Mark Moon, 35, is the offensive line coach for the state-bound Grayson Rams. A graduate of Bowden High School, Moon was a state title as a player when he was a sophomore and has been on the Grayson staff for 11 of the team's 12 years.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." the elementary school gym teacher talks with staff writer Ben Beitzel about what it means to win a high school state title, his rise through the Grayson coaching ranks and his students favorite games to play in gym class.
BB: You have taught at a couple places, starting at Lawrenceville Elementary, how did you get where you are now (Cooper Elementary)?
MM: I moved to Cooper because it was a lot closer to my house and it was a Grayson feeder school, but now it is an Archer feeder school. (laughs). I am the black sheep over there, wearing the Grayson stuff. Everybody is red and silver over there. There are a lot of good people over there with Grayson roots who are still rooting for us.
BB: Being there. it must be weird to now be at the established school as a coach with Archer still a young program. It must feel oddly familiar to how you started.
MM: Absolutely. I started off coaching ninth grade, helped out there, coached there for four season. Then after coaching there for four seasons I went to JV and I have done varsity for six years.
BB: The O-line coach, that's the fun job. Those are the fun kids to coach, right?
MM: Oh yeah, the fat guys. I have a good group of guys. One of the really cool things that I liked about moving into the district was a lot these kids I taught in elementary school. Those kids I taught in elementary school. Two of the seniors on the offensive line I taught in elementary school.
BB: Which two?
MM: Fred (Zeblis) and Garrett Gorringe. It's funny watching them in fourth and fifth grade and now they are seniors. That is one of the neatest parts about teaching elementary school is you see those kids grow up in the community.
BB: And those offensive linemen, especially Fred, they can now grow better beards than I can and I have 11 years on them.
MM: (laughs) You ain't kidding. That is something. They had that article in the paper and I had people back home calling and saying, 'Man, those guys have full beards, I couldn't do that till I was in college.'
BB: You won a state championship as a sophomore what was that like for you?
MM: It was a highlight of my high school career. I try to relate that to the kids. I talk to the kids about it; they are playing for this game. We were 15-0, preseason ranked No. 1, went all the way through. Played against Charlton County (in the semifinals), Boss Bailey. Champ Bailey was a ninth grader. All the Bailey boys came from Charlton County. Our coach told us that year, 'If you win this game, you've won a state championship.' That is what he told us that day, because they were so good. We ended up squeaking that game out and then won the state championship against Macon County.
BB: Has your state run come up a lot this season as it's gone on?
MM: It comes up throughout the season. I wear my rings on Friday nights and sometime the kids will ask about it. They'll say, 'Coach, where's that from?' and I'll tell them. I had it on throughout the playoffs. I have been reluctant these past few weeks to say much about it, but I might break it out and say, 'This is what we are playing for tonight, boys.'
BB: You didn't play sports at West Georgia, what took you to that school?
MM: Carrollton, where West Georgia is located, neighbors Bowden by about five miles. I was going to go to UGA, was accepted to UGA but my parents wanted me to stay home that first year. So I did and I got to West Georgia and (Grayson's) athletic director Brent Tisdale, we went to college together. I graduated a year before he did. I got a job here and Brent got on the following year and came and coached here and then he left and went to Mountain View and he came back, now he's our athletic director. He and I are very good friends. So I went to West Georgia because it was close to home, built a lot of friends there and never transferred. Met my wife and she went to West Georgia.
BB: When you went to college so close to home, did you figure you would end up back home, or around home?
MM: You know, I did, but I was a P.E. major and even at that time, I got hired in 1999 and there were 52 elementary schools at that time in Gwinnett and there were like three P.E. teachers hired that year. The economic times were really good and if you were a teacher you were going to get a job, but back home I couldn't find a job. I had my application in at a lot of different places. It was hard. My wife (Cassy) is from this area and went to school here (Central Gwinnett) and her mom is a teacher. She taught at Central Gwinnett at the time and knew someone, just like anything else, helped me get on here in Gwinnett and I have been here for 13 years.
BB: Did you want to teach elementary?
MM: I did. I did. I always enjoyed teaching little kids. I think it's a good mix. I enjoy teaching little kids and I enjoy teaching high school football. A lot of people ask me, 'Do you ever want to be in high school?' Not really. I like elementary kids.
BB: You can get your teenage angst fix after school.
MM: You could say that. A lot of people see I teach elementary school and say, 'I don't see how you do it.' But I have pretty good patience.BB: And you aren't teaching them equations. In gym they are allowed to run around.
MM: It's crowd control and make sure the kids don't kill each other.
BB: What game do they like the most?
MM: As far as a game is concerned in elementary school we do a lot more skills. Soccer is probably one of their favorite things to do. We do a game called toss-up soccer that they really like to play. It's a competition game. We don't really start our competition stuff until third, fourth and fifth grade because the little kids, they aren't ready for that. We do a lot more stations with them, throwing and catching, yada, yada, yada, stuff like that.
BB: It sounds more technical than when I was that age. I just remember playing with a big balloon.
MM: Little kids love parachute.
BB: Yes! I loved parachute.
MM: They love parachute. Third, fourth and fifth grade they like more sports like soccer, basketball, that type of stuff. And of course they like any type of stuff like battle ball or dodgeball but you have to be careful with that.
BB: It sounds like you were always interested in P.E.
MM: My dad was the baseball director in my hometown and I always grew up around sports and always had a love for it. I knew I was going to get into coaching one day and I thought P.E. kind of relates to that. I had good P.E. teachers in high school and had good relationships with my coaches in high school. I felt like it was a really good fit for me. ... As a teacher you won't ever be rich, but you'll always be happy and I am very happy with what I do.
BB: Cassy, your wife, is the cheerleading coach here, at least you work around each other during football season. That has to make it fun on Fridays.
MM: Absolutely. Friday nights are big for us. It's good. I see her when we go out on the field and stuff. That's been good.
BB: How's it been as the seasons have gotten longer as the success here has grown?
MM: I'll tell you, I am not home very much but it's a lot of time, but it's worth it. The reward is Saturday night if we can get there and win that game. My wife, I have a great wife, that is one of the biggest things about coaching is you have to have a great wife. She is a sports freak just like me and she is very understanding in that. I miss my family, but after this I'll be back.
BB: So she likes football?
MM: Oh yeah. Before we had our son, we are big Georgia fans, we had Georgia season tickets. But once I got to coaching and had a family it got hard to do that on Saturdays.
BB: Your son, KJ, is 6, does he play football yet?
MM: Yes. This was his first year. I coached him, me and my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law was the head coach and I ran the offense and it was fun. It was like herding cats, 6-year-old football. But we had a good season, we made it to the second round of the playoffs and went 7-3. It was a lot of fun.
BB: Was he an offensive lineman like his dad?
MM: He was tight end.
BB: Close. For 6-years-olds that's O-line.
MM: Right. It was fun. He was an offensive linemen.