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He was Moore than the 'Butt Fumble'

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Brandon Moore resisted the Star. He said no to the Dallas Cowboys and $2 million. He picked family over football, deciding that 10 seasons with the New York Jets was good enough. They will be his forever team.

On Wednesday, Moore did what every professional athlete longs to do: He retired on his own terms. He didn't get fired and he didn't have a doctor telling him he'd compromise his post-football life if he continued to play. He walked away with his health and financial security.

Unfortunately, the retirement stories about him on the Internet mention his involvement in the "Butt Fumble." Moore will be forever linked to perhaps the most infamous play in Jets history, and that's too bad because he deserves better.

It's not his fault that Mark Sanchez lost his mind on Thanksgiving night and decided to run into his rear end, starting the calamity of all calamities: A fumble, a recovery by the bad guys and another touchdown for the New England Patriots. Maybe you've seen the play on "SportsCenter," which has only been showed 146,753 times.

"It's amusing to me that people find it so amusing," Moore said Wednesday morning in a phone interview, reflecting on a career in which he went from a nobody -- undrafted -- to someone who embodies all that is good in the game.

The "Butt Fumble" symbolized the debacle that was last season, and it may come to symbolize a star-crossed era, depending on how it plays out this year for Rex Ryan & Co. Moore deserves to be remembered for more than one play -- especially that play.

The man participated in approximately 10,000 plays over a decade, starting the final 137 games of his career. He was Cal Ripken Jr. at right guard. He got in and never left -- until his contract expired after last season. He never heard from the Jets. It was one of those NFL break-ups; the two sides went their separate ways without even saying it was time to go their separate ways.

Instead of the "Butt Fumble," Moore should be remembered for 2009, when he played on the best offensive line in the league. It was him and Alan Faneca at guard, with D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Damien Woody at tackle and Nick Mangold at center.

They were smart and tough and talented, and they allowed the Jets to rush for a league-high 2,756 yards. No team has topped that mark since then. Everybody in the stadium knew they were going to run, and they ran it anyway, serving as a protective cocoon for the then-rookie Sanchez.

There haven't been many instances in Jets history where they've been so dominant at one position. They had something that was the envy of other teams, and general manager John Idzik, the architect of the current team, can only dream about creating something like that on his watch.

Willie Colon remembers the '09 line. He was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time, but he's a New York guy -- raised in the South Bronx, schooled at Hofstra -- and he was an admirer from afar.

"They were great," said Colon, who replaces Moore at right guard. "You had three Pro Bowlers on the left side, and a couple of Pro Bowl-type guys on the right in Damien Woody and Brandon Moore."

Colon, who exudes a New York swagger, believes the current group can be special, too.

"I think we have the potential to be as good as them, definitely," he said. "We're not there yet, but we have the potential to be a very good line."

Mangold and Ferguson are the only holdovers from '09. Faneca, the former Steelers great who could end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day, was cut after the '09 season -- a financially driven move that backfired. He played one year in Arizona and retired. Woody retired after the '10 season. Now, Moore.

The Jets learned the retirement news as they walked off the practice field Wednesday. His old teammates described him as the consummate professional. A lunch-pail guy. A mentor to young players. A quiet leader.

"What a tremendous player, absolutely," Ryan said in a preamble to his news conference.

Indeed, Moore should be applauded for a distinguished career, staying with one team in an era when players chase the best deal. (See: Revis, Darrelle.) He shouldn't be associated with a freakishly embarrassing play; he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"It was an unfortunate situation," Mangold said.

Under an interview tent, on a gray day in upstate New York, Mangold went on and on about Moore, his old training camp roommate. He praised the man, his career and his exit from the game. Moore goes out saying no to America's Team, akin to turning down a date with a Victoria's Secret model.

Mangold paused, then ended with this: "It's been tough, not having him here."