Morgan Moses

(From left to right) Meadowbrook High School's Randy West and Domico Phillips pose in front of a projector screen displaying highlights from Morgan Moses' All-American playing days as a Monarch. West, a MHS offensive line coach and film teacher, and Phillips, a former MHS running back, are co-leading the production of a documentary on Moses' life. 

 
RICHMOND — To slip in the most famous DVD in all of Meadowbrook High School, Monarch junior Demond Bailey has to first remove the Post-it note.

Scribbled in black ink on blue paper are numbers and letters that get the viewer to fast-forward to the birth scene of a legend to these hallways.

“3:54,” the note says, “Pancake that started it all.”

The crowd in this darkened room off the school’s library is limited to only three observers, but Randy West, a former theater major at the University of Richmond, begins his performance before Bailey hits the play button.

“So this kid committed to Virginia Tech,” West says, pointing to a still figure in a white jersey at the bottom of a projector screen, “he’s a senior. Here’s Mo right here. He’s a sophomore. Mo’s going to turn this way and you see him put him on his back right there.”

That’s Bailey’s cue.

The film rolls and Mo does as West says, power-driving his poor competition some seven yards before denting him into the ground.

“Crushes him,” West says with a grin.

It’s a Friday afternoon in May 2014, but it might as well be a Friday night in September 2006.

“To reminisce,” says Domico Phillips, “is pretty cool.”

Morgan Moses, Meadowbrook class of 2009 and University of Virginia class of 2014, will be taken in this week’s NFL Draft. The monster offensive tackle is projected by many to be a first round selection.

“He’s one of the 15 best players in the Draft,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said recently, “write that down.”

At Meadowbrook, no pen is needed.

Students, coaches and former teammates develop their favorite son through spoken word and highlight reels.

‘That was fun’

West is Meadowbrook’s offensive line coach as well as instructor of a state championship-winning television and film production class.

Since January, West has had assistance from his 47 students on what he calls the biggest project he’s ever worked on.

“He’s a pretty big person right now,” West said, “so it’s pretty new grounds for us.”

Moses is the subject of a Meadowbrook-produced documentary with a goal to premiere in November’s Virginia Film Festival.

West was handpicked by his former left tackle to author the feature.

“I told him I knew some people that would be great to do it,” West said. “I had some references for him. He was like, ‘Nah. You know what you’re doing and you know me the best. I want you to do it.’

“I was like, ‘I’ll do my best, man. I’m just a high school teacher and a high school football coach.’”

Phillips is a former MHS running back from the late 2000s who nows operates his own company, Phillips Productions.

He’s joined West to help with the unveiling of what the duo aims to be a 40-minute presentation.

It’ll highlight the many chapters of Moses’ unique journey. It’ll tell stories.

Plenty of stories.

Possibly like that one time when ... “Mo was pulling,” Phillips said. “I saw open space and I started running through it. I made one left cut and I saw Mo on the ground. I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s try to make this interesting.’ So I jumped on his back and tried to hit a little spin. I gained a few more yards.”

Or when Moses, a highly sought-after middle schooler, told then-Meadowbrook assistant coach Troy Taylor his intention to become a Monarch inside a Jersey Mike’s in Richmond.

“I was with my brother,” Taylor said. “Mo was with his mom. We were getting a sub and he was getting a sub. He told us he was coming. That was really exciting.”

Or when Moses rolled up to his first weightlifting session as a high school freshman in a limousine.

“His dad owned a limo business,” Taylor said. “His dad would drop him off in a limo.”

Or when, because of an absence, Moses, all 6-foot-6, 300-plus pounds of him, had to fill the role of Meadowbrook coach Bill Bowles’ kicker during a scrimmage.

“Besides Mo, I had another player that was kind of big,” Bowles said. “One of the officials saw him. He said, ‘Coach, he’s a pretty good-sized kid. What position does he play?’ I told him he was playing center and guard. I said, ‘Sometimes we slip him in the backfield.’ He said, ‘That’s a pretty good-sized kid.’

“I said, ‘Wait until you see the kicker.’”

Moses was a Parade All-American in high school. Most, if not all, of his punishing blocks have been archived by West and company.

“I think he had like 13 pancake blocks alone, by himself, in that Petersburg game,” West said, alluding to a contest Moses’ senior year in which there’s footage of the tackle riding an unfortunate defender through the back of the end zone on a toss left. “That was fun.”

But eye-popping athletic achievement doesn’t tell Moses’ total tale.

In order to properly document Meadowbrook’s star alum, one has to tell his perseverance through academic struggle from those who celebrated it firsthand.

‘He’s going to make it’

With Moses finally on the Scott Stadium field, Bowles came to Charlottesville with one question for UVa coach Mike London in fall 2010.

“How’s Mo doing?,” Bowles asked London.

“Mo’s doing fine,” London responded.

Sure he was. Moses was just the third true freshman in Cavalier history to start at an offensive tackle position.

But that’s not the answer Bowles was seeking.

“I don’t want to know about football,” Bowles told London.

“Mo’s going to make it,” London told him. “It’s going to take some work, but he’s going to make it.”

Before Moses arrived on Grounds, choosing UVa on Signing Day 2009 over the likes of North Carolina and Tennessee, he had to spend a prep year at Fork Union Military Academy to improve his grade point average and test scores.

“I had him in ninth grade in history class,” Taylor said. “Mo struggled his first two years in high school, academically. He had to work hard to stay eligible to play. His last two years, he did better.”

But it wasn’t enough, something West said has plagued gifted Monarchs through the years.

“We have a lot of talented athletes at Meadowbrook and, unfortunately, that situation is just too familiar with our athletes,” West said. “They get to their senior year and they’re trying to get all A’s their senior year, thinking that’s going to get their GPA high enough to go to college and be eligible and it’s just too late.

“A lot of them put in that work and they get a [junior college] that’s interested in them or a prep school, but they don’t push through that JUCO or that prep school year.”

But Moses went against the grain.

“He had to work at it,” Bowles said. “I think Fork Union was very good for him. I don’t think he liked it very much, but he came out of it. It gets the job done for you. He had to work hard. He’s always worked hard, but he’s always been willing to do it. So that makes a big difference.”

On the field, Moses was a four-year starter at Virginia, earning an All-ACC second-team selection as a senior. Off the field, he’s on track for his degree in anthropology.

That latter statement echoes loudly back at Meadowbrook High.

“[Moses] came to our Thomas Dale game last season,” said Bailey, an outside linebacker/defensive end. “He talked to us and gave us an emotional speech. He just told us to be ourselves and keep grades up because grades are the most important thing. You should do what’s right and stay out of trouble.

“When he first came to high school, his grades weren’t that good, so he couldn’t go right off to college like he wanted to. So he was just telling us that we should keep our grades at a good average, grade point average. ... My grades have improved ever since he said that.”

‘Flagship of our program’

The Pancake That Started it All has the label, but the origins of Morgan Moses, NFL Draft Pick are everywhere in the Meadowbrook High School media room.

There’s newspaper clippings, magazine shots and video upon video of pure domination.

“His highlights are crazy,” Bailey said. “It’s almost like the guy from ‘The Blind Side’ when I look at it. He’s just destroying people.”

But also inspiring people.

“Mo,” said Taylor, who took over as Monarchs head coach after Bowles retired in 2009, “he’s the flagship of our program.”

When asked how he’ll take in Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft, West, sitting with his back to the projector screen, looked at Phillips and said, “We should do something up here. Maybe we’ll get some pizzas and get the football team together and do a show here.”

Phillips nodded in agreement.

“It’ll be a big day for this community,” West said, “for this school, especially.”

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