Moss, Randy 1977–
Randy Moss 1977–
Professional football player
Randy Moss, the star receiver for the Minnesota Vikings foot-ball team, is a volatile combination of tremendous athletic talent and troubled personal history. While he racked up impressive statistics for touchdown receptions on the field, he made headlines with his scandalous off-field behavior. The Heisman-trophy contender nearly squashed his own promising career in the NFL because coaches were worried that his exploits would supercede his talent, but in his first season with the Minnesota Vikings he proved his critics wrong. While staying out of trouble, Moss went from being a third-string receiver to the Vikings’ star player, proving that he is capable of fulfilling NFL expectations.
Moss was born in Rand, West Virginia, to Maxine Moss and Randy Pratt on February 13, 1977. He grew up in the small mining town with his mother and sister Latisia and a half-brother Eric. As a high school student Moss was perhaps the finest athlete ever to come out of West Virginia, excelling in football, winning the state’s Mr. Basketball title twice, and winning state championships in the 100 and 200 meters in track. After winning state track titles as a sophomore he switched to baseball and played to a similarly high level.
Moss was recruited to play foot-ball all over the country but settled on Notre Dame. After signing a letter of intent to play football for the Fighting Irish, Moss participated in a racially motivated fight at school which resulted in his expulsion and a 30-day jail sentence. Notre Dame revoked his scholarship claiming his application was incorrectly filled Irish coach at the time, Fighting time, recommended Moss to Bobby Bowden at Florida State University. Moss attended Florida State for his freshman year, but was redshirted, meaning he did not play with the football team in an official capacity. For the first year, he appeared to be committed to staying out of trouble and keeping up with his studies. After the spring semester Moss reported to a Charleston, West Virginia jail to serve his 30 days in a work release program. Two weeks into the sentence in April of 1996, Moss tested positive for marijuana. He told Curry Kirkpatrick of Sport: “What was I thinking? Nothing, obviously. I did it, put the weeds to my lips. I devastated myself.” Moss went from the work release program to a week in solitary confinement and spent 90 days in jail before he was released on July 26. To the surprise of no one, Florida State revoked his scholarship.
Born Randy Moss on February 13, 1977 in Rand, West Virginia; son of Maxine Moss and Randy Pratt; children: Sydney. Education: attended Florida State University and Marshall University.
Career: Football player. Starred in four sports at DuPont High School 1993-95; enrolled at Marshall University, 1996; chosen in the first round of the NFL draft with the 21st overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings, 1996; became a starter for the Vikings, 1996-
Awards: Won state track championships in the 100 and 200 meters, 1993; named West Virginia’s Mr. Basket-ball, 1994-95; set NCAA record for touchdown catches for a freshman, 1997; first team All-American; Biletnikoff Award winner, finished fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting, 1998; NFL Rookie of the Year, set NFL record for touchdown receptions for a rookie (17), started in the Pro Bowl, 1999.
Addresses: Business —The Minnesota Vikings, 9520 Viking Drive, Eden Prairie MN 55344.
Two weeks after being released from prison Moss enrolled at Division I-AA Marshall University in the fall of 1996. At Marshall Moss was a star on the football field. In his first game he scored a touchdown, had three catches, gained 142 yards on five kickoff returns, and blocked well. He was on his way to leading his team to a national championship when he again made headlines for his off-the-field exploits. On November 17, 1996, four months after finishing his time in jail, Moss dropped off his daughter Sydney at her mother’s house, a woman with whom Moss had just broken up. The wide receiver pulled up in his new girlfriend’s car and a fight ensued. Moss told S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated: “She just ticked me off, and it got out of hand. The only thing I regret was I put my hands on her. I don’t put my hands on a woman. But I had to apply some pressure to get her off me.” Each of the two was arrested for the altercation, but charges were later dropped when they agreed to go into counseling.
On the field Moss and the Thundering Herd were unstoppable. Moss caught 28 touchdowns, the most by any freshman in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history. He caught touchdown passes in all 11 regular season games and also led Division I-AA with an average of 34 yards per kickoff return. Marshall won the I-AA championship game by decimating unbeaten Montana 49-29. After the championship season Marshall coach Bob Pruett told Kirkpatrick of Sport: “You’d have to be Willie off the pickle boat not to recognize that when Randy steps on the field, it’s like the Kentucky Derby.”
The following year Moss turned in another stellar season, amassing perhaps the gaudiest statistics in a two-year period ever by a wide receiver in college football. Moss caught 174 balls for 3,529 yards and 54 touch-downs. After his sophomore season Moss finished fourth in the vote for the Heisman Trophy, was named a first-team All-American, and was given the Biletnikoff Award for being the best receiver in college football. After two unbelievable years at Marshall Moss decided to leave college and enter the 1998 NFL draft. Then Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt told Peter King of Sports Illustrated: “Our scouts say he’s the best receiver to come out of college in the last thirty years.”
Still there were concerns about his character. Moss did not help himself when he skipped the NFL’s scouting combine where potential draft picks are evaluated. Moss’s agent said he had to cancel the day of the combine because an abscessed wisdom tooth forced him to undergo dental surgery. Combined with his past indiscretions, the last-minute cancellation caused many coaches in the NFL to wonder if he was having any other problems. New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka commented to Dan Pompei of The Sporting News on Moss’s absence: “You create suspicions and doubts as to why [he was not there]. I think he should have come—but that’s his business. He’s a big boy.” Despite his awesome potential as a professional, Moss’s stock dropped dramatically. Some draft experts expected him to fall out of the first round of the draft—and he almost did.
On the NFL’s 1998 draft day Moss was in free-fall. Everybody’s All-American went from a sure top-five pick to being chosen by the Minnesota Vikings as the 21st overall selection late in the first round. Vikings coach Dennis Green told Paul Attner of The Sporting News that he thought about the decision “about two seconds at most… If the support system wasn’t in place here, we might not have done it, but I knew what I was bringing him into. My players know what is expected and they will take care of things long before I know about it.” The Vikings seemed to be a perfect fit for Moss. Minnesota had built a talented team loaded with established stars. Moss would actually be the third wide receiver behind veterans Jake Reed and Cris Carter. Moss called Carter and worked out with him before the season and made all the right moves off the field to stay out of trouble. Moss even started a charity program called “Randy’s Purple Pioneers”. During the first part of the season Moss was on the field for only half the Vikings’ plays and was thrown to four to five plays a game. Despite his lack of playing time he never complained about not getting the ball.
Moss got his chance to shine in the nationally-televised game pitting the Vikings against the Dallas Cowboys—the team Moss had always wanted to play for. Moss almost single-handedly destroyed the Cowboys, catching three bombs of over 50 yards each for touchdowns in Minnesota’s 46-36 win. Moss suddenly became more of a focal point in the offense and lifted the Vikings to the status of NFL powerhouse. Moss’s statistics were stunning after his rookie year. He led the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions and made the Pro Bowl. Moss caught 69 passes, amassing 1,313 yards with an average of 19 yards per catch. Moss and his team also broke the NFL single-season scoring record with 556 points. Moss was named the Rookie of the Year by virtually every sports publication printed, taking 22 of 24 votes on The Sporting News’ team. Despite his unparalleled success in his NFL debut, many around the league still have their doubts. Whether that is just bitterness over having passed up the chance to draft the next Jerry Rice or sound skepticism is up to Moss himself.
Sport, October 1997.
The Sporting News, February 16, 1998; November 16, 1998; January 25, 1999.
Sports Illustrated, August 25, 1997; March 23, 1998.
—Michael J. Watkins
American football player
Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss is one of professional football's star players, but he remains "the National Football League's biggest enigma," as New York Times writer Judy Battista described him. Though Moss's talents on the gridiron are extraordinary, his off-the-field escapades and pronouncements have landed him in trouble on more than one occasion dating back to his high-school days.
Expelled from School
Moss was born in 1977 and grew up in a small West Virginia mining town called Rand. As a student in the nearby Belle school system, Moss emerged as a phenomenally gifted young athlete. He led the DuPont High School Panthers
to two state football titles, and as a basketball player was named West Virginia's high school player of the year. He even excelled in baseball and won track titles at the state level. Legendary Notre Dame University coach Lou Holtz called him "the best high school player I've ever seen," according to Sport 's Curry Kirkpatrick, and duly signed him to play for the legendary Fighting Irish after graduation. The full scholarship was rescinded, however, when Moss became involved in a school brawl and spent a month in jail after rupturing a fellow student's spleen.
Holtz suggested Moss to the Florida State University Seminoles, who allowed him to play as a "red shirt," or an off-the-roster player, during his freshman year in 1995. The following spring, Moss returned to Charleston to serve out the remainder of his sentence for malicious wounding on a work-release program, but tested positive for marijuana use. He was jailed again, and Florida State kicked him off the team. From there Moss enrolled at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and helped make their football team, the Thundering Herd, a leader in its collegiate I-AA division. Moss's receiving and running talents led the team through a spectacular two seasons, and he was a fourth-place candidate in the Heisman Trophy voting for the best American college football player after his sophomore season.
Rookie of the Year Honors
Moss decided to quit school and enter the National Football League draft for 1998. He was widely considered to be a top-five pick, and heralded as the best receiver out to come out of the college level in thirty years. But Moss skipped the important scouting combine, claiming he suffered from an abscessed wisdom tooth, and rumors arose that he was avoiding the mandatory drug test. Wary that he had not yet shed his trouble-maker reputation, nineteen NFL teams bypassed him in the draft, but the Vikings selected him and offered a $1.4 million rookie contract.
Moss began his career with Minnesota as a third-string receiver, after Jake Reed and Cris Carter . Then, at a nationally televised Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day, Moss caught three touchdown passes, each for more than 50 yards. The Vikings trounced Dallas 46-36, and Moss became an overnight celebrity. By the end of his rookie season, he led the NFL with touchdown receptions, and racked up several other impressive statistics, and the Vikings had a 15-1 season. He was named Rookie of Year by several publications, and his No. 84 became the best-selling Vikings jersey nationwide. "Beyond that," noted Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum, "Moss has—not single-handedly, to be sure, but preeminently—galvanized and glamorized the Vikes, giving them the league's highest phat factor."
Troubles On and Off the Field
There was much pre-season hype before the start of the 1999 Vikings year, with many predicting they could make it to the Super Bowl. Yet Moss's performance was spotty that year, and he paid a team fine for squirting an official with a water bottle. In 2000, the team finished 11-5, a small improvement over the past season. The onset of the 2001 football year began badly for Moss and the Vikings, when his teammate and friend Korey Stringer died of heat exhaustion after a pre-season practice. Moss stunned reporters when he wept openly about the loss. Then, a few weeks into the season, he was again fined for insulting the executives of some of the team's corporate sponsors over a seat on the bus. His most infamous moment of the 2001 season, however, came in November when he told Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Sid Hartman, "I play when I want to play." The remark was widely reported in the national media, but Hartman had written in the preceding paragraph that Moss's "veteran teammate, Cris Carter, will tell you there is not a player who goes 100 percent all of the time." As Moss reflected after his soon-to-be-infamous statement was made, "Do I play up to my top performance, my ability every time? Maybe not. I just keep doing what I do and that is playing football. When I make my mind up, I am going out there to tear some-body's head off," he told Hartman.
Moss's boast "made him the poster child last season for all that is wrong with professional sports," noted Sports Illustrated writer Michael Silver, and Vikings fans began to boo him on the field. The team finished the season with a dismal 5-11 record. The tension between Moss and Vikings coach Dennis Green was said to be the reason that Green did not finish out the 2001 season, and the team's offensive line coach, Mike Tice, advanced to the job. The Vikings failed to re-sign Carter for the 2002 season as well. Had Vikings owner Red McCombs been convinced by Tice that he could reign in Moss and make him the Michael Jordan of football, he was asked? "No," Moss told Silver in Sports Illustrated. "Mike Tice got the job because he and Randy Moss can get along. Nobody controls me but my mama and God."
|VKG: Minnesota Vikings.|
"Bumped" Officer with Lexus
A few games into the 2002 season, Tice had already heralded what he termed the "Randy Ratio"—a vow that forty percent of the team's passes were to be caught by Moss. The receiver seemed to have settled down and showed far more leadership promise than in past seasons, but at the end of September, Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper screamed at Moss on sidelines for failing to go after a pass with both hands. Two days later, Moss spent a night in jail after disobeying a traffic control officer in downtown Minneapolis. The officer, on foot, attempted to stop Moss in his Lexus sedan from making an illegal turn, and he was said to have nudged her with the car until she fell over. Authorities found marijuana in the car, and Moss was charged with misdemeanor drug possession.
Moss remains one of the Vikings' most talented players, though skeptics note he has not yet lived up to the promise of his athletic prowess. He claims to have learned to speak more carefully, as he told Sports Illustrated 's Silver. "I guess that I'm a bad guy, which I'm not," he says. "I know I have a reputation to protect, and it's not just me—I'm also representing a multimillion-dollar franchise and my family. So if sometimes I say things I regret, I've got to pay for it."
|1977||Born in Rand, West Virginia|
|1995||School brawl leads to malicious wounding charge|
|1995||Loses Notre Dame scholarship|
|1995||Plays one season with Florida State University Seminoles|
|1996||Violates terms of probation, spends 90 days in West Virginia jail|
|1996-98||Plays two seasons for Marshall University|
|1998||Makes dramatic catches in Vikings' Thanksgiving Day game|
|1999||Fined by team for assaulting NFL official|
|2001||Fined by team for insulting corporate sponsors|
|2001||Fined by league for taunting opposing team|
|2002||Spends night in Minneapolis jail over traffic incident, drug possession|
Address: c/o Minnesota Vikings, Winter Park Administrative Offices, 9520 Viking Dr., Eden Prairie, MN 55344. Phone: (952) 828-6500. Email: [email protected]vikings.com. Online: http://www.vikings.com.
Attner, Paul. "Ugly solution to Moss hysteria." Sporting News 225 (January 15, 2001): 18.
Battista, Judy. "Moss Presents a Challenge To Jets and Vikings Alike." New York Times (October 17, 2002): D3.
Hack, Damon. "Officials Find No Felony Against Moss." New York Times (September 26, 2002): D4.
Hartman, Sid. "Moss: I play when I want to play." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) (November 23, 2001): 3C.
Kirkpatrick, Curry. "Does this guy look like trouble?" Sport (October 1997): 58.
McCallum, Jack. "Moss Appeal." Sports Illustrated (January 18, 1999): 54.
"Moss Fined $15,000 Last Month." New York Times (December 14, 2001): S6.
Pompei, Dan. "Trying to get answers on Moss is like pulling teeth." Sporting News (February 16, 1998): 51.
Scott, David. "Moss Hysteria." Sport (August 1999): 50.
Silver, Michael. "How Good Can Randy Moss Be?" Sports Illustrated (September 2, 2002): 68.
"Traffic Arrest for Randy Moss." New York Times (September 25, 2002): D4.
"Vikings Star Admits Nudging Officer with Car." New York Times (December 12, 2002): D4.
Sketch by Carol Brennan
Awards and Accomplishments
|1995||West Virginia's Mr. Basketball award|
|1997||Heisman Trophy finalist|
|1998||Named to NCAA first team All-American team|
|1998||Fred Biletnikoff Award|
|1998||NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year|
|1998-2000||Named to Pro Bowl Team|