May 2022 ~
In Nate Moreland’s (Jackson, 1979) dictionary, the word “define” is followed by the word “yourself.”
Defining himself is what the PIL Hall of Famer from Jackson High did from a young age.
Helping young people define themselves is what he does today as a Portland fitness trainer and coach.
Moreland was a successful multi-sport athlete at Jackson. He graduated in 1979 and attended Lane Community College and the University of Oregon.
Track and field was arguably his best sport, but he also was a standout two-way and all-state football player and played basketball for Jackson.
As a kid, he chose a road less traveled, electing to leave his Northeast Portland roots for schools in Southwest Portland. He went to middle school at Markham and then chose to stick with the busing program of the times for black students by going to Jackson instead of Jefferson, Grant or Adams.
His mother, Gwendolyn Moreland, was a teacher, “and she wanted me to get out of the area and do something different,” he says.
Going to Markham and Jackson “was quite the experience,” he recalls. He remembers being called an unprintable, racist name. But he also found plenty of positives, melding with other students as well as receiving guidance from Jackson coaches such as Vic Carlson, Dick Beachell and Jerry Lyons.
“I was part of a family there,” he says.
Even at that young age, Moreland says he already had the attitude that “there’s good and bad in every race.”
Therefore, “I treated people the way they wanted to be treated, and when they treated me the same way, we were great friends,” he says. “It was still in a lot of ways the hippie and love one another era, and it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. It allowed me to look at people as people instead of in the context of what they could give me.
“The coaches really inspired me as an athlete, and I felt like I could work with anybody.
“I never tried to be the arrogant, outspoken guy. The coaches taught me a lot about discipline and humbling yourself to bring the people around you up and create a winning team.”
It was all about defining yourself, which is what the UO graduate in business administration and fitness trainer well-versed in biomechanics stresses to young athletes today.
“I’ve been around the best of the best and the worst of the worst, and I share my story with them,” he says. “I want to give back to the community as much as possible, keep kids active and show them that it’s all about choices, especially early in life.
“I can see how kids feel. They have anger, anxiety, depression and frustration, and they don’t know how to deal with it. They’re trying to find an identity through somebody else, through a man or woman or people on the street. They have the internet, Facebook, video games and music to define them, but they don’t know how to define themselves.
“I help them understand you’re okay being who you are. You just have to believe in yourself, and believe in something bigger than yourself, and go for it, and don’t let other people define you.”
Moreland grew up with lots of friends and family who were successful or on the way to becoming very successful in sports, including plenty of PIL stars such Grant athletes Darryl Motley, David Lewis and Kevin MacMillan and numerous Moreland cousins.
Other, older people, such as Leon Lincoln, Johnny Warren, Bud Lewis and Joe Loprinzi, were positive examples and mentors.
He met Loprinzi at the Multnomah Athletic Club after receiving a PIL scholar-athlete award that enabled him to go there.
“He mentored me for over 30 years and always told me, ‘Don’t follow money, follow the gifts you have,’” Moreland says.
Nate worked for Fred Meyer for about 25 years, but in recent years he has stepped out and has been using his gift of working with others on their fitness goals. He offers his services through his company, Life Improving Fitness Training & Speed (LIFTS), and working with other organizations, such as I’m Hooked, Inc.
“I work with anybody I can partner with to help people,” he says.
His father, Booker T. Moreland, a long-time TriMet bus driver who died in 2007, told Nate early on that “you can do anything you want to do as long as you want to bad enough – it’s a matter of what are you willing to give up to get it? And, can you learn to say no?”
His mother, meanwhile, had him read Proverbs 3 to 5 as he grew up with his two brothers and two sisters.
“Mom is still here, and she’s still an angel and inspiration to me,” he says.
Nate is full of sayings – pieces of wisdom and motivational speaking that flow out of him in conversation.
One of his many favorites still is: “You hang around the good, and good things happen.”
Along those lines,“competing against athletes who were going to be nationally known only made me better, and I learned from everybody,” he says
While in high school, Moreland had to overcome a serious injury – a torn hamstring he suffered as a Jackson senior competing in track on a trip to Hawaii, where the University of Hawaii looked like it might be his future academic and athletic stop.
“I pushed myself really hard there and tore the hamstring off the bone,” he says, “running the 100- and 200-yard dashes on a dirt track there and then doing the long jump. I felt a twinge in my hamstring on a jump and landed face first in the pit. I was told I might not even be able to walk or compete on that again. It was the biggest scare of my life.
“But thanks to the goodness of God, and the acupressure and acupuncture, I got healthy enough to compete again.”
He says the injury was a blow to his immediate college plans, though.
“I had 48 scholarship offers and lost every one,” he recalls.
One coach, Al Tarpenning at Lane CC, “believed in me,” and Tarpenning’s track and cross-country teams were dominant in the Oregon Community College Association. Moreland went there and made it to nationals, then walked on at Oregon.
As he tells the story, “I went into (UO track coach) Bill Dellinger’s office and told him I’d beat all his sprinters.”
“He laughed at me,” Moreland said. “But I ran in a meet and only one Oregon guy (star sprinter George Walcott) beat me.”
Dellinger, however, “only had a half-scholarship, and my parents didn’t have enough money for me to go to Oregon.”
So Moreland says he dropped in unannounced on Ducks football coach Rich Brooks.
“I hadn’t played football for a couple of years, but I went into his office and said, ‘I’ll beat out all your wide receivers.”
“He laughed and said, ‘Who are you?’”
But Brooks gave him a uniform, “so I walked on, and I wound up with a half-scholarship in football as well.
“I wound up on the NCAA championship track team (of 1984) and eventually ran against guys like (all-time Olympic great) Carl Lewis.”
Moreland also studied science, focusing on the physics involved in sports – “how you’re running, how you’re moving,” and today he works today with athletes of all ages, including many in the 8-to-18 range.
He’s grateful for all the people and experiences in his life, and he remains a huge fan of PIL sports.
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~ Profile written by Steve Brandon (Cleveland, 1972)