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Clay Henry

CLAY HENRY: Throngs turned out to celebrate Moss’ life

Remembering Dahrron Moss in celebrations after loss with long battle against pancreatic cancer that can’t count lives touched.



Those who knew Dahrron Moss for the last 30 years around Northwest Arkansas always realized their friend touched a lot of lives. How many became clear last week when the 47-year-old former Arkansas cornerback was celebrated at the end of his three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

First at the Nelson-Berna Funeral Home in Rogers, then the next day at Bentonville Church of Christ, there were packed houses and over flowing parking lots. There were Razorback teammates, classmates, a large church family, fellow youth league coaches and players, students from through the years at Bentonville High School and co-workers from Walmart Corporate.

“I have been to a lot of funerals through the years, but I’ve never seen such an out pouring from so many areas,” said Louis Campbell, the UA coach who signed Moss in 1995 at Helena-West Helena.

“Both at the family’s visitation and the funeral, it was wall-to-wall. He lettered four years for us and teammates from all of those teams came back, some from distances.”

Houston Nutt, Moss’ head coach for two seasons with the Hogs, made the trip from his McKinney, Texas, to visit the family at their home. It was one of Nutt’s greatest victories that Moss recalled with such fondness in an interview for Hogs+ last summer.

The Hogs whipped Texas, 27-6, in the 2000 Cotton Bowl. Moss made only two tackles in the game, but he was heavily involved in the defensive scheme that swamped two different UT quarterbacks. Bobby Allen and Campbell, sharing the defensive coordinator duties after Keith Burns took the Tulsa head job, devised a blitz that took advantage of a flawed Texas offensive set that provided no weakside protectors in certain passing situations.

“I blitzed and was unblocked every time they lined up that way,” Moss said. “I never got there, but the quarterback ducked into the rush or ran for the boundary. We sacked them over and over or they threw it into the stands.

“I guess that was one of my best games, but I got only two tackles. One of them I ran them out of bounds and I don’t think I even got a hand on the quarterback, but they gave it to me.”

Dahrron Moss at Burlsworth Football Camp (Burlsworth Foundation)

Moss talked about the future of the Texas series last summer, with thoughts of the Longhorns entering the SEC. They play in Fayetteville this fall.

“It was something special to play Texas,” he said. “That rivalry will never go away. It was really fun. That Cotton Bowl, we showed up and showed out and all of the seniors had great games. Our defensive line went nuts.”

Nutt remembered another big win, in 1999 when they avenged a loss the year before against Tennessee. Moss had a big play in that one in Fayetteville.

“Moss was just a great teammate,” Nutt said. “He was unselfish, played and practiced with a great attitude. We just called him a winner. He played with great speed and was always around the football. He got us the big turnover in 1999 when we beat Tennessee. That was a big play in a great victory.”

There was one other great victory Moss talked about in great detail, a 42-6 runaway over Alabama in 1998, perhaps the coming out party of the Nutt era.

“We beat ‘em like a dirty rag,” Moss said.

That was also the day the Burns great motivational tool, Code Red, was discovered by the media. Moss said it was a wonderful way Burns pulled the defense together and made a bunch of good players into one great unit. He described the Friday walk through when the defense visited three Alabama buses south of the stadium and rocked them.

“No one was in them (buses),” Moss said. “But we didn’t know that. They were already in the locker room.


“Now we did some different stuff under Coach Burns. We left notes on the other team’s locker room door the day before games. It was our way of letting them know hell is coming the next day.

“Those were good times. We had a great defense and our fans knew it. The other team might get a turn over on our own 25 and when the defense came on the field, our fans cheered. They knew we were going to get a stop or a turnover.

“Coach Burns taught us a way of playing. He would say, ‘I want an alley cat, not a house cat. Alley cats are unpredictable.’”

Moss was predictable. He ran like a scalded cat. He recorded an electronic 4.34 40-yard dash in the summer before his senior year at an Arkansas camp. He got an offer from Danny Ford, but didn’t realize that he’d just been given a scholarship until he got home. His high school coach explained that “offer” meant it was a four-year free ride.

Dahrron Moss at Burlsworth Football Camp (Burlsworth Foundation)

That had to resonate a little while before Moss committed. He made an official visit that winter after an in-home visit by Campbell.

“I call my recruitment magical,” he said. “I really had no clue what any of it was all about.”

First, he thinks it was a miracle that Arkansas recruiters found him. No other SEC team even sent a letter, much less made an offer.

“Our teams were really bad at my high school,” he said. “My three years we went 6-24. My 10th grade years we played all 10 games at someone else’s Homecoming. The other team knew it was a great possibility they would win.”

Because of his great speed, his high school coaches suggested extra ACT classes for Moss starting in the 10th grade.

“My mom (Denise Olloway) worked extra jobs to pay for them,” he said. “I thank Al Herringer and Zac Painter for helping Arkansas find me. They were at Jonesboro and were getting recruited by Arkansas and the coaches saw me on tape.”

The camp trip to Arkansas was strange to Moss.

“There were five at that camp that Coach (Danny) Ford brought into his office the final day,” Moss said. “He said something like, ‘I want you five to be Razorbacks.’ I didn’t know that was a scholarship offer until later. I was excited. I thought he was going to give us a Razorback T-shirt.

“I got home and my high school coach was on a riding mower. I told him about ‘an offer.’ He said, ‘Son, that means they are going to pay for your college to play football. That’s a big deal.’ I had no clue.”

The commitment didn’t come until an official visit after his senior season.

“Right before that, Coach Campbell came for a home visit,” Moss said. “My mom was so excited. We cleaned the house over and over. The night before Coach Campbell came, I had to sleep on the couch because she didn’t want me to mess up my room. She slept on top of her bed spread.

“I told mom, ‘He’s not going to inspect the house.’ She was afraid he might not like what he saw and I wouldn’t get the scholarship. You could have performed surgery in any room in our house because it was that clean.”


Campbell still recalls that trip to Helena.

“What I saw was a great mom,” he said. “Dahrron was never going to disappoint her. He was good on the field, but he was even better off the field. He conducted his business in a wonderful way. Dahrron turned out to be just like his mom.”

It was an impression on the parents Nutt still can remember well.

“Louis Campbell signed him before we got to Arkansas,” Nutt said. “His mother always brought up Louis and how he represented our school. I know Louis always talked about the mother, but it went both ways with her and Dahrron. They loved Louis.”

Marty Burlsworth knew a little about Moss during his playing days, partly because his brother Brandon, an All-American offensive guard, hung out more with the offensive side of the ball. But he really learned about Moss after Brandon’s passing and Marty set up camps in Harrison and Little Rock. This year, the first one will be May 31 in Harrison and June 1 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. They are sometimes filled to over-flowing levels.

“I don’t know if Dahrron was at that first camp, but he might have been,” Burlsworth said. “I was looking for pictures to put in the slide show for Karie last week and began to pull out shots of Dahrron at all of our camps. I just didn’t go back to the first camp.”

It was in the last five or six years that Marty began to turn over the microphone to Moss when the campers gathered midway through the day. Moss displayed great leadership skills with youngsters. Obviously, he clicked with young players as a volunteer coach and a resource officer at Bentonville High School. His early days after college were spent working at the Fayetteville Police Department.

“Anthony Lucas mentioned at the funeral how good Dahrron was with kids,” Burlsworth said. “He was great.

“Anthony said Dahrron knew how to lead. A lot of it was by example, but he delivered some great messages when we gathered as a group at our camps.

“I don’t know why I started asking him to speak at camp, but he was a wow speaker the very first time. He knew how to reach kids and knew how to speak as a former Razorback.”

Dahrron Moss at Burlsworth Football Camp (Burlsworth Foundation)

As pancreatic cancer began to ravish his body, Moss kept coming to work camps.

“What I saw is that he would not make excuses,” Burlsworth said. “He had cancer, but he got out in the heat of our camp and did group work. He was a grinder and always reminded me of Brandon so I gravitated to him. I so respected the way he carried himself.

“I have to say that the out pouring of people at his service reminded me of the way Brandon’s service was attended.

“What you could clearly see is that he had touched lives all around the different communities in Northwest Arkansas.”

Moss, who lived in Cave Springs, was not a full-time starter during his time with the Hogs, but he always contributed on special teams. His speed was a great asset covering kicks and punts. As a cover corner, no one went past him. His only liability was size. He was hardly ever at his media guide weight of 170.

“I just couldn’t hold weight,” he said. “And as far as my playing days, I wasn’t the one to shine. We had David Barrett, Kenoy Kennedy and Zac Painter in our secondary. Those were the players.”


That a few others — some future NFL stars — might have been greater was not mentioned Thursday as teammates gathered. Moss was beloved.

“Clay, you better write about my man,” said Michael Snowden, a solid wide receiver during the Moss time with the Hogs. “He was a good player and we all thought so much of him.

“He’s got a great family. He has a great wife. That’s part of what you see here tonight, the way his family is loved.”

Burns recalled the Moss speed and also the academic reports through the years and some confusion between the player and the student. It stemmed from a brief period when Moss asked the UA media relations department to use his middle name. The letterman’s list shows him as Ontraia Moss.

“When I first got to Arkansas, there would be these glowing remarks from professors about a player on our team, Dahrron Moss,” Burns said. “And we also had Ontraia Moss in our secondary. So I thought we had two different players.”

Burns finally figured out they were one and the same.

“I called him up in front of the team,” Burns said. “I told him I wanted his play on the field to match that guy who was making the perfect scores in the class room. It was pretty funny. He was a good player, but you always hoped to find a way to lift a guy a little higher.”

Moss said the use of Ontraia was a mistake.

“I thought Ontraia sounded good and maybe it would lead to some publicity, so I asked them to quit using Dahrron,” he said. “I’m just Dahrron now. I haven’t used Ontraia since a couple of years in college. It was a publicity stunt.”

It was all about Dahrron and his good works last week as throngs gathered. Greatness doesn’t need publicity stunts.