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Jacksonville becomes Buffalo south for former Bills punter Moorman

Brian Moorman is selling real estate in Florida. It’s a job and lifestyle a thousand miles removed from his previous one: punter for the Buffalo Bills.

After his 13-year National Football League career ended in 2013, Moorman moved with his wife, Amber, and their young son Cooper to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., a waterfront community just outside Jacksonville.

It is almost exactly a thousand miles from Moorman's old home to his new one. But this week, that distance narrowed.

“We’re going to see Bills license plates and flags and everything else,” he said by phone this week, noting that he heard upwards of 25,000 Buffalo fans would be converging in Jacksonville for Sunday’s Bills-Jaguars wild-card playoff game. “I won’t (have) the only Bills flag flying on my balcony this weekend.”

Helping grieving parents is only sure thing for Moorman

During his Bills career, which was briefly interrupted by a stint with the Dallas Cowboys, Moorman was a star: a two-time Pro Bowler and favorite of fans who got to see him on field perhaps too often during the team's 17-season playoff drought.

In Florida, though, Moorman has been a mostly regular guy: a fit, friendly, soft-spoken 41-year-old dad and husband whose cellphone is always at hand, waiting for the next call from someone looking to buy or sell a home. Yes, in a state crammed with transplanted residents, he is sometimes recognized. One time, someone tapped him on the shoulder in a lunch line and asked if he was that guy who punted for the Bills. Or earlier this week, a real-estate caller who happened to grow up in Williamsville noted Moorman's 716 area code, which led to a discussion about all things Buffalo.

But largely, Moorman has kept a low profile on his NFL past.

“I’m usually pretty quiet about it,” said Moorman, who earned his real estate license at the end of his football career and is now a part-owner of a Sotheby’s brokerage. “There are a lot of Jags fans around and I get a little bit of a hard time from some of my buddies here.”

That became more true since last Sunday. One of Moorman’s friends sent him a text saying that he saw a guy in a Bills uniform lurking around the neighborhood — and then sent Moorman a picture of himself.

“They’re claiming I’m trying to sneak around and steal playbooks,” Moorman joked. “It’s been pretty fun. It’s been a good time kind of ribbing each other and having fun with it.”

Moorman was always busy during the playoff drought, including this 2007 game against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Though Moorman is heading to the game to root for the Bills, he does have Jaguars connections: He played in Buffalo for Jacksonville’s head coach, Doug Marrone, and is close with the team’s offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, who was an assistant with the Bills. His former teammates Marcell Dareus and Paul Posluszny play for the Jags, and Moorman’s Buffalo-based nonprofit, the PUNT Foundation, has worked with the charity founded by Tom Coughlin, who heads Jacksonville’s football operation.

The media coverage in Jacksonville this week has been heavy, Moorman said, but the buzz is nothing like he knows it is in Buffalo — or imagined it would be, had his own teams ever made the playoffs.

“Buffalo is like a college town,” Moorman said. “When I was playing, we always said, 'Once we make the playoffs, this place is gonna go nuts.' We were close a few times and you could see it boiling up and start to bubble over for the town ready to explode. So I can only imagine what it’s like in that area right now.”

While Sunday’s game will feel like a Buffalo reunion of sorts for Moorman, he hasn’t been starved for Western New York connection. He visits the Buffalo area frequently for work related to the PUNT Foundation, which he founded in 2004 with his wife Amber to support kids and families facing cancer. He was in town just before Christmas for the PUNT's Gift Giving Celebration, where approximately 100 donors bought Christmas presents for 46 families.

Moorman was heartened this week to see a handful of Bills fans match their donations to the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's charity, which benefits children and families in Cincinnati and Fort Worth, Texas, by giving to the PUNT Foundation as well.

Brian Moorman was usually a visitor to Florida during his playing days, like during this 2010 game in Miami, but now he's a full-time resident of the state. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

“We’ve seen an outpouring of support as well,” Moorman said, but clarified: “Nothing along the lines of a quarter-million dollars.”

At the time of Moorman's call to The News, Bills fans had donated nearly $250,000 to the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation to celebrate the quarterback's game-winning touchdown pass that knocked the Baltimore Ravens out of the playoffs and pushed in the Bills. By the next afternoon, those donations reached nearly $300,000, mostly made in $17 increments (a nod to the number of consecutive seasons the Bills missed the playoffs).

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Moorman said. “Obviously, Bills fans are passionate — I think that’s an understatement.”

On Jan. 4, PUNT’s executive director, Gwen Mysiak told The News that the foundation had received just over $700 in donations from 30-some donors.

“The gestures have been touching,” Mysiak said. “Each one is coming in with a nice little message saying, ‘We’re grateful for what you do locally,’ and, ‘Brian, we know you played your heart out.’ They recognize that Brian never saw a playoff game, but left his heart and soul here.”

Moorman was touched by the messages and, in a couple of cases, the down-to-the-penny details. Some fans donated $17.08 to the PUNT Foundation, with the eight cents paying tribute to Moorman, who wore jersey No. 8.

“(It) was very humbling, and very nice,” he said. ‘The fans are pretty amazing.”

email: toshei@buffnews.com

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