When everything went black, it was the smell of sulfur that Anthony Moore, 28, remembers – that and the numbness in his right leg.
I thought it was the end, he said.
But it wasnt the end. In fact, it turned out to be the beginning of Moores spiritual relationship with God.
That was when he started to show himself to me, he said.
This relationship played a role in Moores decision to attend the University of Saint Francis, a Catholic university, after he got out of the Marine Corps in 2007. Moore was spending time with a friend who urged him to attend USF and to play football there while attending college on the GI Bill. He talked with a coach who helped him get on the team and started in school.
Theres a reason for everything, he said. It all just plopped in my lap.
And today, Moore will participate in the USF commencement ceremony after earning his bachelors in business administration with a focus in sports management. He said he feels great about the achievement and prepared for life after college.
I actually never thought (graduation) would come, he said of his accomplishment.
Moore keeps a 6-inch piece of shrapnel above the mirror in his bedroom as a reminder of that day in Iraq when his convoy was riding down what he and his fellow Marines called IED alley. An IED is an improvised explosive device used often where Moore was stationed along the Syrian border.
It could have been over that fast, he said.
That piece of shrapnel, the biggest Moore had ever seen, came through the bottom of the truck and hit Moores foot.
He compared the numbness he felt to the funny feeling when you hit your elbow in just the right way.
Moore has been shot at, stationed near terrorist training grounds and had mortars thrown his way, but he said college was the biggest adjustment I ever had to make. Theres no sergeant telling you what to do.
At 6-foot-3, Moore looks like a Marine with his dark blond hair cut close to his head. He walks with authority and has a commanding presence.
His size made him a good fit for the USF football team at defensive end, and because of his age, Moore was thrust into a leadership role on the team, he said.
As a senior, he was nearly a decade older than the incoming freshmen, and there was definitely a generation gap. He said he learned how to be a leader on the field from his experience in the classroom.
As a civilian you have to find your own leadership style. Not everyone can be drill instructed into what they need to get done, he said.
The USF football coaches did a great job of welcoming Moore, but they have a lot going on, he said. A professor, Danny Powell, was instrumental in giving Moores personal leadership style a different direction that eased the stress of being a leader, Moore said.
In an email, Powell said he was impressed with Moores leadership ability.
Drawing from his life experience and his faith in Jesus Christ, Tony has overcome many obstacles, and hardships, some of which I believe are the result of his active duty experience, Powell said. Tony was not only a physical leader on the USF football team, but was also an emotional leader, and spiritual leader in the class room, the locker room, and at work.
Moore knows that piece of shrapnel could have easily ripped through his foot or leg, injuring him more severely, or even hit a fellow service member and friend.
The memories of that day and others continue to drive his glass-half-full mentality. Moore describes himself as an inherently positive guy and developed a mantra that he often used around his teammates.
It could always be worse, he said. Being on a team and in school at the same time, theres a lot to complain about, but it could always be worse.
Moore is now working full time with his brother in the lawn care business his brother started. Within five years, he hopes to establish a human resources program emphasizing customer and employee relations as well as maintaining quality service.
Down the road hed love to privately manage the portfolios of a few clients, he said, but for now hes working sunup to sundown to provide for his family. His fiancée is pregnant with the couples first child. They live together in a small, quaint house west of downtown with their two pitbull terriers.
Moore said his two, seven-month deployments have taught him to live each day at a time, but hes looking forward to the future hes building now with his faith serving as a strong foundation.
During the required National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics interview process that I do with each athlete, I have never interviewed an athlete with Tonys grounded and internalized conviction to lead by example, and excel in the classroom as well as the field, and life, Powell said.