One experience at a time: Moe Ways uses his journey to inspire others

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Karen Chow/Senior Staff

To some, the phrase “Dream Team” evokes memories of Michael Jordan alongside 11 teammates — an assembly of some of the greatest athletes to ever step foot on a basketball court — donning red, white and blue uniforms.

To this day, the handpicked array of stars is still considered one of the greatest of all time. But just outside of Detroit, Michigan exists a different kind of all-star lineup — one that is looking to take the world by storm and leave its own legacy on society.

In early May, Maurice “Moe” Ways spoke before an audience of young, beaming kids at Burning Bush International Ministries. More than one hundred different futures stood before him. More than one hundred different stories and lives he could inspire based on insights from his past.

“I call them, ‘The Dream Team.’”

—Marcus Ways

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Courtesy/Ty Rogers

The messages being relayed to the Detroit youth are called “Experiences” and are products of a collaboration between Ways and an impressive group of minds hailing from every sector of life — lawyers, musicians, professionals on Wall Street, athletes.

Courtesy/Ty Rogers

Courtesy/Ty Rogers

“I call them, ‘The Dream Team,’” said Marcus, Moe Ways’ father.

Ways is the co-founder of The L.A.B Mentorship Program, a nonprofit organization that looks to cultivate the mindsets of youth based on three principles: leadership, attitude and brotherhood.

Public spotlight is something Ways is used to after four years of playing for a team that entertains historically grand crowds of 100,000-plus week-in and week-out.

His time playing on one of the biggest stages in college football, just outside of his hometown of Detroit, is an experience that helped shape Ways into the man he is today. For Ways, the game of football and the game of life have some stark overlaps.

When he isn’t on a football field lined up at wide receiver — formerly at the University of Michigan and now as a graduate transfer for Cal — Ways is using his life experiences to influence others. From large seminar settings to the locker room and everything in between.

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

En route to finding himself, Ways has always prioritized helping others — a character trait that can be traced back to his childhood.

“Being the youngest of three siblings, he knows what it feels like to have older examples before you and to watch and to grow.”

—Patricia Ways

Ways has become the person, athlete and mentor he is through the core values he carries with him to this day; core values that were instilled in him by his parents, reaffirmed by being a “Ways man” and tested in strength by overcoming each bout of adversity.

The youngest of three children, Ways grew up with prominent parental figures — his mother, an attorney, and his father, a bivocational pastor. His father is the youngest of 10 children — seven boys and three girls.

“He’s kind of a person that has a village, and he utilizes every bit of his village,” Marcus said.

Described as an inquisitive child by his parents, Ways was always looking to learn, always looking to take bits and pieces from the people he encountered to help shape his thoughts and actions.

“We do a lot of community outreach, and Maurice was always a part of that,” said Patricia, Ways’ mother. “Being the youngest of three siblings, he knows what it feels like to have older examples before you and to watch and to grow.”

He had road maps to follow and was a product of a supportive upbringing that placed emphasis on community, a love for God and academia.

“Some things you don’t have to try and discover or figure out because you already have a road map,” Patricia said. “Or if you already have something that guides you, it’s like a GPS system.”

Alongside his values, Ways had the gift of athleticism on his side. While his mother never played organized sports, she displayed natural athletic ability during her childhood growing up in the South — Louisiana offered an abundance of open space for activity.

Ways didn’t follow the most conventional path but found himself at the pinnacle of college football. He didn’t start playing at the age of five, and he didn’t have his dad on the sidelines coaching him. Ways played basketball for much of his life, and it wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that he actually suited up on the gridiron.

“Football found him,” Marcus said.

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“Football teaches you so much off the field. You learn about how strong you are, what you can deal with — you learn how to keep on pushing when things get hard and not give up.”

—Moe Ways

In a quick turnaround of events, Ways had gone from never touching a football to joining one of the most historic programs in the country. During his senior year, a fresh-faced 18-year-old Ways committed to Michigan.

During his time with the Wolverines, Ways learned more about himself and more from the game of football than he ever could have imagined.

“Football teaches you so much off the field. You learn about how strong you are, what you can deal with — you learn how to keep on pushing when things get hard and not give up,” Ways says.

Ways didn’t see significant time on the field, but he blossomed under Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, earning the respect of his peers while being a student-athlete at a prestigious university.

“(Ways) changed my opinion of football players,” Patricia said. “I think they are some of the smartest, hard-working individuals in sports because of how many things they have to do.”

While playing in Ann Arbor, a 45-minute drive from his hometown, Ways was far enough from home to grow into his own person but close enough to have constant support and encouragement from his family — his village. Ways’ mother and father only missed one game when Ways was in college; home or away.

“Life kind of hit me in the face a couple times,” Ways said.

“He said to me at one point, in his third year, it was the hardest year of his life. But he also said he learned more in that one year than all of his life,” Marcus said.

But four years later, in 2018, he walked away from the University of Michigan as a student-athlete with a degree in international studies.

Once he graduated, Ways received the opportunity to continue his education at Cal and notch one more year of collegiate football under his belt. He decided to head to the golden coast to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

The once young and eager 18-year-old, who took his first steps on Michigan’s campus, was an entirely new person coming into UC Berkeley.

“From 18-year-old Moe to 22-year-old Moe — two different people completely,” Ways said.

“He’ll be a household name — you’re going to hear the name Maurice Ways, and you will hear it in a positive slant.”

—Marcus Ways

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The new Moe has his sights set on the future — his mind focused on everything from furthering his nonprofit organization and spreading its message to continuing his work on the football field.

The journey to success is not a quick process; it is also not a road that one travels alone.

“My journey has been kind of — it hasn’t been the most straightforward journey that most people wish to have, or others may have had. Mine has been kind of up and down, around the corner, back, forth,” Ways said.

Ways’ 2,400-mile trek west hasn’t deterred his family from trying to uphold its tradition of attending Ways’ games.

“We leave on Fridays, and we have to do a red-eye on Saturday night back out because Sundays are a work day for me as a pastor,” Marcus said.

His parents will be in the stands rooting for their favorite player Saturday night as he takes on the Pac-12 alongside his brothers. When No.18 lines up as a split receiver, most people will just see a number. What people won’t see is endless determination.

Behind the scenes of any “Dream Team,” there is a scrambled road of failures and successes, ups and downs and lots of uncertainties. But nonetheless, the members are held together by a relentless goal — achieving a dream.

Luckily for Ways, he has plenty of those, along with a budding world of knowledge and guidance rooted in his core beliefs.

“Maurice is going to make his mark in life; he’s going to be a known leader in the sense that, whatever path he takes — whether it be football, academics, business — he’ll be known,” Marcus said. “He’ll be a household name — you’re going to hear the name Maurice Ways, and you will hear it in a positive slant.”

Christie Aguilar covers football. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @caguilarsports.