Onnidan's Black College Sports Online

Inside The SIAC
April 1, 1999

by Hal Lamar
Onnidan Online Columnist

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Was Morris Brown College's John " Big Train" Moody as good as the press clippings and sportswriters purported him to be?

" He was better, " exclaims teammate John Merkerson., a retired Atlanta high school coach "I'm not sure who gave him the name Big Train but he got it honest. He would keep running with four tacklers on his back."

The fortunes of Morris Brown's College football program from 1939 through 1941 rested many times on the back of Moody.

Born in Manchester Georgia, his family moved to Pennsylvania where Moody developed his ability to kick a football with either foot.

In 1938, he returned to Georgia and Morris Brown College where he earned a spot on the starting Wolverine 11. But in the first game that year against the rough and tough Lane Dragons under EJ "Ox" Clemons, Moody was injured and missed most of the season.

But the big fullback recovered in the off-season and returned with a serious vengeance in 1939.

In 1940, Billy Nicks' Purple elevens won the SIAC conference title with a 9-1 mark. That was aided greatly with the 109 points that Moody scored against the team's total of 216. It tripled the 39 points he managed to score in his freshman year before his injury. Rumor has it that following the '40 season, he was contacted by the NFL's Los Angeles Rams but elected to stay at Morris Brown. Think of it Morris Brown, which became the first SIAC school with a 1st round NFL draft pick (Ezra Johnson, 1977) almost became the first black college to send a player sent to the NFL, preceeding Tank Younger.

In 1941, Moody managed to score 91 points for the Purples which helped them compile a 10-1-0 and a 20-0 shutout of Florida A&M University. It was only the second time Morris Brown had beaten the Rattlers. The first since they shellacked them 21-0 in 1935. By 1941, Moody had accumulated 290 total points and set a record for black college football players which stood until broken by Grambling's Paul" Tank" Younger in 1948.

1941 was also Moody's final year of college ball. In 1942, he was drafted into the Armed Forces. Being in olive drab didn't stop his football career, however. At Fort Knox, Kentucky, Moody played on the base team that took on collegiate powers like Ohio State, Indiana and even the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even as Moody's brief career at Fort Knox ended, he still found a marriage with the oval while stationed in Europe as a mechanic. In 1944, Corporal Moody played with a specially organized team from the 5th Army which took on the 12th Air Force team in the so called Spaghetti Bowl in Florence, Italy. Sketchy stats from that game revealed that Moody rushed a minimum of 150 yards, scored twice and kicked two extra points. He was written up extensively in Yank and Time magazines.

Moody did enjoy football in the pros, playing a few years in Canada and in the United States with the New York Yankees of the All American Football Conference which competed with the NFL for four years before a merger between the two leagues in 1950.

In 1972, Moody was selected to the Morris Brown College Hall of Fame. His number 44 jersey was officially retired that same year.

Moody passed away in Michigan in 1995 where he had gone to work as a mechanic for the Harold Dietrick Corporation in Wayne.

Despite the excitement he generated in four years at Morris Brown, his death went unnoticed by local press. He has also yet to be nominated for the Georgia or SIAC Sports Halls of Fame.

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Contact Hal at lamar95@bellsouth.net

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