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UConn coach Mora takes in NFA-NL game

New London — The tour of the state being taken by incoming UConn football coach Jim Mora brought him to the nation's oldest high school football rivalry on Thanksgiving Day.

Mora watched the first half of the 159th meeting between NFA and New London after watching Guilford and Hand play at the Surf Club in Madison on Wednesday night.

"I want to learn as much about the university and the state as I can,'' said Mora. "And the high schools and the prep schools and the community and what's important to people and just start to build those relationships.''

Mora was named UConn coach on Nov. 11, bringing with him a blue-chip coaching resume. Mora, 60, was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-06, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 and head coach at UCLA from 2012-17. His father Jim was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

Since being fired by UCLA Mora has done some work for ESPN but spent most of his time with his family.

"I was enjoying the time with my family. They've made a lot of sacrifices for me and I felt it was important that I was there for them at this point,'' said Mora. "But I needed to coach. It's what I love to do.''

Mora began his coaching career at the University of Washington, his alma mater, as a graduate assistant in 1984. But in his entire coaching career, the situation at UConn is different. Randy Edsall resigned two games into UConn's season and Lou Spanos has been serving as the interim coach.

UConn (1-10) ends its on Saturday at home against No. 19 Houston. Mora has been around the program, learning the lay of the land.

"I've never done this before,'' said Mora. "What's most important is that I give the room to the coaches that are here to operate and be respectful of the situation that they're in. Because it's really difficult.''

He's made the most of the situation.

"It gives me a chance to talk to the players, get to know them a little bit,'' said Mora. "And it gives me the chance to get out and do things like this, recruit. Go to the women's basketball game, go to the men's basketball game. I've been to see a women's volleyball game. I've met so many people on campus.''

An avid outdoorsman, Mora says that plays into why he took the UConn job.

"I like challenges. Off the field the things that interest me the most are hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking. Anything that's uphill I like to do,'' said Mora. "This is not daunting for me at all. It's a great challenge. It invigorates me.''

d.davis@theday.com

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