On February 13, 1977 Randy Gene Moss was born in rand West Virginia. His parents were Randy Pratt and Maxine Moss. He was born in a mining town where aspirations of getting out of there were very slim. People in this town usually grew up there and never left. So, like all the kids there, Moss found his place in the world.
His mother Maxine was a single mom. She worked as a nurse’s aide, which required long hours. Those long days while his mother worked, he thought of how to take the burden off her. He was expected to go to church three times a week. He was to keep his mouth shut and stay out of trouble. He spent a lot of time with his stepbrother Eric.
Eric Moss was a good student and athlete. He excelled at football and Moss was too young to play at the time. So with that, Moss was introduced to the game of football by carrying Eric’s equipment to practice. He would watch intently waiting for his day to come. He thought some more about a way out for his family.
When it was time for High School, Moss had to go to another town. Rand did not have a one so he attended nearby DuPont in Belle. There were racial tensions at the school where there were not too many blacks.
The tensions would ease a bit when Moss was on the football or baseball field, as well as the basketball court. He was a star in the making with blinding speed and the ability to grab a pass, not just catch it. Moss would dominate at DuPont ending his career with 109 catches for 2,435 yards and 44 touchdowns. In 1994 he was named Football Player of the Year and was later named to the USA All-High School football team.
His next step would be the University of Notre Dame where he was offered a scholarship to play. He was looking forward to helping the Irish get back to the glory days. It would never materialize because Moss got into a huge fight back at DuPont and get probation, a suspended jail term and the loss of his scholarship.
From there he went to Florida State where he would get another chance at a big time Division 1 school. Once again, that would not happen as Moss, in the midst of a 30-day jail sentence for another incident, tested positive for marijuana. Instead of a career with the Seminoles, he got 60 more days in jail. The legend of Randy Moss was becoming very noticed before he ever stepped on a college football filed.
He got his legal troubles behind him and went back home to West Virginia. He enrolled at Marshall University. There he would set all kinds of Division 1AA and 1A records. He would lead the Thundering Herd to an unbeaten season and two national titles. He could end his college career knowing that he proved to himself and the rest of the football world that he was the real thing. He waited for his next journey in life, the 1998 NFL draft.
Many projected him to be one of top picks that year. There was a need for a receiver by some teams and for Moss, most notably, the Dallas Cowboys. With the eighth pick the Cowboys selected LB Greg Ellis out of North Carolina. Moss waited some more as the top 10, then the top 20 came and went. He thought his character issues might not hurt his draft stock. Well, so much for that idea. With the 21st pick the Minnesota Vikings granted Moss his wish. He was an NFL wide receiver at long last. He would finally be able to take care of his mother and provide for his family.
In his rookie season he made the doubters regret not picking him. It was something he was determined to prove to himself, as well as the 20 teams that passed him by. He played all 16 games and set a rookie record with 17 touchdowns. He was also third in the league that year in receiving yards with 1,313. He was named a starter to the Pro Bowl and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Randy Gene Moss had made it to the big time. He was a star in his first year and there was so much more to come.
The Vikings would go on to set a then NFL record for points in a season with 556. They would sport a 15-1 record and home filed advantage throughout the playoffs. Talk of a Super Bowl was running wild in the state of Minnesota. Memories of four failures were lost in the euphoria of playoff madness. They would wipe the Arizona Cardinals off the filed with a 41-21 win in the divisional round and host the Atlanta Falcons for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The game got off to a good start as the Vikings took a 20-7 lead and seemed prepared to coast. Unfortunately, things did not work out and the Falcons came back and won 30-27. No trip to the Super Bowl, but more chances waited.
Over the next six years Moss would become one the best deep threats in the league. He would average 72 catches, 1196 yards and almost 13 touchdowns in his seven years in Minnesota. There would also be his moments off the field that would make headlines. There was the time he went off on one official and squirted another with water in a playoff game. He would tell how he would play when he wanted to because he was that good. That did not fly too well with fans and teammates. In the end, he was traded to the Oakland Raiders.
When you though about it more, he could fit into the Silver and Black system. They had tradition and Al Davis on their side. They were a team that made a habit of taking a misfit here and there. A season full of expectations turned into a nightmare. The team would finish 4-12 and Moss would have one his worst statistical years. He caught just 60 passes for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns. Those were not numbers Moss was used to after eight years in the NFL. The next season would be even worse as Oakland went 2-14 and Moss had an even worse year. His affair with Oakland and Al Davis appeared to be coming to an end. He had become a liability with a price tag that was considered too high. He was accused of losing a step and not running his routes to the fullest., among other things.
One team thought he just might have something left in the tank. That team, to the surprise of some, was the New England Patriots. They sent a fourth-round pick to Oakland and Moss was a happy man again. He would go to a team that had Tom Brady at quarterback. A team built to win more Super Bowls with players to compliment him. All Moss had to do was straighten his act up and play Patriots ball. How hard could that be?
The season would become one of the more magical ones in recent memory. Moss, along with Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth helped Brady set and NFL record with 50 touchdown passes. Moss would be the recipient of 23 of those, which set an NFL record as well. He and the Pats entered the season finale 15-0 with dreams of a 19-0 season. That was shattered when the Giants beat them in the Super Bowl to cap an 18-1 season.
It really didn’t matter because the winner of Super Bowl that year was a forgone conclusion. The Patriots had manhandled just about every opponent. They would cruise through the playoffs and get their fourth ring in the Brady era. Once again, that dream was broken to pieces by the Giants in the Super Bowl. With the defeat, Moss would have the chance to sign elsewhere if he wanted to for next year.
Instead of bolting for more money, he decided that he liked playing in New England and signed a three-year $27M contract. He and Brady would lead this team back to the big game and this time they would win it all. That came to a screeching halt when Brady tore his ACL in the first quarter of the first game of the season. The Pats would go 11-5 with Matt Cassell at the helm, but were no real threat to win it all.
He played two more years in New England and the grumblings began. He was not doing the work and was taking plays off. He was dogging it once again and he was reportedly not feeling wanted anymore. It was looking like Moss would get a change of scenery.
That change came in the form of a familiar place, the Vikings again. He was welcomed back to Purple land by fans and the team. The experiment would wind up a flop. He lasted four games before he was into it with head coach Mike Tice. They ended up waiving him and he landed in Tennessee. That also ended at the end of the year when Moss was not used and was never a factor for the Titans. Now what would he do? All signs pointed to the end of his career, but Moss needed time to decide.
On August 1, 2011 Moss announced that he was retiring from the NFL. He would finish his career with 954 receptions, 14,858 yards and 153 touchdowns. All these stats were good enough to place him among the greats the game had ever seen. But he would take his reputation as a troubled hot dog with him. Either way, when you mentioned the name Moss, it would be right up there with the likes of Rice, Brown and Carter to name a few.
He had accomplished virtually everything he ever wanted in the NFL. He got his mother out of those long workdays and had provided for his own kids. He made lots of money and for those that doubted him, let the record books tell the story. Yes, he had his moments, stirred the pot more times than most, but on the football field he was a monster. Now he could go into retirement sunset wondering if he would ever get into Canton.
On August 2, 2011, Moss found himself wondering what the rest of his life would hold now. He was officially retired, looking ahead to the next chapter in his life. That chapter kicked off on his 35th birthday, February 13, 2012. He announced he was coming out of retirement because he felt he still had some football left in him. Less than 30 days later, he signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers. He would celebrate his comeback early when he caught the 154th touchdown pass of his career. That put him ahead of Terrell Owens (154) for second all-time. Only the great Jerry Rice has more with 197.
The 2012 season was a season when Moss understood his position. He was no longer the number one guy. He was no longer that dangerous number two. There was no more defensive coordinators game planning just for him. He was a utility guy, a crafty veteran you threw to when needed. Yet, he understood. That, by itself, helped to put Moss where he is now. He is this close to finally getting that last big notch on his hall-of-fame career. Can he finally get that elusive Super Bowl ring?
Way back in the days, Moss was a little kid in Rand, W.V. His mother Maxine brought him up right. She always wanted the best for her kids and worked hard for it. Little Randy tried his best to tow the line and be a good kid. His time with his brother Eric became those moments where he began to notice the game of football. I wonder how much it burned as he accompanied his brother to practice. At some point he got his chance and made the most of it. But it did not come without his trials and tribulations.
He was a star baseball, basketball and football player. He was also a track star as he won the West Virginia state championship in 1992. He led Marshal to back-to-back titles in college. At the NFL level, he was and will always be, one of the greatest that ever played his position. But it wasn’t always that simple with Randy Gene Moss.
There was also plenty of trouble in his life, documented and I would guess, undocumented. In his days at DuPont High he once got into a fight trying to protect a friend. That got him kicked out of school. He would have to finish his schooling at Cabell Alternative School. Then there was the fight that got him kicked off the Notre Dame squad, the positive test that got him kicked off the Florida State team. There were his famous sayings like he played when he wanted to. That he could turn it on or off when he felt like it. There was the hot dog in him that irritated teammates and fans alike. Officials were not his friends as well. It has been a long and very eventful career for Moss. One that he, as well as we, can look back on and talk about for years to come.
Now, Moss finds himself less than a week away from that ring. It could be his final crack and the last leg of his legacy. He does not have to prove anything to anyone anymore. He will leave this game once and for all and we will not question his place among the best. He gave us drama when being the drama queen was in. When he was pushed to the wall he pushed back. He never met a word he couldn’t say to your face. Now he plays in the biggest game of his life. He may not be a great factor in this one, but he is ready to make the play if he has to. He has done this since forever. He will line up when his number is called and play hard and smart. We have seen and heard the many faces of Randy Gene Moss for many years now. This coming Sunday the only face you will see will be his game face. That my readers is “ Straight cash homie”.