Randy Moss, "The Freak"
On February 13th, 1977, a star was born.
Surely, nobody in Rand, West Virginia knew that Randy Moss would blossom into maybe the world's most talented and athletically gifted wide receiver of all time. That was, until high school rolled around.
Randy excelled in four different sports in high school (I was only aware of 3 athletic seasons in high school sports?). Not only did Moss lead his DuPont Panthers to back to back championships in 1992 and 1993 while playing receiver, safety, kicker, punter, returner and being named West Virginia's Player of the Year in the process, he also was named West Virginia's Player of the Year in 1993 and 1994 for basketball. Lets add a 10.94 second 100 meter dash time and great defensive play in center field on the baseball team for good measure. It was clear to anyone who watched him play that he was something special.
Bobby Bowden has been quoted in saying that he measures recruit's athletic ability by comparing them to Deion Sanders. Having coached Sanders from 1985-88, Deion's athletic ability is difficult for anybody to measure up to and Bobby is one to know. Bowden said of Moss, "... he's just a bigger Deion". This is a scary statement to make! Though Moss never got to play for Bowden (or his favorite childhood NCAA team, Notre Dame) due to legal troubles, Randy still went on to have quite a compelling collegiate career. Transferring to Marshall University, Moss caught 174 passes for 3,529 yards and 54 touchdowns (28 in 1996, tying Jerry Rice's 1984 record). This was all in only 2 seasons of play. In 1997, his sophomore season, he won the Fred Biletnikoff trophy for the nation's top receiver and was fourth in Heisman voting only to Ryan Leaf, Peyton Manning, and Charles Woodson, who went on to win the award.
Moss declared eligible for the 1998 NFL draft that year. His offseason was full of old wounds being reopened to the public and rumors swirling over whether his character was of the NFL archetype. Though he opted out of the NFL combine, Moss ran a 4.25 40-yard dash at Marshall's pro day - many say he ran into the wind - and posted a 39 inch vertical while dazzling scouts with his catching ability. The head scout for the Dallas Cowboys told Jerry Jones that Moss was the greatest individual prospect he had ever seen.
I remember sitting in my aunt and uncle's living room in Alexandria, Minnesota for Thanksgiving in 1998; a cross-legged 7 year old watching my father's Minnesota Vikings take on the Dallas Cowboys. Having no true allegiance to any one team at the time due to my young age, I cheered on the purple merely because that's what everybody else seemed to be doing at the time.
I had heard that the Dallas Cowboys passed up on Randy Moss with the 8th pick of the NFL draft that year. The Cowboys were Moss' favorite NFL team growing up, and owner Jerry Jones verbally committed to drafting Moss prior to the draft. When it was the Cowboys turn to make their decision, the on-screen text showed linebacker Greg Ellis from North Carolina being selected over Moss. The reporters went on to say that this was because of Randy's well-documented legal troubles, something the Cowboys weren't interested in dealing with a second time around at the wide receiver position (see: Michael Irvin). Moss slid all the way down to the 21st pick, where the Minnesota Vikings selected him.
Moss torched the Dallas Cowboys on only three catches to help the Vikings win 46-36 that Thanksgiving. Yes, three separate catches from quarterback Randall Cunningham for 56 yards a pop and 3 touchdowns. Moss was simply bigger, faster, stronger, and more impressive than any other player on the field. Two or even three defenders on Moss did not mean that he was covered. It was borderline miraculous. I remember not really being a fan of the turkey that day (sorry aunt Stacy), but I did become a fan of Randy Moss, the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL and the game of football itself. Many of those my age may say the same if you were to ask. Anybody watching surely realized how special Randy Moss was, and probably had a hunch that he had no plans of stopping there.
Moss went on to catch the ball 982 times for 15,292 yards (3rd all-time) and 156 touchdowns (2nd all-time). Though he never obtained a Super Bowl ring, Moss' records for most touchdowns in a single season (23), most touchdowns in a rookie season (17), and fourth-most touchdowns scored (156, tied with Terrell Owens) behind Jerry Rice (205), Emmitt Smith (175), and LaDainian Tomlinson (159) still stand today. Many remember Randy Moss as one of the, if not THE, greatest NFL wide receiver of all-time, and maybe the most athletically gifted talent to ever play the game.
Randy has been nominated for induction into the NFL's Hall of Fame next summer. Moss played 16 seasons in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and the San Francisco 49ers.
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