By MARK SCHREMMER
JOPLIN, Mo. — When you talk to those who knew Derek Moore, they usually mention his smile.
“Derek was a fun guy,” said Missouri Southern State University head football coach Daryl Daye. “He was always smiling. He was always full of life. He had a great smile. He looked kind of like a prison guard, but once you got to know him, he was far from that. He was a big old teddy bear and soft-hearted.”
Moore, who was in his first season as Missouri Southern’s offensive line coach, was fatally shot Friday night on the parking lot of Joplin’s Northstar Stadium 14 theater. The tragedy led to the cancellation of Missouri Southern’s homecoming activities and the postponement of its game on Saturday.
An overflow crowd of football players, students, faculty and members of the community attended a memorial service in honor of the 37-year-old Moore on Monday at MSSU’s Corley Auditorium in Webster Hall. It was the first time members of the athletics department have spoken to reporters about Moore’s death.
“We’re here today to celebrate the life of Derek Moore,” Daye said. “That’s a key word: celebrate. We’ve had days to mourn, but now it’s time to celebrate him. We’re here to recall the good memories and the good feelings we have about him.”
Moore was remembered as a passionate coach who cared about his players, and as a good father who loved his son, Elijah.
“You couldn’t be around Derek more than five minutes before he let you know that he loved his 6-year-old son, Elijah, more than anything else in the world,” said Missouri Southern interim President Alan Marble.
Marble said a college fund is being created for Elijah, who lives with his mother in Iowa.
Before Moore’s time at Missouri Southern, he most recently had coached for three seasons at Western Illinois University. He coached for 14 seasons overall, and his stops included Ellsworth Community College, Iowa Central Community College, St. Cloud State, Upper Iowa and Northern Iowa.
“He was always laughing and having a good time, but he was intense,” said MSSU athletics director Jared Bruggeman. “He wanted to win. He was very competitive, and he drove his athletes to be that way.”
Moore was a native of Newton, Iowa, and played football at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He later earned his bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University in Iowa and his master’s degree from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.
Funeral services for Moore will be Nov. 11 at the Third Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.
Daye delivered the main speech at the memorial service and tried to express what he thought Moore would have wanted him to say.
“He loved Iowa,” said Daye, an alumnus of Louisiana State University. “He’d want me to tell you today that Iowa did beat LSU one time. One time. He’d want me to tell you that he was a good golfer. He wasn’t. He’d want me to tell you that he was sexy. He wasn’t. He’d want me to tell you that he was the best looking bald-headed coach on the staff, and I’m definitely not saying that one either.”
Daye also took time to express the things he believes Moore would say to his players. The Lions are scheduled to play Lindenwood-Belleville at 2 p.m. Saturday at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
“He’d want me to say that there’s no doubt that his offensive line will face this tragedy and turn it into victory, because that’s the way he trained them,” Daye said. “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. And he taught his kids to be tough.
“This is a tough football team. I got a tough staff. We’re going to cry when it’s time to cry, and we’re going to work when it’s time to work. We’re going to be an example to these young men in how to be men in life.”