CLARKSBURG, W.Va (WBOY) — When you think about famous people from West Virginia, who crosses your mind? Brad Paisley? Steve Harvey? Jerry West? For some, especially down in the southern part of the state, one of the most popular answers would be Randy Moss.
Early Life of a Prodigy
Randy Moss was born in Rand, WV on Feb. 13, 1977, according to rookieroad.com. He and his two older siblings were raised by their single mother who urged them to work hard and had them attend church several times a week. Moss saw how hard his mother worked to provide for him and his siblings and sought to play professional sports to support her.
His ambitions were great, and he had the skill to back them up. As a teen, he attended the nearby DuPont High School (now Riverside High School) along with future NFL linebacker Bobbie Howard, and led them to back-to-back state championships in 1992 and 1993, according to the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC). PARADE Magazine also named him to their All-American team in 1995, his senior year.
Football wasn’t the only thing Moss excelled in. His athletic ability allowed him to pursue multiple sports including basketball where he was named two-time West Virginia Player of the Year at DuPont and was teammate to future NBA star Jason “White Chocolate” Williams. Moss was also a star member of the DuPont High School track & field team as well as a centerfielder for DuPont High baseball.
However, his skill wasn’t enough to keep him out of trouble. According to the Chicago Tribune, in 1995 Moss was arrested for his role in a fight with another student at his high school that left that student with a concussion. Moss claimed that he simply tried to break up the fight and didn’t actually participate in it, but his involvement was enough for the University of Notre Dame to pull a football scholarship they offered him.
Despite the bad press, Florida State University still gave Moss an offer for him to play for their team. However, due to receiving an offer from Notre Dame at one point, the NCAA considered him a transfer student and he was required to redshirt, meaning he did not see any field time his first year, according to The Boston Globe.
However, according to an article from AP, Moss was kicked off of the team after he admitted to smoking marijuana while on work release from the high school fight incident. As such, he was tried in Kanawha County Circuit Court and removed from the Seminoles’ 1996 roster.
A Second Chance
So now what? After being effectively kicked out of two schools, Moss returned home to the Mountain State, where he chose to play for Marshall’s Thundering Herd that same year. Because Marshall was a D1-AA—later known as FCS—school, per CBS Sports, Moss was able to play immediately. His impact on the field rocked the college football world.
Moss set AA records during his first stint at Marshall as both a Wide Receiver and a Kick Returner, shattering nearly every record both positions had. The 1996 Thundering Herd would go undefeated and go on to win the AA Championship on their home turf in Huntington.
Following the team’s success under head coach Bob Pruett, the team was awarded eligibility to move up to D1-A—now known as FBS—play, as well as membership in the Mid-Atlantic Conference, where they would remain for the next eight seasons.
According to sports-reference.com, in 1997 Moss ranked #1 in the nation in several categories including receiving yards, touchdowns and points scored. With his monumental rise to stardom, thanks to his on-field connection with Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington, the 1997 Thundering Herd was a force to be reckoned with.
Marshall ended the season 13-3 record during its 1997 campaign, only dropping two games during the regular season to West Virginia and Miami (OH), as well as a slim 31-34 loss to Ole Miss during the 1997 Motor City Bowl, per sports-reference.com.
Time in Minnesota
After just two years of play time at Marshall, Moss entered his name into the 1998 NFL Draft. Moss elected to skip the NFL Combine, the yearly event NFL teams use to scout and assess potential prospects for the upcoming draft. However, despite his absence, Moss was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings and 21st overall.
Moss’ NFL debut was filled with fireworks as he recorded four catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns in a solid 31-7 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Minneapolis, per pro-football-reference.com.
The Vikings would go 15-1 in 1998 for an outstanding season but fell just short against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game after Gary Anderson’s infamous missed field goal that allowed Atlanta to win in overtime. Moss would record six catches for 75 yards and one touchdown during the loss. He would also go on to be AP’s Rookie of the Year.
The following six seasons cemented Moss as an NFL legend and a true threat to opposing defenses. From 1998-2003, Moss recorded more than 1,200 yards per season and consistently scored touchdowns in the double digits, per the Pro Football Hall of Fame (PFHOF). However, in 2004 a hamstring injury against the New Orleans Saints in week five clipped him from hitting that mark again with the Vikings. Minnesota went on to play in the NFC Wild Card game against the Green Bay Packers where Moss performed his infamous “mooning” celebration following a touchdown that was labeled as “a disgusting act” by FOX’s Joe Buck. The Vikings won in Green Bay 31-17.
Moss was a crucial piece for the Vikings offense and was sorely missed anytime he had to sit out, which he only did a total of 3 times officially for Minnesota. Despite this, following a loss in the 2004 Divisional Round to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings chose to trade Moss to the Oakland Raiders.
Moss’ time with the Raiders would not have the same success as in Minnesota. A turbulent Raiders franchise in the midst of a three-season collapse was hoping that Moss would be the answer they needed to get back on track; this would not be the case. Moss generated 1005 receiving yards during his first season with the Raiders, but it wouldn’t be enough to keep them from ending with a 4-12 record.
The following season would be even worse with the team ending at 2-14. The Raiders had unsuccessfully hired a new coach and brought in a new quarterback for 2006, but the misery would not change. Moss actively expressed his unhappiness on local sports radio, and his desire to move “somewhere else next year to have another start,” according to the Contra Costa Times, an Oakland-based newspaper.
In 2007, Moss’ wish would be granted as the Raiders had come to an agreement with the New England Patriots that would send him to Foxborough for a fourth-round pick, per ESPN. His stint in New England re-ignited his passion for football as he teamed up with quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick to create one of the most feared teams in the league. The Patriots made it to Super Bowl XLII that very year as strong favorites where they fell to Eli Manning’s New York Giants.
Moss would not make it back to the Super Bowl with New England. According to, Yahoo Sports, in 2008, Tom Brady suffered an ACL tear in week one against the Kansas City Chiefs, clipping a crucial key to the team’s offense. 2009 would produce similar results despite Brady’s return as the team would lose in the Wild Card round to the Baltimore Ravens.
During the weeks leading up to the 2010 season, Moss told the media that he “did not feel wanted” by the Patriots due to the team not offering him a contract extension, according to CBS Sports. Moss played four remaining games with New England; in his final game against the Miami Dolphins, he did not record a single catch.
Moss was traded back to Minnesota following the Miami game, according to ESPN. His time there would be short-lived, however, as he was waived by the Vikings after criticizing players and coaching staff following a loss to the Patriots less than four weeks after the trade, according to NFL.com. Moss was picked up by the Tennessee Titans off of waivers where he would finish with six catches for 80 yards and score zero touchdowns. According to the Washington Post, Moss’ agent announced his retirement from football in August 2011.
However, in February 2012, Moss announced that he was coming out of retirement, per the St. Augustine Record. He was signed by the San Francisco 49ers in March and would help lead the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII that year which ultimately ended in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens, as per pro-football-reference.com. Moss would permanently retire from the NFL after this game.
In his career, Moss earned several awards and broke long-standing Wide Receiver records that still stand to this day including the most receiving touchdowns in a season (23) and the most receiving touchdowns in a rookie season (17), according to the PFHOF.
Moss was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, ending his NFL career with 14 seasons played, 15,292 receiving yards, 156 touchdowns and six Pro Bowl appearances. He also was the subject of ESPN’s Rand University documentary that focused on his early life in West Virginia and his journey through Marshall and the NFL.
He has served as an analyst for ESPN since 2016 and makes frequent appearances on the network’s Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown programs.