Brandon Moorer, senior at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey and Northeastern commit, takes off running in the 4x100m. He plants his foot into the track, when something goes horribly wrong. His left quadricep muscle detaches itself, rolls up, and dies. It’s an incredibly rare and excruciatingly painful injury that put everything into question, his status as a runner, his future at Northeastern, and even caused him to question himself.
“My freshman year [at Northeastern] I was in such a bad spot that I gave up on myself completely towards the end,” Moorer said. “I couldn’t run. I couldn’t walk. I was just in pain all the time, physically and mentally. There were times when I said, ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’ It became such a battle. This is not what I want, so there were definitely times I thought about quitting.”
This type of injury can define a career. It can end a career. And sometimes, it can end something far more valuable.
But that is not this story.
For the better part of two, two and a half years, Moorer lived in the training room. First, learning to walk again. Then learning to run. Workouts, which started out as near impossible, slowly became doable. All throughout this 18-month recovery, head coach Tramaine Shaw continued to believe in him.
“We never gave up on Brandon because he never gave us a reason to,” Shaw said. “Injuries happen. I was a former athlete myself and I’ve been injured, and I’ve had teammates who’ve been injured. The reason I got into coaching was because I wanted to be able to give athletes an opportunity to have the type of experience I had and I had a phenomenal experience here at Northeastern, and that motivation has never changed.”
“So when it came down to Brandon, despite the injury, it didn’t change the fact that we wanted to provide him the best experience possible. He was more than willing to give his all and you get out of things what you put into it and he put in 110% and as a coach, I have no qualms about giving him 110%. And he’s from Jersey, and I’m a Jersey girl, and we’re built tough, so I never feared that this wouldn’t be something he would overcome eventually.”
Shaw recognizes that in a sport where there are a precious few moments of competition surrounded by numerous workouts, there are times when you can lose perspective. During Moorer’s recovery, he didn’t just lose perspective, but also hope.
In his sport. In his ability. And in life.
In 2017, the latest data published in the Journal of American Medical Association, suicide claimed the lives of 6,241 people in the United States between the ages of 15 and 24. Of those, 80% were men.
Except that isn’t this story either.
“I didn’t see a way out. Honestly, it’s a blessing that I’m still alive today,” Moorer said. “I didn’t think I would make it past my sophomore year. That’s the honest truth, I thought I would be dead. There were nights when I was literally sitting in the hospital bed because I was so fucked up. And to go from there to here, now? It’s a miracle.”
But Moorer never crossed that threshold. Shaw recalls how the staff kept a close eye on him as he was going through the recovery process, and credits everyone involved in the process, including Moorer.
“Brandon probably doesn’t give himself enough credit,” Shaw said. “He did always keep on a brave face, especially to his teammates, however, I don’t think the athletes always realize that we have eyes and ears everywhere, so we’re always watching to pick up on things that they don’t think we are. We watch them when they warm up in their little groups and we watch them as they’re leaving and as they come in so I think there’s a lot that goes into their mannerisms, the way they carry themselves day to day, even the conversations that they have that they don’t think we notice, but we’re watching even when they don’t think we’re watching.”
Shaw said that the open and symbiotic conversations between herself, Moorer, Northeastern sports psychologist Dr. Adam Naylor, and even teammates, made sure that Moorer always had resources and help during the difficult times. But Moorer himself said that only when he realized that he needed to open up to his teammates did things start to turn.
“[My teammates] knew about what happened, because they could see it, but it was more of I would hide the toll it was taking on me from an emotional standpoint, because I didn’t want to come across freshman year as someone who was dependent, or someone who was weak,” Moorer said. “And freshman year is extremely competitive you know? You’re trying to figure out your spot and everyone has that little bit of ego: I don’t want to get in Coach’s way, I don’t want her to think I’m less than what she recruited me as. I wanted to come off as being who I always thought I was. I was trying to live two separate lives. Out in public, I’m happy or whatever, but in private, I’m all fucked up. Eventually, you can’t run from it anymore, so the only way to feel better was to open up, and they supported me from day one.”
This support eventually led Moorer to not just getting back out on the track, but succeeding. In time, he would be named a team captain for his last two seasons of eligibility.
Except that isn’t quite this story.
Because this story can’t be told without discussing how he vented from the physical and mental pain.
“Entrepreneurship was my outlet,” Moorer said. “Becoming an entrepreneur made me realize that my entire life I thought my whole purpose was track and athletics, and having this injury made me open up my scope and see that there is more to life than just track.
Although he labeled first foray into entrepreneurship, The Moorer Media Group, a digital marketing agency, as a failure, Moorer, inspired by his previous personal difficulty in connecting with young minority entrepreneurs, started the Youth Entrepreneurs Diversity Corporation, commonly referred to as YED Corp., during his sophomore year.
“There is more to life than just athletics,” Moorer said. “Us athletes, we tend to paint ourselves in this one lane, that all we know is athletics. When I got into entrepreneurship, I was like ‘oh shit,’ everything that I learned in athletics, translates over to everything else I do in the rest of my life.”
YED Corp has been an unequivocally massive success, having just hosted their second national summit at New York University with 450 attendees and currently undergoing their second national tour of the east coast. It is this triumph within entrepreneurship that catapulted Moorer’s confidence on the track.
This past season, Moorer was part of the 4x400M relay team that broke the school record…for the second consecutive year. A feat that Shaw knows meant so much to him, although she recognizes that his impact is so much greater than a single run.
“I’m super proud. Though I think sometimes people think that with coaches it’s all about the track performances,” Shaw said. “When I talk about current and former athletes, I talk about people like [Olympic hopeful] Kyle Darrow in the same breath as people like Nicole Genard, who was one of our top athletes here and came from a single parent household and struggled a little, but ended up being a Northeastern police officer and a team captain who overcame quite a bit.”
It is this combination of overcoming adversity in sport and in life that gives Shaw the most pride in her work. For all that the track accolades are worth, and the story behind them, she is just as proud of Moorer’s work in YED Corp.
“To me, track and field complements all of that and has been part of the process and the success of all these athletes, current and former, both on the track and off,” Shaw said. “I’m incredibly proud because I feel that we are still a part of that. Whether he’s making waves on the track or his accomplishments outside, it speaks highly of our program and the type of athlete we are trying to build.”
Moorer’s dedication during his recovery and comeback from such a devastating injury, both physically and mentally, was then recognized by his peers in the 2018-2019 Howlin’ Husky Awards. Moorer was voted as the inaugural male winner of the Red & Black Dedication Award – given to the athlete deemed most dedicated by their own peers.
“It was shocking, but I was extremely happy about it. It’s nice to be recognized, especially considering the previous things that had happened going through the injury and my teammates saw all the mental hardships I was going through,” Moorer said. “I would have panic attacks sometimes at practice because mentally I was in such a bad place and to be able to come out of that and be recognized for my dedication…it means something.”
In a script as old as time, a high level athlete suffers a devastating injury and tumbles from once dazzling heights to figuratively, and sometimes literally, disappearing. Except this isn’t that story.
A record holder. A team captain. A successful entrepreneur. A Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar, a distinction given to only the top 1,000 college students across the country. And now also an author, as Moorer’s book – A New Lane, which documents his recovery and healing process – is scheduled to be released in spring 2020.
That is Moorer’s story.
“I want people to see me as someone who was resilient. I want to be someone people can look up to. Because I know, for a fact, that I am not the only person who has had rough injuries, who’s been in the same kind of mental battle that I was in, and that’s why I wrote my book. I know there are other people out there going through the exact same thing that I did, but they just don’t have the voice to say anything or they don’t have anyone they can go to, to talk to. So I want people to see me as that outlet,” Moorer said.
“‘He made it out of all that, so I can do it too.’”