CANTON, Ohio – Randy Moss, who made the first of a lifetime of great catches as a 6-year-old SuperFreak in Rand, W.Va., completed his 200-mile, first-ballot journey due north on I-77 from his poor, often troubled youth to the game’s grandest stage at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Before starting Saturday night’s 16-minute, 52-second enshrinement speech — third-shortest among seven given — Moss stood with his oldest son and presenter, Thaddeus, as the veil was removed from Moss’ bronze bust. Moss pumped his right fist a few times, then kissed the top of his braids-wearing likeness.
He started off by “giving all honor to God and Jesus Christ.” He looked into the crowd and thanked his mother, Maxine, who worked two and three jobs to support her three children as a single parent.
And it wasn’t long before Moss embraced the tiny West Virginia town that shaped him. Fans from Moss’ roots cheered as their beloved Moss’ voice raised while addressing them.
“I’m bringing this gold jacket back! Tomorrow! At the town center, 4:30!” Moss yelled as 22,205 looked on inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. “All y’all West Virginians want to see this gold jacket? Meet me at the town center tomorrow at 4:30! … This is ours!”
Moss also called himself an inspiration.
“I already know the question in your head: What am I made of?” Moss said. “I am a living testimony, a walking testimony, not just to the football fans, but to the whole world.
“I knew God put me here to teach and to lead others down the right path. But first I had to learn from my own mistakes. I had to mature, and with all that, I had to stay right with God.”
He thanked Vikings fans and the late Dennis Green, who would have been his presenter had he lived long enough.
“Where would we be without Dennis Green?” Moss said. “Where would the true Randy Moss fans be if Dennis Green would have never pulled that trigger at the 21st pick?”
Moss then thanked the Wilf family, for whom he played only a month, while not mentioning former Vikings owner Red McCombs, whom he played seven seasons for before McCombs traded him to Oakland. Moss told the Wilfs, “a Super Bowl will be coming your way.”
Moss also addressed his critics in general.
“I never knew so many people wanted me to fail,” he said. “Why? Is it because of the man [God] made me to be or the talent He blessed me with? The hatred, ridicule and assassination of a man’s character is exactly what I grew up reading in the Bible. … No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
Moss thanked his wife and also addressed his seven kids, all of whom were in attendance. He apologized to his kids for not always being there for them during a 14-year career with five different teams.
“I am sorry for that,” he said, “but I’m here now. Daddy is here now.”
Turning back to his mom, he said, “People are here celebrating all my accomplishments, but all I wanted to do was celebrate you. Give you all the things we didn’t have.”
Later, Moss, who grew teary-eyed but stayed composed during his speech, ended his time on stage by turning again to Maxine.
“Maxine Patricia Moss, WE are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame!” he said. “God bless and have a good night.”
Thaddeus, a tight end at LSU, had to miss the start of the Tigers’ fall camp to attend this week’s festivities. In his pre-recorded presentation of his father, Thaddeus said, “How would I describe my dad? One of a kind, dynamic. … There was nobody else like him and there probably won’t be anybody else like him.”
The most popular Class of 2018 piece of clothing on the Hall of Fame grounds, by far, was Brian Dawkins’ No. 20 Eagles jersey. But Moss had his share of supporters. Most wore his No. 84 Vikings jersey. Some wore his No. 84 Pro Bowl jersey, his No. 81 Patriots jersey and even his No. 18 Raiders jersey.
Later, Moss thanked all the teams he played for, and addressed Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick, both of whom stood near the stage.
He even thanked Titans fans.
“I was only there for a short stint, but you put up with me for a couple of weeks,” Moss said.
One unique Moss jersey was spotted early in the day. A No. 3 DuPont High School jersey with Moss’ name on the back.
“There’s a few of us around,” said Kennedy Minor, 54.
Standing next to him was Minnetonka native Nikia Porter, 43, who was wearing a T-shirt that read, “Randy Moss. Rand 2 Canton.”
Minor, who is black, said every black person in Rand can associate with Moss’ upbringing. Moss’ career path took the first of multiple detours when he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor battery charges for his role in a racially charged fight at DuPont.
“His adversity is everybody’s adversity who grew up black in West Virginia,” Minor said. “He showed he can make it, proved it can be done. So this is great for Randy, but it’s also great for Rand, W. Va.”