Virginia assistant Shawn Moore adjusting to his new job

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 12, 2010; 12:08 AM

CHARLOTTESVILLE - The woman who works the stir-fry station on Tuesday nights at the John Paul Jones Arena cafeteria knows Shawn Moore is a man of habit. Each week, the Virginia wide receivers coach walks through the door around 7 p.m. and heads straight for her line. He needn't place an order. She knows he'll have chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and green peppers, same as always.

Moore takes his food and grabs a seat, and for the next hour - until the cafeteria closes at 8 - he'll chat with whoever walks into the room. During his first six months on the job, Moore said, he doubted whether coaching at Virginia was the right fit for him. He missed living in the heart of the District, and he missed his old job as an administrator and assistant football coach at St. Albans. But most of all he missed being near his son, Michael Moore, a junior defensive end and tight end at DeMatha.

Stir-fry night doesn't erase that longing, but it helps provide the structure to which Moore has clung. He lost a measure of control over his life when he joined first-year Coach Mike London's staff in January, but his set schedule has led to contentment and deepened relationships with the players he guides on the field.

"Now that I'm in a routine, I actually enjoy" coaching college football, said Moore, who starred at Virginia as a quarterback in the late 1980s and early '90s. "I can see this being kind of long-term."

On Friday night, Moore will break from his routine. DeMatha plays St. John's in the first round of the WCAC playoffs, and for just the second time this season, Moore will be able to attend one of his son's games. Virginia hosts Maryland on Saturday at Scott Stadium.

Although Moore recruits the D.C. region, in-person time with his son remains sparse. Moore usually drives to or through the District on Thursday nights in preparation for high school visits the following day. If their schedules allow, father and son will meet for a meal or a conversation after DeMatha's classes let out for the weekend. Moore then makes the return trip to Charlottesville, 130 miles away.

"I miss being there and having that face-to-face, day-to-day interaction," Moore said. "It's hard. It really is. So any opportunity that I get to recruit and come up, I don't necessarily like recruiting all the time. But a lot of times, if I'm going to be recruiting in that area, it gives me an opportunity to see him."

The physical distance has forced each Moore to mature in different ways. Before Shawn moved, Michael lived with him during the weekdays at his condo at Ninth and M streets NW, right next to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Michael walked to the Metro and rode the green line to the West Hyattsville stop, where a shuttle bus took him the rest of the way to school.

This year, Michael wakes up at 6 a.m. each morning and drives the used Nissan Altima that Shawn bought for him to DeMatha from his mother's home in Centreville, Md., on the Eastern Shore, a 75-minute drive. Kimberly Moseley, Moore's ex-wife, initially was not keen on her 17-year-old son driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge twice a day. The experience has not been completely smooth - Michael has received one speeding ticket and been in two minor accidents - but overall, both of Michael's parents are proud of the responsibility he has demonstrated in recent months.

Michael is "in a rhythm," Moseley said. "He knows what time to get up and get off to school, and we don't have to wake him up in the morning, and we don't have to double-check his homework for him. He's a very responsible kid. He's the most amazing, fastest dresser in the world, and that's because apparently being neat and ironed is not a priority."

What is a priority are Michael's nightly phone calls with his father at 10 p.m. Their discussions vary, but Shawn said of late his son has grown more curious about the recruiting process. Simultaneously, Shawn can tell Michael about his day and educate him about a procedure with which the 6-foot-3, 250-pound player will become intimately familiar over the next year.

During Michael's games, Shawn receives a flurry of text messages from Moseley, who does her best to provide as precise a description of the action as possible.

"I give him kind of the constructive, the good, bad and the ugly of what's going on so that he doesn't feel disconnected from it," Moseley said. "I try to keep him in the loop, because I have the blessing of being able to see this whole thing unfold day after day and play after play and game after game, and Shawn doesn't get to see that. He gets the film, so he gets to see [Michael] on film. But I try to keep him in the loop in real time."

Moore said he is growing more accustomed to the grind of his new profession, in part because of the rigidity its mandates. He arrives at the McCue Center daily at 6 a.m., gets in a quick workout and starts work by 7. When practice ends at 6 p.m., Moore then heads over to dine with the players at JPJ.

The meals have provided Moore with more personal insight into how some players operate. Specifically with the team's wide receivers, the attention and advice Moore dispenses at the dinner table has enhanced their ties to one another.

"I feel like that translates a lot to on the field because you've got a closer bond with your coach," junior wideout Kris Burd said. "So you want to let him know that the stuff that he's teaching you, you can go out there and do it on the field."

As one of two assistants on Virginia's staff whose families do not live in Charlottesville - cornerbacks coach Chip West has a son at Old Dominion and a daughter in high school in Charlotte - Moore wishes the circumstances were different, that he could be closer to his son. But steadily, the job is growing on him.

"It's cool, man," he said. "I'm starting to find my niche. I'm starting to."

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