Father's memory motivates a determined Jaylen Moss
BA defensive tackle works to 'get back on track' after dad's death two years ago
It was a little after 5 a.m.
The bus had still not arrived.
Waiting. Choosing to lean against the steel silver pole of a “No Parking” sign instead of sitting on the metal bench, which the damp arctic-like air had decorated with icicles and covered with droplets of frozen water, the high school sophomore’s lips quivered as the north wind took numbing bites from his moist cheeks that were slightly exposed from the covering of his hoodie. He crammed his chilled, jittering hands into the pockets of his jacket, nearly ripping the stitches. He scrunched his shoulders in a lost battle against the chill and occasionally rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he waited for the Tulsa Transit bus in the cold darkness of a pre-dawn winter morning.
Weeks earlier Jaylen Moss’s trip to school started after the sun had risen. Prior to Nov. 6, 2017, Moss never expected a 4:30 a.m. wake up call and nearly two-hour bus ride to be part of his school-morning routine.
Moss, the middle brother of five boys (including Tiger junior linebacker Darryan), was at a friend’s house that Wednesday evening when he got a call from his mother.
“I remember my mom calling me and crying,” he said. “She just said ‘you need to get to Muskogee.’”
Lloyd Moss, the patriarch of the family, had suffered a fatal heart attack while visiting his sister. It wasn’t until Jaylen arrived at the hospital that he learned his father, at the age of 40, had died.
“I didn’t believe it,” Moss recalled. “I was in shock. I didn’t think it was real at first. It didn’t seem real. I was so mad. I had so much anger.”
Four days later, and one day before his father’s funeral, Moss was playing the game he, his father and the rest of the family loved. Lloyd Moss, a graduate of Muskogee High School, played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Kansas Wesleyan. He also was an assistant coach of Muskogee at the time.
Moss, now a senior defensive tackle for the Broken Arrow Tigers, was a 10th grade linebacker for Victory Christian in 2017. The game on Nov. 10 of that year was a 62-14 first round playoff win over Wyandotte.
“I had one of the best games I had ever played,” Moss said. “The Friday before that, the last game my dad saw me play was against Holland Hall. It was one of my best games also. I had two sacks and like eight or nine tackles. It was pretty good.”
The 2017 season ended for Victory Christian and Moss in a second round, two-point loss to Vian.
With football over and his father gone, the grieving process shuddered the psyche of Jaylen Moss more than the stabbing pre-dawn wind pierced his frigid flesh.
“Once my dad passed away, the love for school wasn’t there anymore,” Moss said. “He was kind of a motivator for school.”
Meeting the bus at the North Tulsa stop preceded the long ride across town to the Victory Christian campus on south Lewis Avenue. An early start on an unfamiliar bus route punctured the fragile emotions of the weary-eyed 15-year-old. He wanted to sleep, but Moss found no rest on the bus. He had lost the desire to attend school. And, to even be around people.
“I didn’t talk to nobody for a long time,” Moss said. “I got tired of it sometimes. It took a toll on my attendance.
“People were trying to tell me. They were like ‘Jaylen, you gotta get back in school.’ Me showing back up to school…I don’t even know how I did it to be honest.”
Missing school days impacted Moss’s grades and, for now anyway, his dreams of playing NCAA Division I football. He still needs to take his ACT and realizes that getting his grades up to NCAA eligibility standards is one of the greatest challenges he has faced after moving to Broken Arrow the summer before his junior year.
“I dug myself this hole, so I’m going to have to be the one to get out of it,” Moss said, with a sense of adult maturity he has embraced during the nearly two years since his father died. “Now, it’s my senior year, so I’m trying to get back on track. It’s kind of hard.”
Mentally and physically Moss has grown. That shivering 15-year-old has transformed himself into a thickly chiseled 6-foot-4-inch, 235-pound down lineman, who says “every chance I get to play defensive end and stand up and we go to three man; I like it.”
The Tigers leading tackler among defensive lineman with 19, and team-leader in tackles-for-loss with five, Moss realizes he may have to follow his father’s path to reach his own personal goal.
“Now that I think about it, I know it sounds weird, but it kind of gave me motivation a little bit. It got me more determined,” he said, reflecting on his father’s death. “Any route I have to take, even if I have to take the JUCO route, I am going to play college football.
“I’m self-motivated now. When I was younger I needed it. That is what my dad was there for; to motivate me when I would slack off or take a play off in football.”
That drive, learned from his father, he has now fully inherited.
There is no longer a cold, bitter wind surrounding nor inhibiting the desires of Jaylen Moss. He is ready to board the bus. He is confident he knows where it is going.