Chuck Landon: Moss is the best athlete in West Virginia history
It is a privilege.
During 46 years of sports writing, I have had the distinct pleasure of watching many supremely talented athletes develop and blossom into stardom.
And they all hailed from the perpetually underrated state of West Virginia.
It’s quite a list.
Off the top of my head, it includes Dunbar’s Melvin Walker; Charleston High’s Mike Tyson; DuPont’s Jason Williams; Greenbrier East’s Bimbo Coles; Mount Hope’s Earl Jones; Pineville’s Curt Warner; Keyser’s John Kruk; Huntington’s Rick Reed, Patrick Patterson and O.J. Mayo; South Charleston’s Robert Alexander; Stonewall Jackson’s Walter Easley; Nitro’s J.R. House; Richwood’s Mike Barrett; Mullens’ Mike D’Antoni and Beckley’s Doug Legursky.
But I saved the best for last - Randy Moss.
From the time I first began hearing about Moss when he was a mere eighth-grader at DuPont Junior High School, it was clear that he was going to be very special.
And was he ever.
Whether it was football, basketball, track or baseball, Moss excelled in everything at DuPont High School. He could have been a professional athlete in any of those sports. He was that innately talented. But he also was that determined and driven.
The feats I witnessed him perform in those sports staggers the imagination. Everyone remembers Moss hurdling a would-be tackler at Army in 1997 when he was playing for Marshall. But the most phenomenal thing I ever witnessed was watching Moss play center field in a high school baseball game at Herbert Hoover and literally outrun a baseball that had been driven into the gap and make the catch.
Moss is simply the most phenomenal athlete I ever have seen.
But iconic former Marshall coach Bobby Pruett will go that one better.
“I think he is the best athlete that ever has been in the state,” said Pruett, a native of Beckley. “You know, Jerry West was a great basketball player and Rod Thorn was a great basketball player and Sam Huff was a great football player, but they couldn’t run a 4.2 40.
“He’s all the things those other people were, but they couldn’t run in the Olympics. He was a two-time high school basketball player of the year. He was a super center fielder. In other words, he was a pure athlete.”
Moss could jump higher, run faster and possessed better hand-eye coordination than anyone.
“Randy recorded a 51-inch vertical leap,” marveled Pruett. “At the NFL combine he jumped 48 inches. It was in the newspaper up here (Canton, Ohio). That’s four inches higher than Michael Jordan could jump.
“I think he’s the greatest receiver to ever play the game of football. I mean, he’s just unbelievable.”
Until Moss, Pruett never had coached a player who was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s why Pruett made a point of spending the weekend in Canton, so he could be present when Moss was honored Saturday night.
“Oh, yes, this is a big event for me, too,” said Pruett. “I’m excited. I’m just proud for our school - Marshall. And, now, we’ve ended up with a guy in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We might never have another athlete who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Randy getting this is just phenomenal.”
The gist of the matter is, Moss isn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime phenom.
It might take several lifetimes before anyone ever sees another athlete as talented as Randy Moss.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.