Warren Moon writes about the challenges of being a 40-year-old quarterback, like Brett Favre

Aug 23 2009 - 9:39pm

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(The Associated Press) Former Indianapolis Colts head football coach Tony Dungy (left) hands a book he wrote to a P.E. teacher.
(The Associated Press) Former Indianapolis Colts head football coach Tony Dungy (left) hands a book he wrote to a P.E. teacher.

SEATTLE -- Warren Moon has been Brett Favre before, sans the wishy-washy wackiness. He's been a prodigious quarterback tilting toward 40 who left the NFL team that nourished his legend and wound up in Minnesota.

Their stories aren't a perfect match, of course. Moon went directly from the old Houston Oilers to Minny. After Green Bay, Favre had a stopover with the New York Jets, and he's also on his second un-retirement. And Moon was two years younger when he joined the Vikings in 1994 for a three-season stint. But if you're looking for a Hall of Fame quarterback who can give the best insight on Favre's situation, it's Moon.

So we chatted last week about Favre, the openly gray gunslinger who talks like a grandpa but still plays and occasionally acts like a rebel. Moon also has a new book out, "Never Give Up On Your Dreams," which is an honest, sometimes gut-wrenching, account of his journey from childhood to football immortality.

We'll get to the book in a bit, but first, here's a Favre-related question that may ultimately decide whether Minnesota is a true contender in the NFC: What's it like to quarterback in your 40s?

Favre turns 40 on Oct. 10. Only 16 other NFL QBs have tried this, and Moon is the only one to make the Pro Bowl. At age 41, he did it with the Seahawks in 1997 and then won Pro Bowl MVP honors. But Moon, who played until he was 44, lost his starting job to Jon Kitna the next season and finished his career as a backup in Kansas City.

"You almost feel like a rookie again," Moon said of playing in your 40s. "You have to change a lot of the things you do, sort of relearn your approach to the game as far as training your body is concerned. The wear and tear -- that's the biggest thing.

"I had to pay much more attention to how I ate. I got massages regularly. I got acupuncture. I had a regimen with my arm that was pretty involved. It's weird because the mental part of it gets easier. If anything, you might get a little bored because, at that age, it's hard to keep from feeling like you know everything. You're almost an expert at the game, but will your body hold up?"

Favre is known for his durability, with his Iron Man consecutive starts streak at 269 and counting. But he's coming off arm surgery and must develop chemistry with his new Viking receivers without wearing out his arm in practice.

Moon knows all about the conundrum. When he was about 36, Moon learned he had a slight rotator cuff tear in his right arm. He was able to avoid surgery by putting himself through a detailed stretching program. At that time, he also started to approach protecting his arm like pitchers do.

He studied Orel Hershiser and Nolan Ryan, both of whom aged gracefully. He limited his reps somewhat to save his arm. It helped. Moon had three tremendous seasons after he left Houston at age 37. He threw for more than 4,000 yards his first two years in Minnesota. The older he got, the more he struggled, but Moon defied the meager expectations of an aging athlete.

He's rooting for Favre, just like he roots for Kurt Warner, John Smoltz and Jamie Moyer. They're guys with worn arms who are still competing. He respects that.

"Because I know what they're going through," Moon said.

Moon detailed his entire football journey in his book, which he wrote with the help of respected sports journalist and author Don Yaeger. He opens up about his successes and mistakes, including his domestic abuse arrest in 1995. He talks about the racism and death threats he experienced as an African-American quarterback. He spends much time explaining how trying to stuff away his emotions caused him problems. It's a very frank, matter-of-fact book. And for Moon, it was cathartic.

"I tried to be as honest as I could be," Moon said. "It was tough reliving some of this stuff. A lot of the things, I didn't want to revisit. I admitted going to therapy, and therapy really helped me. I had a lot of questions about myself because I wasn't trying to answer any of them."

Moon had been asked about doing a book for years, but this was the first time he felt secure enough to tell his story.

"Where I am in my life, the balance I have now -- that's why I could do it," Moon said. "The openness in my relationships are great. Business opportunities are going well. I went to the Hall of Fame, so that gives my career some validity. But the main thing is just being able to talk about all those things. I think it's something people need to know about."

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