By Van Adams, Player Engagement Insider
The holiday season often brings out the spirit of giving in people. But for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats, he and his family give cheerfully year-round.
An active member of the Ronald McDonald House Charities board, and a supporter of several other causes, Moats and his wife, Shonda, make giving back a family event. The couple will often include their three children, daughters Kaylor (11) and Ava (5), and son Grey (2), in the family’s service projects.
“At an early age, I was taught if you are in any position to help others, you should do that. So now that I have this platform and resources, it’s my responsibility to make sure that I’m making a difference in the communities that I am in,” Moats said. “I have kids now; if I’m out here helping in the community then they are able to see the importance of helping people so ultimately we can make the world a better place.”
Moats credits his parents, both of whom are pastors, and his father, a former Marine, for shaping his core values.
“Qualities instilled in me growing up help me to this day in how I raise my family, how I approach my work, and how I deal with adversity,” Moats said.
Growing up in Portsmouth, Virginia, Moats spent Sunday afternoons after church service delivering loaves of bread to inner city families with his parents.
At an early age, Moats was introduced to people from different walks of life, with varied socioeconomic backgrounds and circumstances. It was from observations of his parents’ pastoral outreach that he was able to understand the role good communication skills play in appealing to diverse communities.
“In every aspect of my life I’ve always tried to do something to help people out. Now my platform is bigger and my resources are larger so I am able to do a lot more and have much more reach,” said Moats who generously donated a significant portion of his salary to his alma matter, James Madison University (JMU), in 2015.
“JMU impacted my life in all of the core areas,” he said. “I received a top-notch education, it’s where I met my wife, and I was able to advance my playing career. All of those aspects, JMU was there for me.”
Moats has been nominated twice for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award (2013 Bills, 2017 Steelers), the league’s most prestigious individual honor presented annually honoring a player’s volunteer and charitable efforts as well as his excellence on the field.
“It’s a huge honor being nominated twice for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. To be recognized by two different organizations during my playing career means a lot,” Moats said. You never do good just to get recognized, you want to do good ultimately because you want to see others doing well.”
Moats has done a lot of speaking engagements over the years where he talks to youth and adults about the importance of an education and encourages them to push themselves to be better people.
“At times I felt like a hypocrite because at the time I only had an undergrad degree and had not pushed myself any further. I had become complacent in that regard. So, it was important for me to not only tell everyone about the importance of an education but to show them as well,” he said.
Wanting to practice what he preached was the driving force behind Moats’ decision to pursue a master’s degree while still playing football.
“It was very important for me to do it while playing because then it takes the excuse factor out of it. No one can say ‘oh well, he’s a retired athlete and has a ton of free time, so that’s the reason why he got a master’s degree,’” said Moats, who has a bachelors degree in political science from James Madison University. “When you get a master’s degree while you have a full-time job playing in the NFL, and have a wife and three kids, it shows that if you really want to make this a priority. You’re going to find time to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.”
Moats pursuit of a master’s degree began in 2013 while he was a member of the Buffalo Bills. In June 2017, Moats earned a Master of Arts in Community and Economic Development, with an advanced graduate certificate in social entrepreneurship, from SUNY Empire State College in New York.
“The beauty of the online program, I was able to work at my pace. When I had a little more free time I would do extra work to get ahead. Time management was the biggest challenge during the season,” he said. I would do the bulk of my work on Friday nights, during our quiet time, and I would read on flights.”
Some of Moats’ teammates have been so motivated by his level of dedication that they too have enrolled in school to complete their undergraduate degrees, or have begun exploring options to obtain advanced education.
“Anything is possible, “Moats said. “If you want to do it, you’ll find the time.”
During his rookie year with the Bills, Moats interned with United Way of Erie County, and later interned with the University of Buffalo Athletic Department working with academic advisors to help student-athletes manage their time to stay on track towards graduation.
Moats is currently weighing internship opportunities for this off-season, and has his sights set on participating in the NFL Player Engagement Broadcast Bootcamp.
“I have been given an opportunity and have a chance through the NFL to get as much knowledge as I can and learn from great people who have done this before me,” he said. “If I can soak up all of this knowledge while I’m playing, we can reverse the statistics of guys going broke or feeling lost when they retire because they feel they don't have a purpose. If I can take advantage of these things now, I can be a part of that change.”
Down the road Moats sees himself potentially working in a mentoring capacity within a player development program.
“I have a lot of experience in that regard being a sixth-round Draft pick, coming from a smaller school, being a starter, being in the NFL as a single guy, being in the NFL as a married guy,” Moats said. “I feel like I have a lot of qualities that would help me mentor younger guys coming into the league, I can help out the middle year vet and I can help the guy on the back end of his career. I can be the person who can be a pivotal role in player’s lives when it comes to mentoring.”
In addition to the prestigious honor of being nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year honor, Moats is putting one of his hidden qualities on display as a contestant in Sports Illustrated’s MVP: Most Valuable Performer, an interactive talent show to find the pro football player with the best off-the-field talent.
Low-key with his musical talents, Moats took some of his teammates by surprise when he debuted his keyboard playing skills at a Steelers fashion show earlier this season.
“Anyone who really knows me knows I’m very passionate about music,” said Moats, who taught himself to play the drums at age eight and was the drummer at his family’s church growing up. “When I got to college I didn't have a drum set, but I still wanted to be involved with music. My roommate at the time played the keyboard. I asked him to show me a thing or two and from there I became enamored with it and started teaching myself (how to play). From there, I fell in love with the instrument.
“Anytime I get the opportunity to show those talents, I do like to show them. “Ninety percent of the time, the questions I get are football related. The other questions I get asked are about my personal life from my marriage and children standpoint or my non-profit aspect. It’s very rare I’m asked a question about what things I’m passionate about that no one really knows about. I call it my hidden quality (laughing).”
So, what else piques Moats’ interests? Social media.
“I’m a social media guy, yes I am,” Moats said enthusiastically. “My favorites right now are Twitter and Instagram. I love Twitter and the ability to have dialogue and go back and forth with the fans. But then I also love Instagram, being able to put up a picture and capture a special moment whether it’s football or family or something you’re doing in the community. To be able to capture a moment and everyone can share in it with you is great.”
Moats doesn’t seek plaudits, or any form of public adulation. He doesn’t volunteer to shape his brand image or to pad his resume. Moats generosity and compassion for others has long been a way of life. For him, giving back, being focused and disciplined is in his DNA. It’s an authentic expression of the man his parents, Rosalind and Arthur Moats, raised him to be.
Van Adams is an award-winning entrepreneur and small business owner with expertise in sports business and business development. Over the last decade, she has represented a number of iconic sports celebrities and executed marketing campaigns for their personal celebrity and/or business ventures. An advocate for women in business, Van is the creator and producer of Gathering on the Greens, a women’s golf initiative, and serves as President of the Board of Directors for the NYC Metro Chapter of Women in Sports and Events where she oversees programming and strategy. Van is an adjunct professor and often conducts workshops for the small business & sports business communities. She spends her spare time in a test kitchen baking or on a golf course working on her short game.