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Simple Roots And Iconic Moments Define Canton Bound Moss

Read Sport logo Read Sport 17/07/2018 Alan Cole
New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings © Adam Bettcher/Getty Images Sport New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Randy Moss is never shy about his roots. The route that led him to NFL stops in Minnesota, Oakland, New England, Tennessee, San Francisco, and now a permanent one in Canton, began in Rand, West Virginia.

Moss put the town of just over 1,000 people on the map by shattering NFL records across a 15-year career and making his way to the Hall of Fame, but it’s a two-way street between Moss and his humble hometown.

“There are a lot of people back in West Virginia who really need times like this,” said Moss as he addressed the media just under three weeks before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He went on to talk about his simple upbringing and the people who helped him by adding “I know my life is not all about me. I know me playing football is not all about me.”

Moss took all of this in stride, and as a rookie in 1998, was a key part of the greatest teams in NFL history. He had 1,313 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, helping Vikings break the record for points in a season en route to a 15-1 finish. But they collapsed as heavy Super Bowl favorites, losing 30-27 to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime of the NFC Championship Game.

It was the first of many near misses Moss would have in January, as playoff heartbreak unfortunately became stapled to his career.

But if how he started his time in purple and gold was memorable, it was nothing compared to how it finished.

Moss spoke about how much he loved the rivalry with the Green Bay Packers during the entirety of his seven seasons with the Vikings. Bookend stories from his first and last games against the Packers proved how vital these games were to himself, his teammates, and his career.

“Working on ESPN, be it on a Sunday or for a Monday night, when they’re talking about the battle of the border, I played in that. I know, I understand, what a rivalry means. I know what it means to the players”

Moss went on to talk about how his first game against the Packers really set the tone for his expectations of the rivalry, and how it important it was to players and coaches.

On the plane home to Minneapolis following a 37-24 win in Green Bay on Monday Night Football, a game Moss finished with 190 receiving yards for two touchdowns, Randy remembered feeling tired, and telling his brother he “just wanted to go home” after a grueling game.

It wasn’t to be. That’s not how it works when Minnesota beats Green Bay.

“John Randle came from the back of the plane and said we’re going out and partying tonight. That’s when I understood what it meant to the guys to go into Lambeau on a Monday night and win.”

Seven seasons later, the Vikings and Packers met in the postseason for the first time ever. With Minnesota clinging to a slim fourth quarter advantage, Moss found the end zone on a 34-yard touchdown reception to put Minnesota up 31-17, the same score the game would finish with.

What followed needs no introduction. It will live forever.

“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change it. I think the Vikings fan got more out of that than the Packer fans, and I’m not a Packer, I’m a Viking”

In what would end up being his last Vikings-Packers game until a brief return stint in Minnesota in 2010, Moss had eliminated the Packers, and found a way to stir up the Lambeau faithful.

Just as a good Viking should.

Three years later, Moss was again part of a record-breaking offense. The 2007 New England Patriots broke the points in a season record his Vikings set in 1998, and finished the regular season 16-0. Everyone was taken aback at how easily the Patriots were tearing teams up, as Tom Brady connected with Randy Moss for 23 touchdowns, enough to Jerry Rice’s record for touchdown receptions in a single season.

Well, everyone except for Moss himself.

“If you ask Kevin Faulk, I expected to do that. I expected to go as far as what I was able to as an individual that year. I put in the work. I told Kevin Faulk we’re going undefeated, and I’m going to break the record”

Again though, Moss fell short of the ultimate goal when the Giants topped the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. He made it to one more Super Bowl as a player four years later, but the Baltimore Ravens narrowly beat his San Francisco 49ers. He retired in the aftermath of that 34-31 loss.

He never got his hands on a Lombardi Trophy, but as always he brought his career back to a purpose beyond what happened between the lines.

For a man who still cherishes his upbringing in a small town that never had much, it was no surprise to see him give a poignant response about what the importance of his career was beyond winning a Super Bowl.

“Being able to see how many people and how many lives I was able to touch without even knowing.”

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