ATHENS – There was that smile, that inviting manner, that smirk that Quentin Moses always carried, the one that those around him knew a joke was coming. If you needed something, that smile told them, just ask, whether it be a snack, or some of his famous grilled barbecue.
Or to help raise their child.
Quentin Moses, 33, didn’t have any of his own children. Other people just asked him to be godfather to their children. Former teammates at Georgia, such as Bryan McClendon, trusted and loved him so much they bestowed the honor on him. It was just what Moses did. The big former football player had a big heart, with lots of love to give out.
And on Sunday morning, Moses happened to be in the house with Jasmine Godard, the little girl he stepped up to help raise after the death of her own father almost a decade before.
Last Friday night, Quentin Moses and Jasmine Godard attended a daddy-daughter dance. Two mornings later, the two would perish in a house fire along with Andria Godard, who was Jasmine’s mother, and their pet dog.
It was quiet on Monday morning on Shamrock Drive in Monroe, as neighbor Joy Bishop looked across the street at the charred remains at the house, the roof gone, blackness covering what was left of the one-story home. The neighbor shook her head.
“You just can’t find better people,” Bishop said. “They’re just that good a people. I know Quentin was famous, supposedly, or whatever? He was the most down-to-earth. Sweetest people in the world.”
Moses grew up in Athens, where he was a two-sport star at Cedar Shoals High School. One of his best friends was Xavier Godard, a teammate going all the way back to Little League.
Godard would go on to Western Carolina, where he would play for three years, marry a woman named Andria and have a daughter named Jasmine. He would also stay in close touch with his childhood friend, who had gone on to stardom.
Moses was first-team All-SEC in 2005, a defensive end on Georgia’s SEC championship team. Off the field, he was loved and respect. Moses wasn’t one of those guys who had to mature when he got to college. He was a good teammate and citizen from the start.
“He had a lot of respect from everybody,” Mark Richt, Georgia’s head coach from 2001-15, said on Monday. “He didn’t have to act a certain way to prove he was anything other than who he was. People respected who he was and how he went about his business. He was a very positive force on our team the whole time he was there. Some guys are part of the solution, some guys are part of the problem sometimes. He was a part of the solution type guy.”
The Oakland Raiders picked Moses with the first pick of the third round in the 2007 draft. Everything seemed on track. And then tragedy struck.
On Aug. 29, 2007, Xavier Goddard drowned in a lake in North Carolina. Moses was devastated, and even had conversations with friends about whether he wanted to go through with football. The Raiders released Moses on Sept. 1, in a very unusual move. It’s hard to not make a connection between those two events.
“That was one of the toughest things that Quentin ever went through,” said Tyson Browning, one of his college teammates and closest friends.
Moses would eventually hook back on in the NFL and play for three seasons, with one of his 3.5 career sacks coming on Monday Night Football, hauling down Ben Roethlisberger for the Miami Dolphins.
But his most important role was Godfather. When Xavier Godard passed away, he mourned, but he also stepped into the breach. By the end he basically had three residences: The home in Duluth he shared with his sister, the house in Monroe a half-hour away, and his office at Reinhardt University an hour north of Atlanta.
“He’s just like any other Godfather and does like any other Godfather,” Kena Gary, sister of Quentin Moses. “The role of the Godparent is to step up when the parent is deceased. And that’s what he did.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of Quentin Moses. pic.twitter.com/kIJr1hu57f
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) February 12, 2017
It was just what those who knew and loved Moses would have always expected.
THE GRINNING GRILL-MASTER
In conversations with Moses’ many friends, former teammates and family members, two things keep coming up.
The first is that smirk.
Fernando Velasco, former Georgia center: “It’s just a smirk where he’s always got something to say. You see Quentin walking to you with that smirk you’re like, OK what’ve you got to say now? What joke do you have now?”
Greg Blue, former Georgia safety: “He’s a funny guy. He’s a jokester. That’s one of the best things about him. We crack jokes all day in practice, especially with the players. The kids loved it. We’d go around and mess with them. He’d tell them about his days in college, and he always had that smile.”
Browning: “He was just a big Teddy Bear. That’s what I used to call him. Most of the time when people look at the big guys they look at them as these intimidating guys. But Moses was the most caring, welcoming guy. He poked fun at everybody. He’s constantly the clown in the room. If you’ve ever met him … you probably yearned to meet up with him.”
The second thing was his cooking ability.
Browning: ”He called himself the Grill Master and the beast master. He would travel and cook at other people’s houses because he swore he was the only real cook.”
Velasco: “When we were playing we moved off campus and stayed in the same neighborhood. You’d always see a bunch of cars at their house, cooking on the grill.”
Ashley Lee, a neighbor in Monroe: “They were really friendly people. They were really good people. They loved to love everybody. They always had cookouts every Sunday and stuff. When the football games came on, they would all cook out, and we would all be in the neighborhood, checking on football.”
You will forever be remembered for your love for the game of football and your love for young adults. Rest in Peace Coach Moses. We love you pic.twitter.com/C9Wdor82hL
— Reinhardt Football (@R_U_Football) February 12, 2017
Five years ago Moses was hired at Reinhardt, an NAIA school in Waleska. He coached the defensive line, and by all accounts did so very well.
Blue, his former teammate at Georgia, is also a coach at Reinhardt, now coaching the safeties.
It was Moses who hooked him up with the job. They were close in college, but became even closer the last couple years as they worked together.
“The truth is the people that met him, he’s that person. He’s not a fraud,” Blue said. “The love, the energy that he showed to people, that’s who he is. He loves people. He would do anything for anybody. He has never told me no. Anytime I needed something, he would get it to me, no questions asked.”
If you needed something to eat, whether it was Ranch dressing or barbecue sauce. If you needed medicine, he would have it.
“If you needed a laugh, you just go talk to him,” Blue said.
My heart breaks for former teammate and friend Quentin Moses and his family. Thoughts, prayers and tears! So sad. Life is too short #RIP
— Jason Taylor (@JasonTaylor) February 12, 2017
Velasco and Moses re-connected in January at a coaches convention in January, they had dinner together a couple times, and watched the national championship game together. The last time they talked was last Wednesday, via text.
“Just a funny guy. Always kept the mood, the mood light around him,” Velasco said. “There’s nobody that can say anything bad about Quentin.”
Velasco thought a moment.
“It’s a sad day for a lot of people,” he said.
Melanie Anderson had just put her infant to sleep, and was up because she couldn’t get to sleep herself. She noticed an “orange glow” out of the window and went to look. Soon she was running to the house, banging on windows, while calling 911.
The fire seemed small at first, but when Anderson approached it she saw how big it really was.
“It just engulfed (the house),” Anderson said. “You could just see smoke billowing out of the window. It was awful.”
A pet dog, a pit bull, also perished in the fire. All that’s known at this point is that it began in the kitchen, early in the morning, apparently when everybody was asleep.
According to neighbors and Monroe city officials, Moses was the only one of the three who could be retrieved from the house. Reports that he died because he ran back into the house were not true.
Moses was brought over to a driveway across the street, according to witnesses. Attempts were made to revive him. He was burned severely from the waist up. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead upon arrival. Back at the house, firemen emerged from the house, looking forlorn and holding up two fingers, according to neighbors.
The next morning, there were balloons and a sheet signed by people from the neighborhood. People wrote notes to Jasmine, Dria and Quint, as the sheet said, expressing how much they would miss them.
Someone put a miniature Georgia helmet by the mailbox. You can see through the house, as it was destroyed by the fire. The roof is almost completely off, after caving in.
There is Georgia memorabilia all over. A sign that says “Georgia Bulldog fan” is by the door. A Georgia logo is on a cooler outside the house.
As word spread over the next day, so did the shock and grief.
“A lot of the teammates are taking it hard, and a lot of them have reached out to me, just wanted to ask for prayers, and all that kind of thing,” Richt said.
Friends and family said they tried to remember Moses and his adopted family for the joy they brought each other and to others. They remembered the barbecues. They remembered the smirks. The laughter.
They remembered how Jasmine would ride her hoverboard around the neighborhood, how Dria had a wonderful smile and caring nature. How they let anybody in the neighborhood jump on the trampoline in their front yard.
“I would like people to now that Quentin was a very family-oriented person,” Gary said. “And he was loved by many. He was a very God-fearing man. He was always willing to help people out. … He loved his family, and his students, and his players. He loved the game of football. He loved the sport. He loved his Bulldogs.”
She said her brother was godparent to no fewer than five other children, in addition to Jasmine Godard.
Bishop, the neighbor across the street, looked across at the house on Monday and sighed.
“I know they’re in heaven,” she said.