In my 70-plus years of working in sports, I have never seen an athlete repair his reputation as well as Randy Moss has.
When he made it into the Hall of Fame last week, I recalled our great relationship and how he always stood by what I reported.
When he made the statement, “I play when I want to play” back in 2001, many people accused me of misquoting him, but Moss stood behind the statement 100 percent.
It’s amazing how he has become a big television star on ESPN and turned his reputation around.
Moss did a lot of great things in Minneapolis. He supported children’s organizations and helped raise a lot of money for charity. But during his playing days, a lot of people had a really bad view of Moss, which I think was unfair.
Going back to the 1998 NFL draft, Moss slipped to the Vikings at No. 21 because his scholarship was revoked at Notre Dame because of his involvement in a 1995 fight that took place in West Virginia before he ever played for the Irish. So he ended up at Marshall, where he broke all kinds of records, but many NFL teams viewed him as a draft risk.
Then during his playing days, he had a number of issues on and off the field.
He was fined thousands of dollars over the years for issues such as his fake mooning of Packers fans at Lambeau Field and bumping a traffic control officer with his car in Minneapolis. And then, during his one-month second stint with the Vikings in 2010, he was waived after he criticized teammates and then-coach Brad Childress in a news conference.
For more than 33 years I sat in on Hall of Fame voting meetings, and from that experience, I’m sure some of the voters brought up some of these episodes in Moss’ career.
But now Moss has completely polished his image, and his work on ESPN and other events in the public eye has really shown the positive side of his personality and career. And there’s no doubt his ability to change that reputation helped get him into Canton on the first ballot.
Billick says best ever
When Brian Billick was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator from 1994-98, he helped create one of the NFL’s great offenses. They scored 556 points in 1998, which still ranks fifth all-time for points in a season.
The breakout player on that team was Moss, who changed the game as a rookie. He finished that season with 1,313 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns and 14 receptions of 40 yards or more.
Billick said he thought there was no way the Vikings could get Moss because of their draft slot in the first round.
“Denny [Green, then-Vikings coach] came to me the first day of the draft and said, ‘I think we’re getting Moss,’ ” Billick recalled. “Denny Green, God rest his soul, for my money is the best personnel guy as a head coach in the league. He should have been a general manager as well. He had a brilliant sense for players, their talents, when to play them.
“But I thought, ‘Denny has lost it.’ We were picking 21 … [and Moss] was going to go in the top 10. I thought, ‘Boy, you’re brilliant, Denny, but this time you’re dead wrong.’ ”
When the Vikings landed Moss, Billick was shocked.
“I had done my homework on Randy Moss, like you do everybody in the draft, but kind of in a halfhearted way because there was no way we’re going to get this guy,” he said. “Then we get him and I go back and look at the film and I’m just stunned.”
Billick said Moss’ Hall of Fame credentials were unquestionable.
“I think Randy Moss is the most talented player to ever play receiver in the National Football League,” he said. “I mean, we’ve had big players, we’ve had players that could jump, we’ve had players with unbelievable hands, we’ve had players that played with unbelievable speed, but we’ve never had a player in this league that had all four of those attributes the way Randy Moss does.”
Green stayed loyal
A little while after Green died in 2016, I talked to Moss about his relationship with him. Moss said Green was one of the most important people in his career.
“He was a very loyal man, and in the game of professional sports, there is no loyalty,” Moss said. “But you do have those type of guys, those coaches that are loyal to the players. It’s a business. [Former Vikings owner] Red McCombs was a businessman and felt it was the right move [to trade Moss in 2005].”
Wolves worth $1 billion
The most telling part of the Wolves’ new valuation being put at $1.06 billion by Forbes Magazine, ranking 27th in the NBA, is that their 38 percent increase in value from last year must be directly tied to the multimillion-dollar renovation of Target Center. The 38 percent increase was the second-highest jump in the league behind the Philadelphia 76ers.
Operating income for the club — owned by Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune — was placed at $53 million while their revenue was placed at $204 million.
• In announcing the hiring of Childress to his Chicago Bears staff, new coach Matt Nagy said, “Brad Childress, my partner, we spent five years together [under Andy Reid in Kansas City]. My partner in crime. Every day he was telling stories and being there for me, being there with me. He has a special place in my heart.”
• Rest assured the happiest family in Minnesota during Super Bowl LII, and the local family that had the most tickets at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, was that of former Minnetonka standout Beau Allen. The Eagles defensive lineman, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2014, recorded two tackles in their 41-33 victory over the Patriots.
• It wasn’t as big of a surprise as you think that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels turned down the Colts’ head coaching job. That’s because the rumors around the Super Bowl were that he certainly will be the next head coach of the Patriots when Bill Belichick retires.
• Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said he made a huge mistake when he left his associate athletic director job at Kansas State to become offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Rutgers last season. Now he is at Southern Illinois, where he was head football coach from 2001-07, and he will work as a fundraiser and in other roles. He said he is happy again.
• After spending time with Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant during the Super Bowl, I have no doubt he will coach again next year because he has most of the players back from his Class 6A championship team.