Randy Moss: Loved by teammates, frustrates coaches
There is Randy Moss the playmaker and Randy Moss the play
Randy Moss the gracious and Randy Moss the petty.
Randy Moss the player’s player and Randy Moss the coach’s
The many faces of Randy Moss include the fiery leader whose
stirring halftime speeches have spurred his teams to victory, and
the pouting malcontent who has bailed on his teammates before a
game was even over.
They also include the generous spirit who brings needy children
to amusement parks and makes their faces light up with a game ball,
and the childish bully who berated a caterer for serving a spread
”I wouldn’t feed to my (expletive) dog.”
Moss may well be the greatest receiver of his generation and yet
he’s always been one of the most polarizing players around – an
uncompromising, inscrutable individual in a game that depends on
fitting into a team’s system. It’s the basic reason he is playing
for his third club in just over a month, and the Tennessee Titans
were the only one of the league’s 32 franchises to put in a claim
for him when he hit the waiver wire last week.
”I don’t know if anybody can totally pin down who Randy Moss
is,” said Tim DiPiero, one of Moss’ first agents.
It’s hard to find a teammate who doesn’t speak highly of Moss,
despite his long history of taking plays off and boorish behavior
on the field and in the locker room. It’s also difficult to find a
coach who wouldn’t love to have a receiver with Moss’ unprecedented
combination of size (6-foot-4), speed (a 4.4. 40-yard dash), hands
and intelligence – which is why he keeps getting second
”He’s got a great heart for people who don’t have what he’s
got,” DiPiero said. ”But he has his moments that seem to get him
off track and into some problems.”
His abrupt departure from Minnesota last week shocked the
Vikings players, especially second-year receiver Percy Harvin, who
had quickly formed a bond with Moss.
Star running back Adrian Peterson called Moss ”a great
teammate” and ”cooler than an ocean breeze” despite watching him
give up on several plays in the previous game against New England,
question the coaching staff in a postgame rant and embarrass the
organization by criticizing the food offered by a local
”I think that all great athletes are a little different,” said
former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, who recruited Moss when he was a
high school star in West Virginia. ”But a great athlete, you have
to teach them a lot of things, how to take coaching, how to accept
his role, how to compete, things like that.”
Moss grew up with his mom and three siblings in Rand, W.Va.,
When Moss was 6, he met Sam Singleton, who would become his
youth football and baseball league coach and mentor. Singleton
bought cleats for Moss, drove him to and from practice and became a
member of Moss’ exclusive inner circle.
”He’s a knucklehead,” Singleton said, laughing. ”I had a lot
of kids. He was just one of the kids. It was a community
He also was a two-time state player of the year in basketball
and the top prep football player in 1994.
”He is the greatest athlete I have ever seen on film in high
school, bar none,” Holtz said. ”Nobody like him.”
But in a small state, he was under a microscope. And when he
made a misstep, it was magnified.
Notre Dame revoked a scholarship offer after Moss was charged
with attacking another student at DuPont High. Moss then turned to
Florida State but he never played a down. Moss violated his
probation by smoking marijuana and landed in a Charleston jail in
While Moss was locked up, DiPiero received a phone call in one
of the jail offices from Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, who
delivered the news that Moss wouldn’t be welcomed back to
”Oh gosh, it was a low time,” DiPiero said. ”That was really
hard for him.”
Rather than sit out a year, Moss walked on at then I-AA Marshall
and scored 54 touchdowns in two seasons.
”You can’t talk to any player that’s ever played with him or
been on a team with him that didn’t like Randy,” Marshall coach
Bob Pruett said. ”Randy was the Pied Piper. People followed him.
He’s very likable.”
It’s been in the same in the NFL, where has built a reputation
as virtually unstoppable – when he wants to be. He has amassed Hall
of Fame caliber numbers through 13 seasons in the league, but will
always be remembered for his ”I play when I want to play” comment
in his first stint with the Vikings.
He has been traded three times and cut once, with his talent
always proving just a little too much for the next team to
”Randy’s problem is Randy does not have a great deal of respect
for male authorities,” former Vikings receiver and Moss mentor
Cris Carter said on ESPN radio. ”If you’re wishy-washy, if you’re
not a man’s man, if you don’t shoot it to him straight, Randy Moss
is going to give you problems. He is sure enough going to give you
He became such a problem in his second tour with the Vikings
that Brad Childress decided to cut him after just four games –
despite giving up a third-round pick to get him from the Patriots
Childress declined to get into details of his decision, calling
it ”a programatic non-fit.”
”I hate that it happened,” said Moss’ college quarterback,
Chad Pennington, whose Dolphins play Moss’ Titans on Sunday. ”I’m
sure he hates that it happened. I just hope he’s able to turn
things around these last eight games and play really well, except
Moss was his typical unreadable self at his first news
conference with the Titans on Wednesday, saying both that he
regretted how things went in Minnesota and growing combative with a
reporter who asked what they can expect from him effort-wise in
”What do you expect from me effort-wise?” Moss twice barked at
the reporter, who said he didn’t know what to expect.
”I don’t know what to expect neither, next question,” Moss
Moss is staunchly defended back home in West Virginia, where
they tell stories of him breaking down after helping children in
need and showing up unannounced to do autograph signings to help
raise money for local charities at their events.
”Randy’s always lived in a fish bowl,” DiPiero said. ”He
always doesn’t come across as real open. He lets his guard down
when he’s around kids. But around adults that he doesn’t know, he’s
”When you get to know him, he’s funny. That’s why his teammates
like him so much, because he’s a character. He’s funny. He gets
people pumped up. He’s competitive. And he’s hilarious.”
Childress isn’t laughing. His unilateral decision to cut Moss
drew the ire of some players and put him in a precarious position
with team ownership as the Vikings (3-5) try to salvage their
Moss, on the other hand, has been welcomed warmly by coach Jeff
Fisher and the Titans, in yet another fresh start in a career that
may be running out of them.
”You never know what the future holds,” the 33-year-old Moss
said. ”Right now I’m a Tennessee Titan. I’m here to do whatever
coach Fisher wants me to do.”
AP Sports Writers John Raby in West Virginia, Steven Wine in
Miami, Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn. and Howard Ulman in
Boston, and freelance writer Mark Bradford in South Bend, Ind.,
contributed to this story.