One in a series of articles on Tarrant County’s top newsmakers in 2016.
Caylin Moore grew up poor in Carson, Calif., near the suburb’s border with gang-infested Compton.
Now a senior football player at TCU, he was close to home again last month, about 15 miles north at the Los Angeles Public Library. He had just interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship and was awaiting the results.
Moore ate at the Panda Express in the lobby and sat in a reading room. After three hours, the judges came back with two names.
One of them was his.
Moore was one of two recipients in Southern California and just 32 in the U.S. out of about 200 finalists. The prestigious scholarship will allow him to study at Oxford University for three years. He expects to graduate from TCU in the spring with a degree in economics.
After he heard his name, he stood in shock, staring at the floor.
“I wasn't quite ready to deal with that yet,” he said.
But he had dealt with plenty before.
‘I come from the slums’
Moore was raised by a single mother. His father is serving a 52-year prison sentence for murder.
As a kid in Carson, he would dig in the trash for cans and bottles to exchange for money. He once worked as a janitor to help pay his tuition.
“To be frank, I come from the slums,” he said last month, describing his journey. “I come from not exactly knowing where your next meal is going to come from.”
He learned early, he said, that football and academics were two ways out, so he pursued both.
After high school, he went to Marist College in New York, where he played quarterback.
He earned a scholarship through the Fulbright Institute to study one summer at the University of Bristol in England. Another summer he attended a public policy and international affairs institute at Princeton University in New Jersey.
He transferred to TCU last year because he wanted to play Division I football. While he didn’t see playing time, he found a way to make an impact.
What he’s been able to accomplish with the least amount of help that he’s gotten and moved forward is truly incredible. A lot of people in his lifetime are going to be touched by what he does.
TCU football coach Gary Patterson
Moore founded SPARK — Strong Players Are Reaching Kids, an outreach program to motivate children to attend college. And he made the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, which honors 24 college athletes for their community service.
“Student-athletes like Caylin Moore are why we work in intercollegiate athletics,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte wrote about him in September.
Gary Patterson, TCU’s football coach, said Moore made him a better person.
“What he’s been able to accomplish with the least amount of help that he’s gotten and moved forward is truly incredible,” Patterson said. “A lot of people in his lifetime are going to be touched by what he does.”
His teammates, curious about his accolades, have taken notice, too.
“The colloquial way we refer to it is, ‘Man you found another way out of the hood,’ ” Moore said.
Local media and even a few national outlets have picked up Moore’s story. Bruce Feldman, a national writer for Fox Sports, included Moore on his “What I’m thankful for in college football this year” column.
Feldman put Moore alongside Pittsburgh’s James Connor, who returned to playing this year after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Connor beat cancer,” Feldman wrote. “TCU’s Caylin Moore overcame almost everything else.”