enjoy sharing that story, and say how my mom called it!
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR HAPPIEST MEMORIES FROM YOUR TIME AS A DUCK?
“My final play, the Sun Bowl of 1999.”
[Note: Final game of Moore’s career. On Minnesota’s final drive with Oregon leading 24-20; Moore’s hit on the Minnesota QB caused him to fumble, which Saul Patu recovered to seal the victory.]
“I thought about that when I reflected back on the very first play I had as a college athlete; how my career started and how it ended. That was a huge win for us – just to be able to make a play like that at a time when our team needed someone to step up and make a play was a great feeling. It was phenomenal, and made for an entertaining game. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better way to end my career. That along with the 2.5 sacks that game I had, and doing what I was doing being all over the place as I was known for. That was the name I had made for myself, and I was just glad I was able to finish things in that manner.
Other than that, Autzen Stadium has some of the greatest fans in the world. I’ll never forget the first time I ran into the stadium (September 7, 1996 vs. Nevada.) You go out there for warm-ups and there aren’t many people yet an hour before the game. You leave the field, that’s when the stadium fills up before you rush out right before kickoff.
We were coming down the tunnel and I was redshirting at the time so I wasn’t even going to be playing. So, they introduced us and we all ran out; then when I heard that crowd explode for the first time – it was probably the most phenomenal thing. I won a state championship in high school, but there were probably only 2,500 fans there! Being on the defense when the crowd gets the loudest was always fun, and really fed into what we did defensively when the crowd got into it and loud, then it just took on a life of its own.
It was great my last two years never losing a game at Autzen Stadium! That streak started the last few games of my sophomore year. We didn’t lose a single game my final two years; and the streak continued on from there. To be able to be the catalyst for starting that and being able to take part in that was really special; something a lot of teams/players don’t get to experience.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE GAME FROM YOUR CAREER?
“I’d have to go more with the Arizona State game my senior year, how we were titled the ‘comeback kids.’ ”
[Note: In 1999, Arizona State took a 17-13 lead with 1:04 to play. Joey Harrington (backup at the time) came in to lead Oregon on a miraculous 55 second drive, capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass to Marshaun Tucker with only nine seconds remaining.]
Fans were literally walking out of the stadium. When we rallied and ended up coming back, there was a mad rush of people coming back into the stadium, then we ended up winning on that pass to Marshaun Tucker. I remember the pass on that corner route, it was a play we ran all the time and were always successful at. I still keep in touch with Marshaun today, and that comes up from time to time.
I think that was special because it really bonded our team; it really helped us in the end. We had other close games, but I think it really solidified the belief in our fans with that specific Ducks squad that they started to understand that no game is ever over until it’s over! That was a fun game, because in some sense we had no business winning. But, we continued to win, and it made us a better football team.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR FUNNIEST MOMENT IN YOUR TIME AT OREGON?
I think one of my funniest memories was of Michael Fletcher. Every year, there was a tradition of each player putting on a rookie show. All the rookies have to get up during fall camp, and do skits. Our sophomore year, he and I didn’t have to do the rookie show that year, Mike Fletcher did it just for fun. He made a video impersonating Rich Stubler! You had to know who Rich Stubler was and how he was to understand it, but to watch Fletch do the impersonation – he hit it right on!! Fletcher was always the impersonator, he was so good at impersonating everyone on the team. He notices the small things people do and things about people; so it’s easier for him to poke fun at people and the small things they do. It took a while, people really thought it was Stubler!
I remember we were all sitting there, and then this video comes on, kind of like an interview after a practice/game. It actually took a minute to realize it was Fletch; because he had had sunglasses, a hat, and a towel around his neck. Rich Stubler always did that; even if it was 95 degrees outside, he had a sweatshirt on but had a towel wrapped on top! Looking back, that was one of my funniest memories, and we all fell on the floor laughing! Those are the funniest moments – the shows we saw at the rookie shows, especially Fletch’s!!
Q: WHAT HAS YOUR LIFE BEEN LIKE SINCE YOUR CAREER AS A DUCK?
I graduated college, then had a few tryouts with the CFL and the XFL, which only lasted for a year. After I graduated, I came to the conclusion that I needed to move on from football, as I had my degree and that was the most important thing. I came back here to Oregon and did some graduate work with freshmen football players in the Athletic Department for about a year. I worked one-on-one with newcomers to help their transition.
I took graduate courses along the way and enjoyed the experience, but it wasn’t what I felt was beneficial to me. I knew in my mind I wanted to coach someday, so I ended up getting a job in town at Marist High School in 2001. I did that a year, then was hired by Chris Miller (former Oregon QB) at South Eugene in 2002 to be the defensive coordinator. I enjoyed the coaching experience so much, I thought why not pursue it as a career.
A year after that, I ended up at the UO in 2003 as a Defensive Graduate Assistant Coach; working with Nick Aliotti, Don Pellum, Steve Greatwood, and Michael Gray. For two of those years, I was convinced I wanted to be a college football coach. It really came down to my final season (2005) I had to think about applying everywhere for coaching jobs. I thought about it, but I just decided a college coaching lifestyle wasn’t for me. When I thought about having a family and settling down; that was kind of what was the final decision. I loved coaching and respect what the guys do at that level, it just wasn’t essentially what I wanted to do.
Then literally in passing, I ran into my current boss at the Casanova Center when I was coaching. He knew I was finishing up my coaching internship and he said he had a position opening up as a tutor coordinator in the Services for Student Athletes Department. It sounded like something I’d enjoy, as I enjoyed my previous experience working with student athletes. I’ve been here ever since, I just completed my sixth year as an academic advisor, and am now one of two Associate Directors.
DIETRICH MOORE TODAY:
Following a successful four year career at Oregon, Moore has been very actively involved with behind the scenes of Oregon Athletics. A successful Graduate Assistant Coach from 2003-2005 while pursuing his Master’s in Educational Leadership; Moore completed graduate school and continued his work with Student Athletes as he was hired by the Services for Student Athletes in 2005. Ever since, Moore has aided several generations of athletes in their journeys to complete their education at the University of Oregon. Aside from his career, Dietrich is married and settled in Eugene with his wife Myia of nearly four years; and son Drayden, almost 2. Student Athletes at the new state-of-the-art John Jaqua Center can always turn to “Dee Moe” for assistance for the academic side to their collegiate athletic careers for guidance, tutoring, class schedule planning, advice, and ideas on how to succeed on and off the field. No one knows better what it means to be a successful student athlete than someone who actually was one, like Dietrich Moore.