The NFL tweeted the below video in honor of Randy Moss’ 41st birthday today, a fitting tribute recapping each of his 40-yard-plus touchdown receptions through an illustrious professional career (h/t @bennyjet34).
In honor of @RandyMoss‘ 41st Birthday…
Here’s every single 40+ yard touchdown he had in his career! pic.twitter.com/93YqpI68GQ
— NFL (@NFL) February 13, 2018
I can say without hyperbole Randy Moss is the best wide receiver I ever watched. The proliferation of the pass-happy offenses might skew contemporary perspective on Moss’ production — many of his best years resulted in around 1,400 yards, a number the top four pass-catchers either exceeded or flirted with in 2017 — and Julio Jones outpaced Moss’ career-best 2003 campaign by almost 200 yards.
But in the context of his era, Moss catching for between 1,200 and 1,400 yards routinely, and 1,632 in his historic 2003, was unheard of. He was the ultimate game-changer, forcing defensive coordinators to alter strategy exclusive around stopping him. Few did.
For as much as potent passing offenses have proliferated in the NFL, the style’s grown exponentially in the two decades since Randy Moss balled out at Marshall. Even so, Moss caught 26 touchdowns at Marshall in 1997. Twenty-six. Never mind that outpacing this season’s receiving touchdown leader, Anthony Miller, by eight; Moss caught more touchdowns than all but one player in FBS rushed for in 2017.
Moss earned an invitation to the Heisman Trophy presentation in ’97, which also happened to be Marshall’s first season as a Div. I-A program. He came onto my radar then as a young fan.
He splashed onto the NFL-watching nation’s radar just a year later, making an immediate impact for a Minnesota Vikings team that really should have won the NFC. And with his jaw-dropping catches and otherworldly athleticism, it wasn’t long until Randy Moss landed endorsement deals. The first that I remember — and most youngsters from the turn of the millennium, I’d surmise — featured highlights of Moss alongside DuPont High School teammate Jason Williams.
Effective marketing to be sure, as that Nike spot stuck with me for almost two decades, and sparked the same thought. A theory of time and space travel exists proposing that an infinite number of concurrent timelines unfold; multiverses.
In some multiverse, Randy Moss played basketball. While he may not have become the legendary figure on the hardwood he was on the gridiron, I don’t doubt for a moment the Superfreak would have excelled.
Antonio Gates offers the most immediate parallel. Gates gained notoriety in the 2002 NCAA Tournament, pacing Kent State to the Elite Eight. The next season, Gates averaged 20.6 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Golden Flashes, dominating the same Mid-American Conference in which Moss would have played had he opted for basketball.
Gates played basketball exclusively in college, however, transitioning to the NFL. He would not have fit in the NBA, playing in the post at just 6-foot-4. The natural swing man Moss would have been a more natural fit for the NBA style. In an NBA on TNT spot last year, Moss compared himself to shooting guard Latrell Sprewell.
.@KGArea21 is going to be, “Straight Cash Homie” all night!
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 20, 2017
What about the multiverse in which Moss plays both basketball and football? He garnered recruiting interest from big-time football programs, including Florida — where DuPont teammate Jason Williams played point guard. Not only would Moss have put up monster numbers catching passes from Danny Wuerffel in Steve Spurrier’s West Coast Offense, but he would have fit nicely into Lon Kruger’s system.
Moss told Friend Of The Open Man Aaron Torres a few years ago — back when FOX Sports published original content — he would sign with Notre Dame again if he had to go through the recruiting process again. The prospect of Moss playing for John MacLeod’s thoroughly mediocre Fighting Irish basketball teams isn’t as tantalizingly as envisioning Moss on a Florida team recently removed from a Final Four run.
In the latter scenario, Randy Moss could have been Charlie Ward: A Heisman winner who transitioned almost seamlessly to the hardwood.
So many What-Ifs. But then, it’s tough to argue with the results in this version of the Moss multiverse.