Athletes overcoming obstacles is nothing new in sports and often times, overcoming the odds separates the good from the great in sports and the career of Randy Moss has followed that pattern to a T.
Randy Moss is often recognized as one of the greatest players in NFL history and an individual that changed how wide receivers are viewed. But before he was breaking records and excelling at the highest level, he was growing up in Rand, West Virginia.
Moss grew up in the small, unincorporated town of Rand with his mother and two older siblings struggling through rough circumstances. He found refuge in sports and found out quickly he had supreme athletic gifts that could help him make it out of the situation he and his family was in.
Starring at Dupont High School in Rand, Moss was a four-sport star that had success at every sport he played. He won state title after state title in a variety of sports along with player of the year awards, but football was where he excelled the most.
Moss was the West Virginia Player of the Year in 1994 and won two state titles along the way and some of the biggest Division-I programs in the country took notice. He signed a letter of intent to play for Notre Dame, but his role in a racially-charged fight at school meant he would never have the opportunity to play for the Fighting Irish.
He then decided to take his talents to Florida State and red-shirted in 1995, but a failed drug test while on probation after the fighting incident at Dupont led to him missing out on a chance to play for the Seminoles.
But just when it looked like Moss’ college career was derailed before it even began, Marshall University changed everything. New Marshall head coach Bob Pruett, the former defensive coordinator at Florida, helped with recruiting Moss during his time in Gainesville.
Those ties would pay dividends and Moss transferred to Marshall and was able to play immediately given the school’s FCS classification at the time. Moss stayed in the state of West Virginia for college and for two years with the Thundering Herd, he would establish himself as the best wide receiver in college football.
Moss tied the FCS-record with 28 touchdowns in his freshman season at Marshall while helping lead the Herd to the 1996 FCS National Championship and a 15-0 record. Marshall moved up to the FBS level in 1997, but that wouldn’t slow Moss down.
Some believed playing at the FBS level would expose Moss, but that wouldn’t be farther from the truth if it tried. Moss caught another 26 touchdowns in 1997, but that would only be the tip of the iceberg for the national attention he got.
Number 88 won the 1997 Biletnikoff Award, given to the best wide receiver in college football. He also made a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist before finishing fourth in the voting behind Ryan Leaf, Peyton Manning, and eventual winner Charles Woodson.
He finished his Marshall career by scoring at least one touchdown in every game he played, totaling 54 touchdown receptions in two years along with one rushing touchdown. Moss caught 174 passes and tallied 3,529 receiving yards with the Herd as well.
Moss’ stunning college career put him on the radar of nearly every NFL scout in the country. He announced he would enter the 1998 NFL Draft, but his perceived character issues at the time were a cause for pause for many NFL teams.
He was a sure-fire top-five pick talent-wise, but he would fall to the 21st overall pick of the first round to the Minnesota Vikings. And the rest, as they say, is history. Moss transcended the game over his 14-year NFL career that saw him play for the Vikings, the Oakland Raiders, the New England Patriots, the Tennessee Titans, and the San Francisco 49ers.
Off the field and character issues continued to be a factor for many in the NFL circle, but Moss never let it affect his game. He amassed numbers that most wide receivers could only dream about and broke many records along the way.
Moss was a five-time All-Pro selection, caught 156 career touchdowns which ranks second all-time in NFL history, set the NFL record for the most touchdown receptions in a single season in 2007 with 23, and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000’s.
To mention every accolade and accomplishment Moss accounted for in the NFL would be next to impossible, but there’s no denying his impact on the game and how influential his game still is. He helped introduce a new style of wide receiver to the NFL and helped reshape how the game is played.
His impact on the NFL led to the ultimate honor just days ago when Moss was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He was a first-ballot selection and became the first wide receiver to get in on the first-ballot since Jerry Rice.
Moss has parlayed a stunning playing career into a job with ESPN as a Monday Night Football analyst, leading to the hit segment “You Got Mossed!” And throughout all of the ups and downs throughout his career, Moss never forgets where he came from.
Rand, West Virginia is never far from the mind of the new Pro Football Hall of Famer and over the years, he has given back to his community time and time again. Moss has led many charities over the years dedicated to helping the younger generation.
He loves his hometown and state so much that in the middle of his hall of fame speech, he announced he would be bringing his gold jacket to the Charleston Town Center the following day to meet and greet with fans. The event was a huge success with hundreds coming out to greet arguably the greatest athlete in the history of West Virginia.
Moss’ hall of fame induction is living proof that even in the toughest of circumstances where things look bad, you can still overcome the odds and make the most out of it. But no matter how much success Moss has had in his career, it all started in the 304, the great state of West Virginia.
Adversity can be beaten and if seeing a country boy from Kanawha County in West Virginia go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn’t make you believe, nothing will.