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Moran Quits

This story actually starts on Friday, January 12--the day before the game. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I am late to practice because I have a class that runs until 1:50pm (practice typically starts at 1:30) and this Friday was no exception; but what happened there at practice was anything but typical.

Matt goes AWOL

I arrived at the stadium around 2:15pm and made a dash for the locker room to get taped and dressed. There I met up with freshman Nick Knapp who was chattering on the phone in the back room. As our trainer taped my ankles, Nick informed me that Matt Moran, our leading rebounder and second leading scorer, had (for the second time) just told Coach that he wanted to quit and that he left before practice had even started. "Awww crap!" I said aloud. This was the second time Matt had expressed a desire to quit the team, but the first time he had gone so far as to skip practice. My heart sank as Nick filled in some of the finer points. Dressed and ready, I headed out onto the hardwood all the while hoping that what Nick had just told me was all some sort of really sick joke. Much to my chagrin, Matt was nowhere to be found.

The first time Matt threatened to leave, he said he didn't feel like he belonged here at Northwestern--he was struggling in his classes, the social scene is non-existent here at NU (unless you're a beer-guzzling frat boy) and those who are sociable are not the type of people he chose to align himself with. He missed his friends back in Pekin, IL. He was just plain homesick. From day one, I made it my responsibility to see to it that Matt felt welcomed here at NU and I regularly invited him on "burrito runs" to El Norte, movies, dinner and whatever else Evan and I could think of--but he always declined, usually because he was returning home for the weekend (he lives about 3.5 hours away in Pekin, IL) to be with his mother. I didn't let that stop me. There was something special about Matt Moran--I could feel it.

After much talking-to by his roomie (and team manager) Keith Peshke and an afternoon with Assistant Coach Paul Swanson, Matt agreed to at least stick it out until Winter Quarter just to see if things turned around for him.

Samson and Deliliah

Up until about 4 or so days ago, Matt was loving it here. He got a near-perfect score on his calculus exam, his grades were improving, he found his niche in the team, he developed a very close bond with Keith and things began looking up for him. Keith told me Friday that Matt had just a few days earlier made the comment that he loved being here at NU, he loved playing ball and that our team is going to do really well this year in the Big10. Then she came up to visit for a few days and all hell broke loose.

His girlfriend came to visit until Monday, but having her around brought back too many memories of the way things were. He began to long for his high school days when he was the big man on campus, where everybody thought he was a god and where he could dominate on the court without even trying. Matt was featured in The Daily Northwestern just three short days ago with a big-ol' title blazing across the page Moran is the Man, but his first two outings in the Big10 were a bit rougher than he had anticipated and "that voice" began to call from within. Matt somehow thought he could have what once was just by going back home--he was living in the past and didn't realize that all of his friends are now in college--the old days are gone and better left alone. There was no convincing Matt of this; his mind was already made up by the time he made his announcement. Matt let his feelings for a woman and the days of old override any sense he had and threw away so much that he could have become. It's an age-old scenario: Adam had this problem with Eve, Samson had this problem with Deliliah. Just goes to show that if we don't learn from the past, we are condemned to repeat it.

The last supper

Joe Harmsen, Nick Knapp, Nate Pomeday and Shawn Hanlon all got together and went to see Matt in his room just two floors down from my own. Senior Brian Chamberlain called and talked to him. Evan Eschmeyer called several times. The coaches all called him multiple times. Nothing was working and no one was getting through. His best friend Keith couldn't even get through to him (if it weren't for Keith, Matt would have left after the first week of class--that's how homesick he was). I called Evan and he suggested a burrito run. I thought it would be a great opportunity to win him back--after all, no one can resist the power of an El Norte burrito. We all hopped in Evan's car and I drove us to El Norte for our last supper. Conversation was lighthearted as I tried to make him feel comfortable, but the long, awkward silences that fragmented our conversation were deafening. As we dined on our tasty treats, Evan and I gently prodded him with questions.

Matt didn't know what he was going to do when he got back home. He said he'd probably attend Bradley University (about 15 min. away from his house) and play there. He didn't care that he would be throwing away two years of eligibility. He didn't care that he'd be throwing away a Northwestern education. He didn't even care that Bradley hadn't even guaranteed him a spot on their team: "I'll take that chance" he said. He just wanted to go home. Keith mentioned something to me about Matt getting a job at the local K-Mart and my heart just sank. From the Big10 to K-Mart--what a waste of talent.

We'll miss you, Matt

I love Matt like a brother but this whole ordeal really irritates me. He was surrounded by people that care about him. He had a good roommate, his grades were getting better and better, he was getting tons of exposure playing 30+ minutes per game in one of the toughest athletic conferences in the nation and he was a team leader in both rebounding and scoring! But that wasn't good enough.

Matt gave up, and that is something that I will never understand. He gave up on our team, leaving us high-and-dry. He gave up on his education. He gave up on a bright future playing a sport he loves so much. He gave up on his friends here at NU. He gave up on all that his father wanted him to be. But what hurts me the most is that he gave up on himself...it hurts me so much that it brought me to tears. I feel as if my own brother had just committed suicide and I can't do a thing to bring him back...no one can.

With a heavy heart I wish Matt Moran nothing but happiness in his life to come. I cannot bring him back, I can only hope and pray that he will learn from this experience and never again repeat it. I hope that he learns to look his trials and tribulations in the eye and not use this as a precedent for the rest of his life. For if he doesn't, the World is going to swallow him whole.

Goodbye Matt Moran, you will always hold a special place in my heart and we all will miss you dearly.

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