By Nolan Ortiz
Caylin Moore, 2017 Rhodes Scholar
Keith Johnson, Executive Director, Falcons Youth and Family Services
Moderator: Lolita Lopez, General Assignment Reporter, NBC4 Southern California
Caylin Moore has never allowed anything to stand in the way of him accomplishing what he sets out to do. Not his parents divorcing when he was very young, not his father going to prison, and not growing up so poor that he often went hungry. Caylin is a Southern California kid who grew up in the Compton-Carson area and was determined to create a better life for himself. As a child, Caylin would do push-ups in order to have his mind focus on the pain in his arms rather than the pain in his stomach from being hungry and not having any food to eat. “This may sound strange but I convinced myself that those push-ups I was doing on that floor, one day that would create some opportunities where I wouldn’t be hungry anymore,” Caylin explained.
Caylin began playing football when he was 10 years old and it was through playing the sport that he met one of his mentors, Keith Johnson, the executive director of Falcons Youth and Family Services. Coach Johnson quickly saw how driven young Caylin was when he tried out for the quarterback position several levels above his age group. “He was determined to set himself at a much higher standard, not to be like everyone else, and not only did he compete for the position, he actually won the position,” Johnson recalled. Now, Coach Keith could not be prouder of Caylin and what he has accomplished. “I look at Caylin,” Johnson said, holding back tears. “And I see. I see the greatness that’s in all of us,” said Johnson.
Caylin was raised by his mother and did not have many male role models growing up, making coach Keith’s presence all the more important. “If I had to cite any male role models extemporaneously really quick, I had to think about the garbage man and the mailman first. Because in my community, the garbage man showed up at 8am every single Monday and the mailman showed up at 3pm. That’s how I learned to be on time,” Moore said.
The lack of father figures in his community is something Johnson does not take lightly. When he talks about working with youth, Johnson explains his approach. “I see several lumps of clay,” he said. “The question is, how will those lumps of clay be molded, be shaped? They’re going to be tested by fire, but will they be in the hands of someone who can actually make something beautiful out of that ugly little lump?” Johnson continues, “My job, a coach’s job, is to look at that lump and pour into them the craftsmanship and the love, the gentleness, the struggles that is needed, the words of wisdom that is needed to help that parent mold that child into something very special.”
Caylin has grown up to become something special indeed. He played Division I football at Texas Christian University before moving on to be selected as a Fulbright Scholar and eventually a Rhodes Scholar. It is a success story that can serve as an inspiration to all. Now, Coach Keith Johnson is eager to help youth continue to grow and create future success stories of their own. “My passion now is to raise up another group of kids who can look at Caylin, see a living role model, and say ‘yes I can.’”