TUSCALOOSA | Less than a month ago, Tommy Brooker walked past Mal Moore in Buddy's Rib & Steak in Northport and didn't spot his old teammate until he got close enough to recognize that familiar face.
"He had his hat pulled down low and he was dressed down," Brooker said. "I stopped and said, 'You trying to go incognito?' He chuckled and said, 'Yeah.'
"I ate breakfast with my wife there this morning. It's hard to believe I won't see him there anymore."
There are many more stories just like that told by former teammates, players and employees of Moore, who died Saturday at the age of 73. They are stories that reveal a gentleness and charm. Those close with Moore knew he was always quick with a joke, too.
After Moore retired from coaching, then-Alabama Athletics Director Hootie Ingram brought him aboard as an associate athletic director.
"Mal had a great sense of humor," Ingram said. "He was one of the best at telling Coach (Paul) Bryant stories I've ever heard.
"He always told one about preparing all week to run a reverse. They'd worked on it all week. During the game Coach Bryant walks by Mal and says, 'What about the reverse, Mal?' He came back a little while later and said 'What about the reverse?' Finally Coach Bryant said 'I want you to run the reverse.' They ran the reverse and lost nine yards, and Coach Bryant said, 'You ran it the wrong way.'
"Mal was really good at telling that story."
The stories vary but the constant is the way Moore treated others. Friends called him kind-hearted.
"A great man. A great Alabama man," former UA coach Ray Perkins said. "I don't know if I have enough words to adequately describe how I feel about him. He was loyal. He loved the school, and he loved the people. I think his essence will be felt for a long time.
"He's always treated me with dignity and respect that was unparalleled. We had a strong bond. People like Mal don't come down the pike every day. He's done so much for that university. He's a true legend in my book. I loved him. I miss him, and we'll all miss him."
Moore had a reputation for being a gentleman. Those closest to him say it was genuine.
"Mal was an even-tempered guy," Ingram said. "He was a true Southern gentleman. He was raised that way. There was nothing fake about it. He was truly sincere. That's what made him such a special guy. He didn't have a big ego and didn't put on any kind of show. He was just Mal."
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney played at Alabama as a receiver under Moore and got his coaching start as a graduate assistant while Moore was coaching UA's offense.
"It took the wind out of my sails," Swinney said of the news. "He was a great man and it's a great loss for Alabama and a great loss for all of us."
Woody McCorvey coached alongside Moore at Alabama on Gene Stallings' staff, and later became UA's offensive coordinator after Moore retired from coaching to take care of his wife, Charlotte, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
"It's sad for me because not only a colleague, but Mal was a friend," McCorvey said. "When I came to Alabama, Mal was the guy who picked me up at the airport in Birmingham and he and I stopped at the Bright Star in Bessemer. That was one of his favorite spots. That tells you how far we go back at Alabama. He was Alabama through and through until the day he left us.
"We were close with him being the offensive coordinator and coaching the quarterbacks and me coaching the wide receivers and tight ends, so we worked together a lot in the passing game. Even after he got out (of coaching), we stayed close. He was my sounding board when I took the (offensive coordinator) position, and he was really supportive of me."
McCorvey also had high praise for Moore as a man.
"I never heard Mal say a bad word about anybody," McCorvey said. "It showed when Charlotte was sick, how he stuck by her and took care of her. He didn't want somebody else to do it, he wanted to do it himself. When you think about people getting married and taking their wedding vows, you can think about Mal Moore."
Robert Higginbotham played at Alabama from 1969-71 before embarking on a career as one of the most successful high school coaches in state history. Moore was his position coach for a season.
"He was all about attention to detail," Higginbotham said. "He really expected a lot out of his players. He was a guy that really pushed you hard and taught you how to play the position.
"The thing I liked the most about Mal is I could go back down there and even with all the players that he coached over the years you'd think he'd forget your name. It wasn't like that with Coach Moore. I'd see him and he'd say, 'Hey Robert' and just made me feel at home. I always really appreciated that. Even when he got to be athletic director he made me feel at home."
Friends of Moore are quick to point out everything he did for the university, things well documented in his 13 years as athletic director. They also tell of things he did away from the spotlight.
"There are so many things he helped with that went unnoticed," Brooker said. "He did things people will never know about.
"Today is a sad day."
Executive Sports Editor Tommy Deas contributed to this report.
Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or 205-722-0229.