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©1997
Huntington Quarterly
Magazine

 

Toss To Moss

Marshall University's Randy Moss Makes A Run at the '97 Heisman

  Randy Moss


Imagine. Randy Moss, Marshall University, Heisman Trophy winner in 1997. The Thundering Herd's sleek, talented sophomore receiver has won numerous other honors in his short, 15-game college career. So why not the Heisman? Everybody's talking about it. Everybody, that is, but Moss. "I don't know what's so big about the Heisman," Moss says. "I just want to win games." And there you have it. The new, mature, serious Randy Moss. The Randy Moss who talks about 1997 only in terms of wins on the field. But despite the rhetoric, you can't deny his extraordinary talents. That's talents, in the plural.

A native of Rand, W.Va., he played football, basketball, baseball and ran track at Dupont High School where he lettered in all four sports. He was named West Virginia High School Player of the Year in football his senior year and Player of the Year in basketball both his junior and senior years.

'Randy Moss was the best high school football player I've ever seen," said former Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz. Moss earned a full ride to Notre Dame in 1995 before a racially-motivated fight his senior year in high school saw him charged with two counts of simple battery and cost him his dream of playing for the Irish.

"When I lost my scholarship, I just sat down and prayed to the Lord that another opportunity would come my way," Moss said. Bobby Bowden gave the youngster that opportunity at Florida State where Moss raised some eyebrows as a redshirt freshman.

"At spring practice, he was head and shoulders above everybody else," noted former FSU interim AD Wayne Hogan. "He'd just dazzle everyone. During my 14 years down there, I only saw two people stand out above the crown like that. One was Deion Sanders. The other was Randy Moss." At 6' 5" and 210 lbs., Moss possess frightening speed. At FSU he ran the 40 in 4.25. The only Seminole in history to clock a faster time was Sanders at 4.23. And as if that weren't enough, he possesses a 3'6' vertical leap and versatile speed. "Randy could be a world-class sprinter," notes MU Track & Field Coach Jeff Small. "He's by far the best runner I've ever seen. That includes Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis." Small should know. After practicing with the team for only three days, Moss competed in the Southern Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships last February. He won the 200 meters in 21.15 and qualified for the NCAA Championships. He also won the 55 meters (6.32) breaking the MU record.

But despite all his natural talent, trouble continued to follow Moss when he tested positive for smoking marijuana at Florida State and was kicked off the team. That's how he found his way back to West Virginia and a three month stay in jail for violating his probation. "There's a lot you think about in a jail cell," Moss said. "You only have yourself. There's no one to hug or clown around with. You have a lot of time to sit around and think about what you did wrong. I've messed up. It's as simple as that."

Moss then set out to make his dream of playing in the NFL a reality. As a freshman at Marshall University, he caught 28 touchdown passes, led the nation in kickoff returns, and piled up 1,709 yards on 78 receptions. He caught more regular season touchdown passes than any freshman in NCAA history and broke nearly every record in the book, the most noteworthy being Jerry Rice's consecutive touchdown reception mark. For all his accomplishments, he has been selected as a preseason All-American by The Sporting News, Playboy, Street & Smith, Football News and has garnered superstar accolades from the media.


 "Randy Moss has the kind of breathtaking athletic gifts seen once in a generation."
-- Sports Illustrated.

"He is a gifted football player, perhaps the most gifted player in the college game."
-- College Football Preview

"No other freshman in the history of college football ever caught more scoring passes. One of college football's premier players."
-- Athlon


In addition, The Sporting News ranked Moss the #1 wide receiver in the nation while Street & Smith proclaimed Moss to be the #1 reason to watch college football in 1997. But that's all just hype, according to Moss. "It's time to play football," he said before the start of pre-season practice. "It's time to think about football and academics." He says it's time to stop celebrating last year's 15-0 record and I-AA championship, and to prove Marshall belongs in I-A. "It's more than moving up a level," he says. "We're the underdog and we've got a chance to prove ourselves. Or, we can be a big failure."

Randy Moss, a big failure? Not likely on the field. Off the field will be a bigger challenge.

"A year ago I was in jail just dreaming about being on the field," Moss says. "I overcame all that stuff. Now it's about me staying out of trouble."

He returned to practice this summer in top physical condition which is quite a contrast from a year ago. "I feel physically I'm getting to the top where I should be," Moss says. "Last year I didn't have that much time to get physically ready."

Bad news Herd opponents. Moss is in shape, serious and focused. And, says Marshall coach Bobby Pruett, he's learned how to deal with distractions that accompany superstar status. "I think Randy is making strides as a person, on and off the field," Pruett says.

Moss is overflowing with confidence as he enters what many feel will be his final college season before entering the NFL draft where many predict he will be selected as the first or second pick. Of course, Moss could win the Heisman, then fool everybody and choose to play basketball and run track for the Herd.

Keep up with Heisman candidate Randy Moss at his web site: www.RandyMoss.com.

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