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Warren Moon grateful that Don James stuck by him

By Brent Stecker

The trials and tribulations that quarterback Warren Moon had to endure on his way to a Hall of Fame career are well documented.

Coming up in an era where black quarterbacks were typically moved to other positions, Moon had to make the most of any opportunity he was afforded to prove that he could be a successful signal-caller. That's why he had to play a year at a junior college after a stellar high-school career in Los Angeles, and it's why he played six years in the Canadian Football League before an NFL team would take a chance on him.

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Don James stuck with Warren Moon despite some early struggles, and the future Hall of Fame quarterback ended his career at Washington with a Rose Bowl victory, a Pac-8 title and a conference-player-of-the-year award. (AP)
Before his pro years, however, Moon was given a chance by Washington coach Don James to quarterback the Huskies in 1976. James, who died Sunday at the age of 80, had to deal with much of the same scrutiny Moon did over the decision, and as Moon told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore" on Monday, it was James' confidence in him that helped him overcome a rocky start in Seattle.

"He gave me a great opportunity to come in and compete for a starting job in the Pac-8 conference, be a quarterback – something a lot of other schools didn't want to recruit me as – and give me an opportunity to compete for that job right away in my first year," Moon said of James.

"I went through some very tough days in my tenure here just because we weren't winning, and I was taking a lot of the blame for that ... and he was taking a lot of criticism for playing me."

A meeting between the two turned out to be a turning point for Moon's career and the Huskies.

"He called me into his office one day and told me, 'Warren, there's a lot of people complaining about me playing you, and you being the guy to lead this football team and don't believe in you. But I just want you to know that I do believe in you, our staff believes in you, and you're gonna be our guy. I just want you to know that with all this other stuff that's swirling around.'

"No question about it, it was some tough days for me when I was feeling like I want to transfer and go somewhere else. ... For him to tell me that he had his total confidence in me just kinda lit a fire under me and gave me a lot of confidence that I'm gonna make this thing work."

As Moon recalled, everything did work out.

"Eventually things did turn around. We ended up winning a Pac-8 championship and winning a Rose Bowl, and the rest is history," he said. "I'm glad I stuck it out, I'm glad he stuck behind me, and that's one of the reasons why he's one of the most influential guys in my career, both college and pro."

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