‘Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer’: Coach’s legacy lives on

Head coach Shawn Clark shares words with Hall of Fame coach Jerry Moore at the team’s practice.

Courtesy of Palmer Noyes, App State Athletics

Head coach Shawn Clark shares words with Hall of Fame coach Jerry Moore at the team’s practice.

Ethan Smith, Sports Editor

For 24 seasons, Jerry Moore led the Mountaineers onto the football field, leading the program to national prominence. Moore came to Boone in 1989 to replace Sparky Woods, who left for the South Carolina head coach position.

“I think when you say Appalachian State football, what’s the first person you think about? What’s the first word comes to your mind is Jerry Moore,” head coach Shawn Clark said.

During his tenure, the university won three FCS national championships, 10 Southern Conference titles and Moore compiled a 242-135-2 total record. He won Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors eight times, coached 257 All-Conference honorees and was at the helm for one of the biggest upsets in college football history when the university defeated No. 5 Michigan in 2007 at the Big House. 

Moore was inducted into both the SoCon Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He entered the University Hall of Fame in 2015 and earned The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state of North Carolina’s highest honor in 2018. Last fall, Moore was immortalized with a statue in the north end zone plaza of Kidd Brewer Stadium. 

“He’s a very important part of this program because he made a lot of things happen. I feel like that’s someone who will never be forgotten, and when he comes around, everyone tries to speak to him and at least introduce ourselves to him because we know how important he is to this program,” said senior linebacker Trey Cobb.

Moore managed to leave a lasting influence for football in the High Country. When Moore arrived in 1989, he started a tradition of hosting a Wednesday night bonfire for coaches to get away from football and talk about life lessons and how to be better husbands. The tradition is still going today and was featured on ESPN’s College GameDay

After Moore’s retirement, the university made the transition to the FBS level, joining the Sun Belt where they have become a perennial conference title favorite and bowl team. The Mountaineers won the Sun Belt Conference title from 2016-19 and bowl games from 2017-20. 

The Mountaineers gained such national media attention that after their victory against Texas A&M, ESPN’s College GameDay was hosted in Boone. The university’s current head coach is a former player of Moore. Clark first met Moore in 1993 at a scrimmage at Fork Union Military Academy.

Three-time FCS National Champion head coach Jerry Moore poses in front of his statue next to Kidd Brewer Stadium Sept. 18, 2021. (Max Correa)

“I was a long snapper at the prep school and they had some issues with long snapping, so that’s how I got my scholarship,” Clark said. 

Clark came to the university in 1994 and became one of the best offensive linemen in the country, earning All-American honors in 1996 and 1998 as well as All-Conference honors 1995, 1996 and 1998. 

After graduating, Clark began his coaching career at Louisville as a graduate assistant in 2001. In 2016, Clark returned to the university and in 2019, Clark was named the interim head coach for the New Orleans Bowl after previous head coach Eliah Drinkwitz accepted the Missouri head coaching position. After winning the New Orleans Bowl, Clark was officially named head coach of the Mountaineers.

“I always had that picture in my mind when I was doing my introductory press conference, that he was in the front right corner and you could see he had a smile on his face,” Clark said.

Since becoming head coach, Clark has compiled a 23-9 record as well as joining Moore as the only coaches to defeat a top 10 team after the Black and Gold upset No. 6 Texas A&M 17-14. 

Moore’s legacy continues to grow through the current generation of App State football with Clark imparting the same messages and lessons from his playing days onto his current players. 

“Just toughness. They install that toughness in,” said super senior running back Daetrich Harrington. “Clark played back in the day, it’s just tough. Every practice, whether it’s hot, raining, snowing. It doesn’t matter, just toughness tradition and he instills into us every day that we gotta be tough. Carry on the tradition.” 

Clark said one of the biggest pieces of advice he received from Moore was about people and family, not football.

“He always says about people, and if you get the right people in the building and your kind of people, the sky’s the limit. So that’s what we try to do in recruiting our kind of people. And we hire coaches. We try to get our kind of coaches that believe in family and want your family involved in things,” Clark said.

Continuing the tradition Moore started is a priority for both current players and coaches.

“Yeah, all the time like we try our best to stick to tradition, stick to our culture and really don’t let anything change because it’s worked for us and it helps us win and it helps guys work hard, so we try not to change anything,” Cobb said. 

Coach Moore continues to have an impact upon the program despite it being years since he was last on the sidelines. He often appears at practices, encouraging players or giving a speech, and returns every time the Mountaineers take the field at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

“Oh, Coach Moore, every time he’s around, I see a lot of smiles. He brings a lot of positive energy into the program,” Harrington said. “Everybody knows that he is a winning coach, but I feel like every time, every Saturday we see him, we gotta go out and put on for him cause he built this foundation here.”