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Forgotten Buckeyes: Damon Moore was a big-hitting safety before an injury ended his career

The ongoing series where we re-remember lesser known Buckeye heroes.

Moore was always looking for the next big hit or big play opportunity
Photo by Paul Nisely/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Contrary to how it sometimes seems, not every difference-making football player at Ohio State will go on to have success in the NFL. In fact, it is a small group that even makes it onto a Week One roster.

However, just because a former player fades away from the spotlight, it does not mean that they deserve to be forgotten. Some of the most important moments and memories from the last 20 years can be attributed to the players whose careers ended with a bowl game.

This is a series acknowledging forgotten Buckeyes; an ode to the players without pictures and plaques hanging in The Horseshoe. These guys all played a pivotal role in historic Ohio State moments, and should be remembered for their special contributions to OSU football.

Damon Moore | DB (1995 - 1999)

Moore was known for his big hits, as this Washington Redskin surely found out

Ohio State is “DB U.” Point blank, period. As Buckeye fans, we will hear nothing to the contrary. ESPN did a series of great pieces on “Position U” prior to the 2020 season, and the worldwide leader agreed with what OSU fans have known for years. When it comes to developing elite defensive back talent, OSU is second to none. In recent years (2014-20) Ohio State has produced seven All-Americans and eight first round draft picks. Since 2013, all of their eligible starting cornerbacks have been drafted; and Sevyn Banks is already rising up the 2022 NFL Mock Draft boards.

However, the legacy goes back well beyond the beginning of the 21st century. Howard Hopalong Cassady, 1955 Heisman winner, was more than just a running back; he was an early pioneer of the Buckeye DB legacy. Jack Tatum was arguably the greatest DB to come through Ohio State, and earned National Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1970. Shawn Springs, Antoine Winfield, and Mike Doss carried the torch through the mid-90s and early 2000s.

While the high draft picks and NCAA Hall of Famers are, and always will be, a special part of OSU’s storied history at the position, there have been just as many underrated Buckeye DBs. Ray Griffin was not just Archie’s brother; he was an All-American in the 70s. Donnie Nickey was a perfect complement to Doss and crucial to the 2002 National Championship team. Guys like that are what the Forgotten Buckeyes series is all about. They were crucial to team success and have under-appreciated legacies of their own. This particular Buckeye was often overshadowed by the likes of Springs, Mike Vrabel, and Andy Katzenmoyer, but packed a mean punch in the secondary.

Damon Moore played high school ball in Fostoria, Ohio, which was a bit of a powerhouse in the 1990s. They won state titles in 1991 and 1996, and Moore played both ways for the Redmen during his time there. He joined John Cooper’s 1994 recruiting class as a safety, alongside Orlando Pace and others. After redshirting his first year on campus, Moore was a backup in 1995. But, as a redshirt sophomore in 1996, he entered the starting lineup and produced right away.

On a loaded defense, it was Moore who led the team in tackles that year. His ability to play center field, while still supporting the run, made him a perfect chess piece for first-year defensive coordinator, Fred Pagac. Moore earned a reputation for being a hard hitter, as he was always more-than-willing to put his body on the line. Although undersized for a safety at 5-foot-11 and roughly 200 pounds, he brought the thunder to opposing ball carriers.

Moore led the team with 89 stops in ’96, but also proved capable of doing traditional defensive back things; against Iowa, he picked off three passes. He had five interceptions for the season, including one pick-six. He helped the Buckeyes reach the Rose Bowl, and had a team-high 12 tackles in the victory over Arizona State. Most remember Joe Germaine’s drive in the last minute of that game — which culminated in a David Boston touchdown — but the defense held ASU’s otherwise prolific defense to just 17 points. It was a total team effort, and Moore played a big part in containing Jake “The Snake” Plummer that afternoon in Pasadena. The ASU QB barely completed 50% of his passes, was picked off once, and took six sacks.

Despite Moore’s strong play in 1996, he was not recognized on any of the All-Conference teams. That would change in 1997 when he was named First Team All-Big Ten. He racked up 67 tackles as a redshirt junior, to go with three more interceptions. Finally, he closed out his OSU career with an award-winning performance in 1998. After accounting for 81 total tackles and two interceptions, Moore earned All-American recognition. The Buckeyes finished with another 11-1 record in 1996, and finished No. 2 in the final rankings for the second time in three years. In total, Moore finished with 267 total tackles and 12 interceptions from the safety position.

The Buckeye was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 1999 NFL Draft. After playing special teams as a rookie, he entered the starting lineup in 2000, and came into his own during the 2001 playoffs, when he had three interceptions (including a pick-six) and made a key stop against the New York Giants. A trick play resulted in Giants receiver Rod Dixon sprinting down the field for a potential 80-yard game-clinching touchdown. However, Moore caught him from behind, and preserved an Eagles victory. He was the starter for the NFC Championship Game, but unfortunately injured his left knee.

Prior to the injury, Moore was making a name for himself. Now, his contract was up, and he was damaged goods. The Eagles let him walk as a free agent despite the strong play. The Chicago Bears gave him a one-year contract for 2002, but Moore was never the same. He played in six games before calling it a career. It is unfortunate that the former Buckeye DB had his career cut short, but he still made memories in Philadelphia.

Damon Moore was a tough, hard-nosed, undersized safety, capable of filling all roles. He did so in Columbus, as well as in the NFL. He roamed the back of the defense, looking to keep the ball in front of him at all times. When a ball carrier presented himself as a target, Moore often made him pay. While his NFL career was over much sooner than it should have been, Eagles fans of a certain age likely remember his name fondly. As Buckeye fans, we can (and should) do the same by looking back at ferocious hit clips and Rose Bowl highlights from the late 90s.