61-Year-Old Kicker Debuts At Ala. University

It's that time of year when college football begins again. Athletes have spent the past few months practicing and gearing up for the season. But for one athlete in particular, the return to the gridiron is extra special for a kicker almost old enough to get social security.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host: College football kicks off this weekend. And in Alabama, one small school and one player in particular are generating big headlines.

Andrew Yeager of member station WBHM has the story.

ANDREW YEAGER: Alan Moore is the newest kicker at Faulkner University but he doesn't quite look like the rest of his teammates. He's 61. Gray speckles his dark, short-cropped hair, eyeglasses hang from his t-shirt collar as he walks around the teams practice field.

ALAN MOORE: Kickers, they all huddle up right over in the corner of the field. We're all kind of like a separate crew.

YEAGER: Moore's journey to get here started more than four decades ago. He played a year at a Mississippi community college before dropping out in 1968 to serve in Vietnam. He left the Army, life went on. Then two years ago, at a football game at that community college, he got an itch - he wanted to kick.

Moore's brother is a high school coach.

MOORE: And he laughed at me so I had to prove him wrong.

YEAGER: Moore started practicing, talked to a few schools. He did play for another community college last year, but Moore didn't have eligibility under NCAA rules. He did get a waiver from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and connected with Faulkner University, a small Christian college in Montgomery Alabama.

Head coach Greg Baker was skeptical.

GREG BAKER: My first reaction was you're kidding, right? You know, when my coaches first told me, I said 61-year-old guy wanting to kick. Y'all are crazy, right?

YEAGER: But Baker says Moore was serious. And at 61, he'll be the oldest person to play NAIA football. Moore practices right alongside students a third of his age. He doesn't do all the sprints they do. And he insists he doesn't get sore. It's his mind that poses a challenge.

MOORE: We've got 120 kids and, you know, sometimes I have a hard time remembering my five grandkids' names. And, you know, you see their faces, you know who they are. You know they're on the team and everything but you can't remember their name.

YEAGER: Wide receiver Gabriel White says Moore has become just another part of the team.

GABRIEL WHITE: I mean, we just accepted him. And we talk to him about just about anything, just like we would somebody we, you know, just came out of high school with.

YEAGER: Alan Moore says while the equipment is different after 42 years, the fundamentals haven't changed. And that brother who called him crazy...

MOORE: Oh, he's behind it now. I prove to him that I wasn't crazy. He'll still tell you that I'm crazy but I'm not that. I could still kick a football.

YEAGER: And he will, when Faulkner opens its season next week.

For NPR News, I'm Andrew Yeager in Montgomery, Alabama.

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