Former Johns Hopkins WR Wes Moore on His Accomplishments: “It’s Been With the Help and Support of A Lot Of People Who Refused to Give Up On Me”

July 22, 2010 | Ryan Chell

Wes Moore at Hopkins
Former Johns Hopkins wide receiver Wes Moore, in the beginning stages of his life growing up in Baltimore, was starting down a dark path. After watching his father pass away right before him at the age of 3, with no real father figure or influence in his life, Moore was finding a lot about life from drugs, crime, and his deviant friends.

His mother and grandmother became afraid of his future, so he was sent away to military school. Much as expected, he hated it.

“I tried running away,” Moore told WNST’s Rex Snider on Friday. “At this point I had already run away four times from the school, and after a fifth time I tried to run away, my squad leader came into our room and gave me a map on how to get to a train station.”

“He said my attempts to run away were pretty pathetic. I kept running through the woods to find this train station was and I couldn’t find it. And finally he gave me this map, and I wen out later on that night and tried to use this map to try and to a train station, and this map kept on taking me more and more deeper into the middle of the woods.”

“Eventually I just start crying, cause there’s nothing I wanted more than just to go home. And then I start hearing leaves rustling and I start hearing laughter, and it was my entire chain of command. They followed me out to the middle of the woods, and the map was fake. The map took me out to the middle of nowhere; they just wanted a gauge on how bad I wanted to go home, and I think that night they got their answer.”

But in the end, he was allowed to make a phone call afterward to his mom, and he finally realized that he had a cheering section behind him. He realized he could turn his life around because of the people around him, but he had to take the first step.

“She reminded me on that phone call how many people were rooting for me, and how many people were there supporting me, and who really wanted to help me. But I had to meet them half-way. And how my father was looking down on me, and how proud he was, and that he just wanted me to give it a shot.”

He finally realized that while this school was not going to be easy, it was going to change him into a different individual. But it would be a change that Moore wanted to go through with in order to make him a better man.

“While I hated every minute of it,I literally ran away five times in the first four days, it was a place that really helped to shape my larger identity and helped me think more about the kind of person I wanted to become, and the type of man I wanted to become. And I think really from there, I started to understand all the parts of something bigger.”

Wes Moore

And Wes Moore did become something bigger. He graduated as a regimental commander from the military school, and eventually found his way to Johns Hopkins University. It was there that Moore graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and became was a star receiver for the Blue Jays.

He averaged 25 yards a catch his senior year for the Hopkins, and he said that he learned a lot about life from sports.

He eventually went on to serve a tour in Afghanistan, time in the White House under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a White House Fellow, and he had the distinction of being the only Hopkins football player to earn a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University.

But Moore said he had to stop and take a look at his life the day he was scheduled to graduate from Hopkins. The Baltimore Sun that day wrote a story about his accomplishments, but around the same time the Sun chronicled his life, they also wrote a series of articles about a Wes Moore from the same neighborhood, similar age, and background as the Wes Moore graduating from Hopkins.

Only this Wes Moore,  who along with three others, robbed a jewelry store and killed a police officer. Reading more,the similarities to his background seemed odd to our Moore, so he wanted to dig deeper before, during, and after he headed overseas.

“Here I was going off to England on this full scholarship while the other Wes Moore was heading to a maximum security facility for the rest of his life. This story…this contradiction really haunted me, and it haunted me to the point where I one day reached out to him, and wasn’t sure if he would even write back.”

“But then a month later, I received a note back..from Wes and that one letter eventually turned into a dozen of letters, those dozen of letters turned into dozens of visits. And it was really through that process that I began to learn how much more we had in common than just our name. How much we had in common just on our neighborhood, and what that larger story means to us as a society and what it means to us as a larger country where we have to think about the types of Wes Moore’s that we’re fostering around us.”

And all through this process, the Wes Moore who was out of prison wanted to make sure he gave the incarcerated Wes Moore his due. He wanted to not be judgmental and to be fair, and to see where he went wrong. That promise to his “partner” turned into over 200 hours of interviews and research, and Moore turned his conversations with Wes Moore while he was in prison into the book which he has been promoting, ‘The Other Wes Moore.”

Moore and his story have made appearances on Oprah, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report.

“I really wanted to go through this process, and make it as thorough as possible, because the only way that you can really do justice to this was to A.” Not be judgmental”, but also that you would be accurate. And so I really made sure that I wanted to get all the facts right, and the feel of the story right. I’ve known Wes for about five years, but it only took me two and a half to write the book, so it was a long and arduous process.”

He said the lesson behind the book is that there are points in everyone’s life where there is a fork in the road, and with just a single positive mentor in a young man’s life, that one guiding hand can draw a person down the right path-and a lack of guidance-can steer a young boy down the dark path.

Wes Moore said he-and his other half in prison-should be prime examples of that philosophy.

“I’ve had the honor of serving as an army officer, and serving in the White House as a White House fellow, and so many amazing things. But again, it’s been with the help and support of a lot of people who just refused to give up on me, even though they had no reason to.”

And Wes Moore said one of the first people to take home his message was the incarcerated Wes Moore himself.

“It’s interesting because Wes really had two different reactions when he read the book. The first was that it amazed him how much research that I put into it, having done the hundreds of hours of interviews. and the second reaction that he had was once he got to read about his life in the book, it amazed him how little he’s done with his life.”

And now Moore is out there fighting for make sure there are no more Wes Moores out there that end up in prison, and his book-and the message it conveys-is his tool.

“Right now, I’m working with the book and trying to make sure the lessons of the book that I’m trying to drive home…taking care of one another, and the importance of mentor ship, and the importance of role models, and understanding when second chances become last chances and the choices we make in life, -that’s the things I’m really passionate about.”

And that’s what Moore wanted to re-iterate. This book is so much more than two different Wes Moore’s, where one went left and the other went right.

“The fascinating thing about this, and typically about the reaction to the book, is people realizing this book is so much more than just these two boys. It’s about so much than Baltimore. It’s so much more than about one socio-economic group, or one race of kids.”

“It’s really about all of us, and how the decisions that we make , the people we have in our lives that help us make those decisions, and what the ramifications for making those decisions are, and what they can be.  That’s what’s been so grabbing about all this. Hardly ever do we think about our own lives, and think, if it hadn’t been for this decision or not making this decision, how different things could have turned out.”

“And as I say on the cover of the book, the chilling story is that his story could have been mine, and the tragedy is that my story could have been his.”

And Moore said that while his life may look like its all peachy, he wants to assure his readers and followers that it wasn’t easy as it seems and he was very difficult to work with at times, but it became a lot easier when he took his life into his own hands.

And remember, he was a receiver, so he had some really good ones.

“I’d be lying if I said anything happened overnight cause it didn’t, but there was a switch that started to take place where i started to realize that leadership mattered, and accountability mattered, and responsibility mattered. And that’s where I think I started to do a shift on who I wanted to be and what I wanted to become.”

If you would like to read Wes’ book, it is available at Amazon.

WNST Thanks Wes Moore for spending time sharing his story with us and wish him the best of luck in his continued journey spreading his message!