Moss put MU on map and is still a key to program success
HUNTINGTON - Saturday was a special day for Marshall University’s football program as Randy Moss, the Thundering Herd’s all-time great and one of the greatest to ever play wide receiver in the NFL, went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Moss’ years at Marshall included an undefeated season and NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) Championship in 1996 before he joined with quarterback Chad Pennington and many other Herd stars to forge a successful move to Division I-A (now FBS) that included a 1997 Mid-American Conference title.
Perhaps Moss’ legacy with the Herd is not just his individual play, but how he helped raise the bar for what Marshall football is known as.
“He put us on the map,” Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said. “If you look at what people think of when they think Marshall football, it starts with Randy Moss and the exposure that he brought to the university and the football program at that time.”
During that time, the slogan surrounding Marshall football became “We Play For Championships.” Even though the slogan isn’t used today, its concept is adhered to because of the groundwork laid by Moss and company during his two historic seasons with the Herd.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday still adheres to those expectations with his team, and this week, Holliday is using Moss as a teaching tool.
Each time out, people in attendance knew Moss was one of the best players on the field, yet he went out and found a way to get it done consistently despite all efforts being made to take him out of the equation. This season, Marshall’s program has high expectations with 18 starters back from an eight-win team, but Holliday wants his team to embrace those expectations and find ways to get the job done, as well.
From a personal perspective, Holliday’s viewpoint with Moss is unique because not only is he coaching at the university for which Moss played, but Holliday was also on the opposite sideline during the Herd’s first game as a Division I-A program Aug. 30, 1997 - a 42-31 loss to West Virginia University in Morgantown.
At the time, Holliday was assistant head coach and wide receivers coach for the Mountaineers. He recalled what it was like watching Moss from an opponent’s perspective. In that game, Moss caught seven passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns from Pennington while drawing a buzz from the crowd with each catch.
“There’s very few players that when you coach against them, you hold your breath and you say, ‘Oh my God, this guy can beat you by himself,’ but he was one of them,” Holliday said. “Every time he lined up, you held your breath because you knew he could beat you. He was just a tremendous player.”
From a recruiting standpoint, Moss is still an integral part of the success of the Herd. His likeness is seen prominently in social media posts from prospects when they receive their offers from Marshall and the recruiting pitch often discusses Moss as one of the Herd’s greats.
“Probably the greatest receiver to ever play the game came right out of here and played right here in this stadium,” Holliday said. “Just a tremendous, tremendous honor for him to represent the state of West Virginia, Marshall University and, of course, the pro football teams that he’s played for.”
Moss has shown that he hasn’t forgotten about Marshall University or the state of West Virginia, either.
On July 18, Moss sent out an Instagram post of him sitting just beyond the south end zone at Joan C. Edwards Stadium with a caption that said, “Got something brewing for summer 19. Hope yaw weady wv! #myhuntington.”
Sources say that, at that time, Moss met with Marshall officials to discuss his future involvement with the athletic program.
Even though the details surrounding those plans are not yet known, any type of joint venture between Moss and Marshall University would be a win for Herd athletics as it would bring one of its most recognizable faces in history back into the forefront.
“Randy has done a tremendous job,” Holliday said. “I’m really proud of him, happy for him and happy for Marshall.”
Moss became the second Marshall player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining Frank “Gunner” Gatski, who was elected in 1985, making Saturday a unique and historic day for the Thundering Herd program.
Along Moss’ unique path, there were plenty of twists and turns, a fair share of bumps in that road, a path that found its way through Huntington and then a strong drive into NFL stardom and, now, the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As all West Virginians know, there are no straight roads in the Mountain State. Normally, however, there is a beautiful destination at the end of all those twists and turns.
On Saturday, the Rand, West Virginia, native was a living testament to that as he found one of the most beautiful destinations he’d ever seen - the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.