Out Of Prison, Running Back Returns To College Football

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Vershon Moore (front row, center) (Greg Echlin/Only A Game)
Vershon Moore (front row, center) (Greg Echlin/Only A Game)

Football careers can be interrupted by many things. Players can miss time for injuries, get cut from the roster, or even retire before reconsidering the decision. But Washburn University running back Vershon Moore had a very different reason for leaving the game.

He was in prison.

Now, as he was before his crime, Moore is a student at Washburn in Topeka, Kan. The senior is also a star running back for the Division-II Washburn Ichabods.

'I Can’t Imagine This Ever Happening In Big-Time College Athletics'

Moore spent two and a half years in prison for the armed holdup of a credit union not far from where he now attends class and plays football at Washburn University.

Having something almost taken away from you, it means that much more having a chance to play football.

Vershon Moore

Dennis Dodd, a writer for who has covered college football since the 1980s, doesn't remember another case like this.

“You know he served his time,” Dodd said. “He’s got a felony on his record. And if he gets his degree, that‘s a positive. But let me put it this way: I can’t imagine this ever happening in big-time college athletics.”

Three years ago, Moore never thought he would be in this situation. But it could have been worse. The judge who sentenced him, Julie Robinson, could have thrown the book at Moore — he could have served more than 30 years. But she didn’t, and Moore is grateful.

“She saw something else in me that other people didn’t,” Moore said. “And I was very thankful for that — for her giving me a second opportunity to come back into society and go to school and play football.”

Craig Schurig is the head coach at Washburn and visited Moore in prison. I asked him if Moore would have been given a second chance if he were just an average football player.

“You know, that’s a great question, and I don’t know the true answer to that because that’s not the situation,” Shurig said.

That’s not the situation because Moore is a very good football player for the Ichabods. So good that going into the weekend, Moore is a little more than 700 yards shy of the school’s all-time rushing record with seven games left in the regular season. That’s despite sitting out some road games last season because under the terms of his probation, he wasn’t allowed to travel outside the state of Kansas.

But here’s the kicker: before Moore was found guilty of armed robbery, he was pursuing a degree in law enforcement.

'It Means That Much More'

Before his conviction, Moore made an impression on Richard Martin, one of his professors at Washburn.

“He was very soft-spoken and very courteous and really a nice person,” Martin said. “I had him as a student not too long before that incident happened.”

[sidebar title="Baseball Behind Bars" width="630" align="right"]San Quentin is the only prison in California that allows inmates to play baseball.[/sidebar]That robbery occurred in August 2011. Moore's accomplice worked for the credit union. Moore admits he made a stupid decision, but he’s following through with his law enforcement degree.

“Basically what I wanted to do with that was work with juveniles, especially now that I’ve been in their position,” Moore said. “I think it’s better for me to understand where most of them have came from.”

“My time away from football — I loved the game of football even before then but having something almost taken away from you, it means that much more to have a chance to come back and play football,” he added.

Moore knows he still faces obstacles as a convicted felon. He’s on schedule to earn his degree next spring. The Washburn Ichabods finish their regular season on Nov. 15 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City against defending Division II national champion Northwest Missouri.


This segment aired on October 4, 2014.


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