Sara Steele-Moore watched her son Quentin Moore’s 6-foot-6 frame get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror.
She and her youngest son Tate left him behind in Independence, Kansas, so he could get an education and further develop himself as a college tight end, and they headed for the airport.
“I knew being so far away from home it was going to be tough on him,” Steele-Moore said. “But I also knew that it would help him grow mentally and academically.”
Quentin Moore, a 2021 commit to the University of Washington football program, and his mother couldn’t have made it through this journey without each other showing strength. They knew Quentin had to take this opportunity and become a man.
As they said goodbye, Steele-Moore could have cried but she felt at peace inside. She intended for all of them to have a nice time together during the drive to Kansas.
A family vacation wasn’t possible that summer. High school ended for Quentin and he had to be in Kansas. His mother decided they would make the best of the 1,995-mile drive to the Midwest. This was a final time to do things as a family before she sent her son off to college.
The drive to Kansas also was a chance to get the boys alone in the car together. The first day and a half went as planned.
“We had uninterrupted bonding time between the three of us,” Steele-Moore said.
They left Seattle on the morning of the Fourth of July. Sara drove virtually nonstop for the first 12 hours. On a stretch of highway between Utah and Colorado, after a quick refueling, they were treated to a fireworks show.
Intent on getting to Independence by the morning, Steele-Moore drove through the night. Both boys were asleep.
With the sunroof open, they traveled through the Rocky Mountains and into the Kansas flatlands. While playing her favorite compact disc, she could hear her boys snore. The music of Journey took her back to a simpler time.
“That was my first concert,” Sara said. “I was in ninth grade.”
The song “Don’t Stop Believin'” began to play and she was finally able to exhale. It seemed apropos.
“I remember thinking how amazing this was that Q was going off to college with a bigger dream in mind and how proud of him I was,” she said.
Everything seemed to be falling into place. He had struggled academically for some time, but this was a chance to get it right. She began working more and more as the real-estate market turned for the better.
Along the way, Quentin had to look after his little brother to make everything work.
“He was there so that Tate wasn’t home alone,” she said. “It made them very close.”
Quentin also had the role of the family’s fireman. Tate cooked something in the microwave that was smoking so bad, his mom could smell it as she got out of her car.
With high school over, Moore also had a chance to look at his surroundings and realize he might be passing up an opportunity of a lifetime if he didn’t buckle down and hit the books.
“I didn’t want to stop playing football because I couldn’t get my stuff together in the classroom,” he said.
Moore freely admitted he had many chances in high school to put it all together but he didn’t fix his academic standing out of sheer laziness. He knew this trip was a chance to move from the old Quentin to the new Quentin.
“This was my Last Chance U,” he said of Independence Community College. “If I couldn’t get it right, I’m done.”
He’d always believed in his athletic ability — some took it as cockiness — but in Kansas, he had a chance to prove himself to a new set of coaches.
ICC went through a coaching change prior to the 2019 season, promoting Kiyoshi Harris from offensive-line coach to head coach.
As luck would have it for Moore, Harris broke into the college ranks by coaching tight ends and fullbacks at the University of Redlands in California. Harris recognized the potential in Moore — if only his new tight end could pull it all together in the classroom and in the weight room.
When Moore thought about committing to Washington, Steele-Moore said there was a bit of apprehension.
“Initially Q was hesitant to commit to Washington because he was afraid of failing academically,” Sara said. “I told him the coaches and the university aren’t going to let that happen.”
She reminded Quentin how much UW tight-end coach Derham Cato seemed invested in Quentin as a person.
“Coach Cato checks in with us all of the time,” Steele-Moore said. “He has been a positive influence this past year in Quentin’s life, on and off of the football field.”
UW coach Jimmy Lake checked in with Quentin throughout the process, as well.
With this tight-knit family, the two-day journey was the equivalent of a memorable week’s vacation.
For Quentin Moore, it was the beginning of a new journey — one that would bring him back to Seattle.