I freaking love Randy Moss, always have. In the fall of 1998 I went away to school and became best friends with a kid from Wayzata, Minnesota who bled Vikings purple and gold. Watching him watch Moss lead the league in receiving touchdowns as a rookie is one of my fondest football memories before adulthood.
Many Irish fans know the backstory with Moss who was the crown jewel of Notre Dame’s 1995 recruiting class, which when it signed in February of that year, was the consensus No. 1 haul in the country and the first truly powerful class for the Irish since 1990.
Then, Moss was involved in a high school fight in March that seriously injured a student and his official application arrived to Notre Dame more than 3 months late. By late June, maybe the second best athlete to LeBron James throughout my time on earth was denied admission to Notre Dame. Some say this mentally broke Lou Holtz who would deal with spinal surgery that fall and be gone from South Bend just 18 months after Moss was denied entry to the school.
It’s always been tempting to wonder how Moss would’ve changed the future in the late 1990’s for Notre Dame. Then again, to be entirely honest the Irish offense was at such a weird place that the Moss fan in me wonders if he would’ve been hilariously underutilized. Corey Mayes had a great senior season (48 receptions, 881 yards) but a damn fullback finished second on the team in receiving.
At any rate, Moss’ brief two years at (then) I-AA Marshall were fun as hell and watching his highlights with Chad Pennington are some of my biggest late 90’s SportsCenter memories.
174 receptions, 3,529 yards, 20.3 per catch, 54 touchdowns
That was utter devastation at any level of college football and he fell in the NFL Draft in 1998.
Is Moss somehow still underrated? Is he the greatest receiver ever? His stats page may not reach the total heights of Jerry Rice but it’s still a ton of fun to look back on, especially given he played most of his career with some pretty bad quarterbacks. One of the seasons he didn’t play with a terrible quarterback he set the record for most touchdowns in a season and his team went 16-0. So, yeah.
At least, Moss truly lived up to his “Freak” nickname and changed the game. Case in point, the leading NFL receivers in yardage in the season before Moss showed up were Rob Moore, Tim Brown, Yancy Thigpen, Jimmy Smith, and Irving Fryar. None of these guys were under the age of 28 and the next season Moss was the best receiver in the game at 21 years old–kind of a big deal. The whole wideout position has never been the same since.
I just wanted to appreciate Randy Moss today. If he’s not a first ballot Hall of Famer next year the NFL should cease operations and Canton shutter its doors. His 30 for 30 “Rand University” from 2014 was one of the more well done films in the series and offered a lot of insight into some of his troubled background but I love him just the way he is anyway.
Especially since he’s still all about Notre Dame. Looking back a few years ago on his college career he said:
“If I could do it over again, Notre Dame would’ve probably still been there. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. That was my team.”