By Bob Temple
Special to Profootballhof.com
CANTON, Ohio -- Warren Moon's career was about changing perceptions.
In 23 years of professional football that included a record-setting NFL career, Moon helped change the perception of the African American quarterback, of the run-and-shoot offense, and of the age at which players' skills deteriorate, just to name a few.
Moon's journey included a six-year stint in the Canadian Football League followed by a 17 NFL seasons with four different teams, finishing in 2000, when Moon was 44 years old.
The journey reached its conclusion Saturday, when Moon was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the first African-American quarterback to join the exclusive club.
"A lot has been said about me as being the first African American quarterback to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Moon said in his enshrinement speech. "It's a subject that I'm very uncomfortable about sometimes, because I always wanted to be judged as just a quarterback. … I accept the fact that I am the first, but I also remember all those guys who came before me and blazed that trail."
During his amazing career, Moon passed for more than 70,000 yards between the CFL and the NFL, including nearly 49,325 yards in the NFL. When he retired, Moon held the NFL record for most passes completed in a season (404) and still shares the record for most 300-yard passing games in a single season (9) with Dan Marino.
He passed for 4,000 yards in a season four times, including his best season of 1990, when he passed for 4,689 yards and 33 touchdowns and compiled a 96.8 quarterback rating. Moon led the NFL in passing yards twice, made nine trips to the Pro Bowl and led his team to the playoffs nine times.
"I tried over the last six months to wonder if I can belong to this group of people," Moon said, referring to the members of the Hall of Fame. "I'm really starting to feel now like I belong."
But Moon didn't follow the path that many other Hall of Famers did - college standout, high draft pick, stellar NFL career.
"In all of my years as a scout, I can honestly say Warren Moon advanced further - from the end of his college career to what he would ultimately become as a pro - than any other player I have ever analyzed," wrote Gil Brandt, longtime general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, in his column on NFL.com.
Despite leading the University of Washington to the Rose Bowl in 1978, many scouts doubted Moon's ability to operate as a drop-back passer, and he went undrafted.
"It was just a forgone conclusion that quarterback was not in my future in the National Football League," Moon said. "As a young, stubborn person, I was not going to let anyone stop me."
Moon opted to sign with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL.
"I seemed like I was always having to prove myself at that position," Moon said. "It was just a matter of finding someone who was willing to give me that opportunity."
After six years in Canada, including five consecutive Grey Cup championships, Moon made the transition to the NFL. He signed with the Houston Oilers in 1984, becoming the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL at the time.
Moon quickly became synonymous with the Oilers franchise, and blossomed as an NFL quarterback when the team switched to the run-and-shoot offense under Jack Pardee.
"I really had to be at the top of my game, because in order for that offense to work, the quarterback really has to be on each and every weekend," Moon said in his press conference Friday. "It puts a lot of onus on the quarterback. I like that pressure. I like that challenge."
In 10 years in Houston, Moon set 16 regular-season and 10 postseason records and took the Oilers to the playoffs seven times.
Moon was traded at age 38 to the Minnesota Vikings. In his first two seasons with the Vikings, Moon again surpassed 4,000 yards, setting 10 team passing records there.
"I know I had a lot of football left in me when I left Houston," Moon said. "I never knew how long I was going to play the game. I just played as long as my heart told me to play and my body let me play. I was a fan of it. I just loved competing."
He moved to Seattle in 1997 and passed for 3,678 yards in the first of his two years there. Moon's career ended with two seasons as a backup in Kansas City.
"I wasn't going to leave because I knew once you leave, you don't go back," Moon said. "You play as long as your body and your heart tells you. Then when it's time to move on, you move on."