PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Former Blue Ridge football coach Paul Moro died at his home in Gilbert on Saturday after suffering a stroke.
He was 66.
Moro had suffered a major stroke two days before Christmas that robbed him of his ability to talk. Following that first stroke, Moro was living in a rehab center in Mesa. After suffering a second stroke last week he was moved home where he died.
The Blue Ridge School Board voted on January 22 to rename the school’s football field after Moro. A naming ceremony is expected to be conducted this fall.
“Coach Moro was an outstanding coach and a gentleman. He will be missed dearly,” wrote Blue Ridge Superintendent Michael Wright, in an email Monday. “His impact and positive influence on so many was profound. Thousands of young men learned life-lessons from Coach Moro that shaped them in ways that will remain with them all their life. The Yellowjacket Family mourns the loss of a great man.”
Moro was the winningest high school football coach ever in Arizona. He led the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets to 13 state championships, an Arizona record. He had 336 wins in his career, 318 with the Yellowjackets.
Jeremy Hathcock, an All-State running back, who played for Moro on three Blue Ridge state championship teams in the 1980s, told the Arizona Republic about the impact Moro had on so many young people:
“I can tell you he forever changed my life. I’m not just saying that. It’s put a huge responsibility on me,” Hathcock, who coaches at Mesa Desert Ridge High School, said. “That’s what we’re in this life for, to change people’s lives. That’s what he did and a thousand other lives.”
Moro’s valuable life lessons for young people were not confined to the football field. “One of my earliest memories of Coach Moro was as a freshman, off the football field,” wrote Bryce Cox on Facebook. “I had a tendency to slouch and was not very confident. I was walking down the hall and asked me why I walked like that. He told me to lift up my head, roll my shoulders back and walk with confidence. That simple act changed me for my entire life. Now I look at my 11 year-old boy and tell him the same thing.”
Moro began his coaching career in 1984 at Blue Ridge. He left Blue Ridge in 2013 and went on to his last coaching job at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe.
After coaching his 300th victory, while still with Blue Ridge, in 2012, Moro demonstrated his selfless dedication to the young people he coached. “Every single player who ever played for me at Blue Ridge is part of that 300,” he said. “Every single coach who has ever coached is part of that 300. It wasn’t me winning the games. I don’t carry the ball, I don’t run down the field for 100 yards of offense. They play. I just coach them. My players are more important to me than the wins.”
Godspeed, coach Moro.