Enloe Magnet High School has a reputation and Hamilton Moore was fully aware of it.
Tucked away, hidden behind trees off of New Bern Avenue, Enloe is known for its academics,not only in the Triangle, but in the nation. The school has been ranked by publications such as The Washington Post, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report as one of the top academic schools in the US.
The school’s graduation rate (90.6 percent) was considered above average, compared to 88.5 percentage in the rest of Wake County Public Schools. As of 1997, Enloe had the largest arts facilities in Wake County, a school where plays on the stage trump plays on the field.
When Moore was in eighth grade he and his mom did their research of where he would spend his high school years. Moore’s mom, Nga Moore, attended Duke on an academic scholarship and always made good grades a top priority, so Moore selected Enloe because of its strong academic reputation. However, as a talented football player Moore knew athletics at the school weren’t as strong as others in Wake County.
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“First thing that came to mind was that the football team was trash, basketball team was trash and we were never known as an athletic school,” senior defensive end Christian Rorie said. “But it was always good when it came to academics.”
The season before Rorie and Moore arrived on campus, the Eagles went 3-8. Both Rorie and Moore played on the varsity as freshmen, and were welcomed to to high school football with an 0-11 season. As pair, now seniors, got accustomed to the rigorous classroom work, they took plenty of lumps, physically and verbally on the field. The trash talk from opponents’ fans was classic.
“There have been times when they chanted “SAT SCORES” in the crowd,” Moore said with a slight laugh.
Rorie and Moore have now perhaps put that story to bed.
The team, under second-year head coach Kenneth Blocker, went 4-7 last season, a one-win improvement from 2016, but worlds away from the 0-11 season in 2015, the Eagles second winless campaign in three seasons. They are 2-0 heading into Friday’s contest at 1-0 Apex Friendship.
One gap as long as their playoff drought, was how long it’s been since Enloe has produced a Division I football player. Blocker guessed it was around 2010, but he wasn’t 100 percent sure. This year, he has at least two.
Rorie, a 6-6, 267 pound defensive end, verbally committed to Duke this summer. Two weeks later, Moore, a 6-1, 200 pound running back/linebacker, committed to Yale. They were talented enough -- Rorie had four sacks as a junior, Moore rushed for 1,207 yards and had 87 tackles - that they had their fair share of schools to choose from. But if you look at the schools they selected, it proves that they still take pride in their academics.
Blocker says by definition, Moore is “a nerd.”
“He has the 4.2 GPA, he’s going to Yale, he’s involved in just about every social activity,” Blocker said. “He’s a part of the equity team, which talks about diversity in the school. He’s actually been in front of the superintendent for a presentation of what it’s like to be an African-American student at Enloe. If you explain all that then say he’s a Division I linebacker playing at Yale, those two things don’t go hand and hand.”
Until he started being recruited Rorie didn’t have any social media. When Blocker asked about an Xbox or Playstation, Rorie wasn’t into those, either. Blocker describes Rorie as a “gentle giant,” a mild mannered kid who, if he didn’t tower over his classmates, would go unnoticed in the hallways at Enloe.
“He’s pretty much focused on his academics,” Blocker said. “The guy you see on the field, the monster that shows up on Friday, he’s really nothing like that, he kind of has an alter ego.”
One side of the alter ego took Japanese at Enloe because everyone else was taking Spanish and he wanted to be different. He says it was a horrible decision, but he was able to “tough it out.”
The other side of Rorie’s alter ego wants to enroll in Duke’s business school and gets aggravated when people assume he picked Duke just because of its strong academic reputation.
“I hate when people think I’m just going to Duke for education,” Rorie said. “We are still a great football team. Coach Cutcliffe is doing a good job, we have a young team coming in and we’re going to fight in the ACC.”
Both players have already started thinking about life after football. Moore said he was sold on a saying at Yale, ‘4 for 40,’ meaning if you work hard for four years they will change his life for 40 years. He wants to study finance and when he met Tony Reno, the Bulldogs’ coach told Moore that ‘Yale runs Wall Street.’ That caused Moore’s ears to perk up.
As far as model student-athletes go, Moore is probably the Enloe poster child. Blocker playfully calls Moore ‘Baby Dr. Chavis’ in reference to the school’s principal William Chavis. In the spring, when Moore was preparing for his presentations in front of Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore (no relation), Moore was away from the team, always in various meetings at the school. When Moore is with the team Blocker has to make sure his star two-way player isn’t putting too much pressure on himself. Always the student, Blocker pointed out Moore has too much information, sometimes processing so much on the field that he overthinks the game instead of just playing.
“Academics come very easy to him,” Blocker said about Moore. “But he wants to be the best football player he can be, so he definitely goes harder in the football department because academics to him is no different than taking a breath.”
Rorie was a big man (physically) on campus from the first day he showed up, and even though he was a backup as a sophomore, it didn’t stop other schools in the area from recruiting him to leave Enloe. The Eagles weren’t winning games, so why not go play for a winner, right? Rorie wouldn’t name which schools reached out, but said it was “a lot.”
But he stayed for a few reasons, first of which was Blocker taking over as head coach, and also a desire to change the image of football at Enloe. Rorie admitted he toyed with the idea of going elsewhere, for Moore it never crossed his mind. He wanted the challenge.
“That’s one of the hardest things about getting kids to come to Enloe; the academic course work is very hard,” Moore said. “Why would kids who know they are athletic go to a school where they have to focus more on school instead of going (somewhere) that focuses less on school and become better athletes.”
Rorie added, “Kids don’t value education like a lot of us do, that’s why it’s hard to get kids to come here sometimes.”
Being top scholars who have perhaps changed the image of an Enloe student-athlete, isn’t all on Rorie and Moore. Naturally, it’s easy to pinpoint the duo because they have survived the academic gauntlet and have thrived on the gridiron as well. But they don’t consider themselves trailblazers. Both Rorie and Moore went out of their way to give credit to, not only Blocker, but former teammates who paved the way for them during the years when they took their lumps.
Rorie remembers taking a beating every day in practice from an older teammate when he was a freshman. Same with Moore. They talk about previous Eagles who were just as talented in the classroom as they were, but didn’t catch a break on the recruiting circuit because they didn’t have size like Rorie, or run as fast as Moore.
“I don’t want anyone to think it’s just us, that it’s just a phase at Enloe,” Rorie said. “We have younger guys in the locker room who I know are going to make a change. I feel like we are making something that’s going to last.”
Blocker was asked how much easier his job is when his best players are his leaders and perhaps his smartest. He said they come a dime a dozen.
“I think they fit into the mission of the school,” Blocker said. “Sometimes you feel like you have to pick one or the other, which is why sometimes numbers aren’t that great in athletics because academics is such a heavy push. Having these guys in the forefront saying ‘hey man, you can get it done’ now we have guys who want to come out for football.”