Before Randy Moss was a parent in the stands watching his son play in a national championship game with the LSU Tigers, and before the 44-year-old worked for ESPN as an analyst, he was one of the most physically-gifted, dominant wide receivers in football history. That's the only way to say it.
The man they called "Freak" put "getting Mossed" into every kid's trash-talking vocabulary. The 6-foot-4 monster played 14 seasons in the NFL, most notably for the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots. Moss holds the single-season touchdown reception record (23 in 2007) and the single-season touchdown reception record for a rookie (17 in 1998). Plus, his 156 career touchdowns rank second all-time to Jerry Rice.
Moss earned six trips to the Pro Bowl and two to the Super Bowl, both of which his teams lost in. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility in 2018.
Before any of that, though, he was the most unstoppable force in college football.
Randy Moss at Marshall
Randy Moss was an incredible athlete at DuPont High School in Rand, West Virginia. He played basketball with Jason Williams (imagine that) and averaged more than 30 points per game. He ran track and played baseball, too.
But the gridiron is where he shined. Former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz called him the best high school football player he'd ever laid eyes on. FSU coach Bobby Bowden said he was "as good as Deion Sanders," noting that he was much bigger.
Randy Moss blew his shot at playing for Notre Dame after getting into a fight. After a redshirt season in 1995, Florida State's Bobby Bowden then gave him a chance but kicked him off the team for a marijuana incident.
So in 1996, he transferred to Marshall University, then a Division I-AA school in the Mid-American Conference where he could play right away.
The rest is NCAA football history.
In two seasons for the Thundering Herd in Huntington, West Virginia, Moss tallied 100 receiving yards in a whopping 15 games. When Marshall became a Division I-A (now FBS) school in '97, all he did was catch a record 26 touchdowns and scored in every game. He was named MAC Most Valuable Player and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
By the time he hung up his uniform with the Herd, he'd caught 54 touchdown passes over two seasons. The most impressive (and the longest) of those came against Army in 1997, when he torched defenders and hurdled a guy for a 90-yard touchdown in West Point, New York.
Get your popcorn out.
Randy Moss' Hurdling 90-Yard Touchdown
I don't even know where to begin with that outrageous clip.
Men that size shouldn't be able to move laterally like that. They shouldn't be able to jump like that. And they most certainly should not have that sort of speed. I mean, Moss performed like five different track events in one play.
Tim Stephens of the Charleston Gazette-Mail wrote how one Carolina Panthers scout watched in awe. He "smiled, closed his notebook and leaned back in his chair." Why? His work that day was done. He recommended the Panthers select Moss 14th overall in the 1998 NFL Draft. They didn't, and the Vikings got a steal at No. 21.
Marshall's plan, as the clip of Chad Pennington throwing a short screen pass to Moss might tell you, was to get their freak wide receiver the ball at all costs.
"We had a system, and it was a simple system," former Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Bob Pruett told TimesReporter.com. "If there was one guy on him, we checked out of whatever we were in and threw him the ball. It didn't matter what else was going on."
Randy Moss will always be remembered as a touchdown machine, and it started with this ridiculous play in 1997.
This article was originally published June 5, 2020.
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