Hall of Famer Randy Moss: Star receiver gets gold jacket, bronze bust
CANTON, Ohio — Randy Moss has never forgotten where he’s come from.
Throughout his 14-year All-Pro career in football, the Kanawha Valley was close to his heart and on his lips. When introducing himself on “Sunday Night Football,” his words were “Randy Moss, Rand University.” It was a tip of the cap to the unincorporated section of eastern Kanawha County in which he grew up.
And as he was being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night, he wanted to let the Kanawha Valley know it could share this monumental moment with him.
“We have one well-knit community,” he said, “and from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank my community and the state for all the love and support. It really means a lot to me.
“And with all that said, I’m bringing this gold jacket back tomorrow at the (Charleston) Town Center,” he continued. “All y’all West Virginians want to see this gold jacket? Meet me at the Town Center.”
Moss became the fifth West Virginia-born Hall of Famer, the second from Marshall University and the first first-ballot receiver since Jerry Rice. He joined Robert Brazile, Bobby Beathard, Jerry Kramer, Brian Dawkins, Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis and Terrell Owens in the 2018 Hall of Fame class. All but Owens attended Saturday’s ceremony.
He walked out to the podium with his son Thaddeus, a tight end at LSU who introduced Moss on Saturday. They pulled the cover from his bronze bust, as Moss pumped his fist with a wide grin. He rubbed the bronze cornrows and kissed the forehead before approaching the microphone.
In his 17-minute speech, he thanked a number of people — God, family, former coaches and team owners. And he spent much of his time telling the more than 22,000 inside the stadium about Rand.
“All y’all boys, all y’all ladies know, for those years when we were in Rand, West Virginia, when nobody even checked on us, did not care what was going on,” he said, “we stood together.”
Moss began his football odyssey playing in the churchyards and streets of tiny Rand. Friends and fans figured he had a future in the sport when he was a 6-foot-2 junior-high student. He blossomed into a 6-4 high school phenom with world-class speed and explosive leaping ability.
In three varsity seasons, Moss caught 44 touchdowns and ran for 10 more at DuPont High, winning the Kennedy Award his senior year. In those three seasons, he averaged 23.9 yards per catch and 15.4 yards per carry.
His college path took a couple of detours. Hopes of playing at Notre Dame ended when the university’s admissions office rejected his application. A positive marijuana test sent him home from Florida State after a redshirt season. He arrived at Marshall and, in two seasons, helped lay the foundation for that program’s success.
He helped the Thundering Herd to the 1996 NCAA Division I-AA national title and the 1997 Mid-American Conference title in the team’s first year in Division I-A. In 1997, he won the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
That didn’t help his NFL draft stock, as what teams considered red flags led to his slide to 21st overall in the 1998 draft. The Minnesota Vikings chose him there, and Moss’ 14-year highlight reel of a career began.
In stops at Minnesota, the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, he cemented himself as one of football’s greatest players. His 156 touchdown catches are second in NFL history, his 15,292 receiving yards fourth all-time. He owns the single-season rookie (17) and overall (23) records for touchdown receptions. He also played in two Super Bowls, one with the Patriots and one his final season with the 49ers.
Nicknamed “The Freak,” pundits and contemporaries alike said his combination of attributes was unique. Fellow Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, the former Dallas Cowboys receiver, said that, in the past, there were big receivers and there were fast receivers.
“He was the big guy and the fast guy, something at a level we had never seen,” Irvin said on the stage Saturday. “He deserves to be right here.”
Thaddeus Moss agreed, saying his father was something special.
“There is nobody else like him and there probably won’t be anybody else like him,” he said. “I think he’s left his mark and his impact on the game of football on the field and off the field, just being one of the greatest ever to do it.”
Moss said faith, family and football — in that order — is what made him the person he has become. Faith was important to him, especially through the turmoil he had experienced at different periods of his life. The barbs thrown at him from others because of that turmoil still sting for him.
“I am a living testimony, a walking testimony,” he said, “not to just the football fans, but to the whole world. I know God put me here to teach and to lead others down the right path, but first I had to learn from my own mistakes. I had to mature.”
Moss thanked plenty of family, including his children and wife Lydia, but had many loving words for his mother, Maxine. He lauded her for caring for three children as a single mother.
“Mama, if they’re celebrating me for all my accomplishments,” he said as his voice began to waver, “all I want to do is celebrate you and give you the things we never had.”
He had words of appreciation for several of his former NFL teams, for the Vikings and the late coach Dennis Green for taking the chance on him in 1998 to the Kraft family, owners of the Patriots, who he said did their own research into the type of person he was.
Moss was his own man at every stop of his NFL career. It made many smile. It rubbed some others the wrong way. Either way, it led to his bronze bust being included in Canton.
It’s something Moss has said is more for others than it is for him. And it is especially for the people of his home state.
“There’s a lot of country folk out here,” he said, “and I’m proud to be from the state of West Virginia.”
Moss announces Charleston mall visit:
CHARLESTON — Charleston Town Center Mall is welcoming Kanawha County native Randy Moss on Sunday, Aug. 5, as he celebrates his first-ballot induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As he announced during his speech Saturday night, Moss will be available for autographs at approximately 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, in the mall’s Center Court. Because of anticipated attendance and demand, fans will be limited to one item for his autograph, mall officials announced.
For the first 200 fans in the official line around Center Court, Charleston Town Center will provide a free commemorative 8x10 photo Moss chose for the occasion.
Line-up for the autograph session will follow the rules used by the mall for all celebrity events in Center Court. The line forms after the mall opens for business at 8 a.m.