Tough road to Rhodes TCU athlete finds path to success on field, in classroom

Caylin Moore

Caylin Moore is not a realistic person.

Good thing.

That self-advice has served the Texas Christian University senior football player well as he recently became the school’s first athlete to win a prestigious Rhodes scholarship.

“Be unrealistic, and that’s very hard sometimes,” Moore said, offering advice to other young people. “I had people tell me to be realistic, get a job out of high school. A football coach said I would never play D-I.”

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And yet Moore, a safety on the Horned Frogs team, didn’t listen to any of them. He is playing for one of the premier programs in the nation, and he’s set an example for many other young people hearing those same words.

Moore is one of 32 Rhodes scholars selected from the United States this year. He will attend Oxford University in England beginning in late September for his graduate studies in public policy and business administration.

Rhodes scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at Oxford. They were named for Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer, who established the scholarships in his will in 1902. Moore is among 95 scholars chosen from around the world for this year’s class of Rhodes scholars.

Moore began his college career at Marist College and transferred to TCU in 2015.

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He came from a poverty-stricken part of South Central Los Angeles, out of an abusive family and a gang-infested neighborhood. But while growing up he never lost faith in himself, and he followed the faith of his mother.

“I was extremely privileged to have a mom who didn’t give up on me,” he said. “And I didn’t give up on myself.”

How frightening was the neighborhood in which he grew up?

“You kind of get used to seeing death every day, seeing guns pulled every day,” he said. “I tell my friends who ask about the movie Straight Outa Compton, that was the PG version.”

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Moore is majoring in economics and minoring in sociology and mathematics. He qualified as a Rhodes scholarship candidate based on four general characteristics: scholastic abilities and attainments; courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship; moral force of character and instincts to lead and to take an interest in others; and physical vigor, as shown by a fondness for and success in sports.

Moore has a 3.934 grade point average. He’s been named to the All-State American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, and he was a finalist for the 2016 Big 12 Conference Sports Person of the Year. In addition, he is a finalist for the 2016 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program, which encourages members of minority groups to join the Foreign Service.

And he is a former finalist for the Truman scholarship, one of the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarships.

Moore is also the founder of S.P.A.R.K (Strong Players Are Reaching Kids), an outreach organization that inspires local youth and emphasizes the importance of education. He has rallied his football teammates to serve as role models for students attending elementary schools in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

He said he came up with the idea for S.P.A.R.K in a dream.

“It was after the bowl game against Oregon [last December]. I woke up at 3 a.m. and started writing,” he recalled.

Among his goals is to get a S.P.A.R.K program on as many college campuses across America as possible. He also wants to effect change in the U.S. education system.

“We have educational inequality in the U.S. Some people think you have to go to a third-world country to see it, but it’s right here all around us,” Moore said.

He cited as an example his younger sister who still lives in Los Angeles. He said she is in a classroom that doesn’t have enough chairs, so students rotate between sitting and standing.

“Some weeks she sat down all five days and some weeks not at all,” he said.

Moore also noted the use of outdated materials and its prevalence in schools.

“My younger brother brought home a dictionary in the third grade without the word computer in it,” he said.

Moore is an active volunteer with former TCU and San Diego Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson’s Touching Lives Foundation, the Relationship Empowerment Affirmation Leadership (REAL) Skills Network. He also speaks frequently to nonprofit and community groups about his mission and story.

“Caylin has the moral force of character needed to help change the world for the better,” said Ron Pitcock, the Vaughn & Evelyne H. Wilson Honors Fellow and director of prestigious scholarships at TCU.

“His determination, unselfishness and sensibility are paving the way for him to grow, explore, overcome and change. Being named a Rhodes scholar provides transformative opportunities for exceptional students, and Caylin is deserving of such a possibility.”

Also among Moore’s long-range goals is becoming a youth football coach and publishing several books. The first book, which he hopes to have out before leaving for Oxford, is about the art of efficacy. A second focuses on being raised by a single mom.

“I have a plethora of other ideas,” Moore said.

“Caylin’s life experiences have forced him to think deeply about the world and his place as a leader,” said TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. “He believes in his power to influence change. He models courage in every activity he tackles, and he articulates a vision to make the most of his natural gifts.”

The only other Rhodes scholar in TCU history was Pete Larson in 1975. The school has had two other recent finalists, Matthew Freedman in 2006 and Josh Simpson in 2014.