BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
It’s simply called “The Catch.”
One of the most amazing, if not the finest reception in football history.
The play took place on Saturday, Oct. 17, 1992, at Baker Stadium on the campus of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.
Western Washington University redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Stiles rolled to his left on third down and nine and fired a pass to Chris Moore, a sophomore wide receiver, who was running a 15-yard down-and-out pattern.
Seeing that the throw was coming in about knee high, Moore crouched low, anticipating that he would have to dive to make the catch and roll out of bounds.
At the last moment, the pass was deflected by a UPS defender. While tumbling, Moore had the ball hit off practically every part of his body before seeing the ball still in flight between his legs and instinctively snatching it up. He ran back to the huddle where a teammate asked how he had caught the ball. Moore had no idea what to say.
The juggling catch would have become only a memory for the few who had been standing near and witnessed it, had it not been captured on videotape by WWU student Rick Medved, who was filming the game for the “Viking Football Weekly” television show. As luck would have it, Medved could not have been positioned more perfectly.
The play helped the 2-2 Vikings win the contest 28-0 and begin a five-game winning streak that led to the school’s first national playoff berth.
Moore still wasn’t sure what he had done or how he had done it until the following Monday when he watched the video.
"I'm still just as stunned now as when it happened," Moore stated in an interview years later. "I had no idea the catch was anything like that … I ran an out route, the throw was low and I went down to get it. The pass was tipped and I just did whatever I could to catch it."
An assistant coach showed the clip to then WWU sports information director Paul Madison, who immediately sent a copy to KOMO-TV sports director Bruce King for his “Play of the Night” segment.
From there the clip took on a life of its own, being shown on ESPN, George Michael’s Sports Machine, Roggin’s Heros and numerous ABC affiliates throughout the country.
Now, with YouTube, the video has been viewed by millions on the internet.
However, the greatest accolade received by the play was 14 years in the making.
At ESPN’s first Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Awards show in 1993, Moore’s catch was a nominee for “Greatest College Play.” Viewers paid 40 cents each to vote by phone.
Going against Notre Dame’s Reggie Brooks’ amazing touchdown run against Michigan State and Alabama’s Antonio Langham’s game-winning interception return for a touchdown in the Southeastern Conference title game, Moore’s catch was up against some formidable odds.
Former all-pro quarterback and television commentator Joe Theismann held the envelope with the winner listed inside. Theismann was a Notre Dame alumnus.
"And this year's ESPY goes to," said Theismann, who had a long pause before announcing the winner. "Chris Moore's great catch."
Moore had not been invited to the awards show. He was at Bellingham's Bellis Fair Mall that night with a friend buying shoes. He found out about the win from another friend.
Moore was never contacted by ESPN.
Madison had campaigned periodically over the years to get Moore his award, but to no avail. Then Madison learned of a WWU graduate who had gotten a job at ESPN.
Erik Tesauro, an assignment editor for ESPN, had heard of Moore's catch while at WWU. He was reminded of it again by an email in April of 2007 from Madison inquiring if Tesauro had any influence with the awards department.
Tesauro forwarded the information to ESPY spokesperson Keri Potts, who got things moving. A few months later, Tesauro was told that Moore would receive his award in just a few weeks, and so he did after it showed up on Madison’s desk.
Moore, now 45, has worked for many years with different companies in the telecommunications business. He and wife Alicia live in North Bend and have two children, son Corbin and daughter Molly.
Moore also is entering his fourth season as an assistant football coach at Mount Si High School, working, of course, with the wide receivers.
But no matter what Moore does or where he goes, invariably someone asks him about the play.
“The Catch” just will not go away. In 2006, Moore was flown to Los Angeles by Fox Sports, which wanted to re-create the play for the show “Sports Science.” With cameras rolling, he ran route after route in a warehouse while taking throws from a former college quarterback. They never came close to duplicating the effort.
That same year, Moore's improbable reception ranked No.12 on Fox Sports Northwest's "Best Damn Sports Show Period” list of Top 50 Greatest Catches in sports history that included both football and baseball.
Moore isn't sure what amazes him more: that he somehow made that catch, or that the play continues to rate national attention so many years after it happened.
"I was surprised by the notoriety then, because we're just a little school tucked in a corner of Washington," Moore said. "Once or twice a year, it comes up, and someone asks me about it. It's amazing it still comes up."
A part-time starter at WWU, Moore finished his four-year Viking career with 41 receptions for 724 yards and five touchdowns. Previously, he spent a redshirt season at Boise State University after being an All-KingCo League wide receiver and defensive back at Issaquah High School.
There Moore played for his father, Gary, who was a three-sport athlete at Western and a hall of fame high school football coach. The elder Moore died in 2008 of a stroke at age 68.
They are the only father and son combo to play at Western, who each earned four letters.
"I started playing football in the second grade, so I don't know how many thousands of catches I'd made before that one,” Moore said. “But I had never done anything like that before. It was total luck on the bounces, and then it was a matter of instinct to grab the ball and secure it."
"Still to this day, it's a surreal feeling. I can't wrap myself around it that I'm the guy twirling around with the football bouncing all over."
By Paul Madison who served 48 years as sports information director at WWU from 1966 to 2015
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