– Vikings Hall of Famer Randy Moss maintained his defiant edge toward the media, said he could still play in the NFL and catch 10 touchdown passes at age 41, and spoke with childlike awe about his experience at Friday’s Ray Nitschke Memorial Luncheon, where each year’s new class of Pro Football Hall of Famers sit quietly and listen to stories from the legends who came before them.

He only wishes Terrell Owens were here to enjoy this week with his seven 2018 classmates.

Upset that he wasn’t a first-ballot selection two years ago, Owens became the first living enshrinee not to show up for his induction. Before Saturday night’s enshrinement ceremony, Owens will give his acceptance speech at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee-Chatanooga.

“First of all, I want to let T.O. know I love him, I respect you,” said Moss, looking into a wall of cameras during his media access period Friday.

“Does it affect me him not being here?” Moss asked. “Yes, because it is a fraternity. But at the same time, I don’t know what T.O. is battling. I don’t know what he’s battling inside. So for me to just sit up here and be judgmental — like a LOT of people in this country is — I’m not one to jump to judgment because it’s not my place to do it.”

Moss then said he believes Owens will be welcomed by fellow Hall of Famers if he ever decides to reach out.

“I do let him know that we do love him here,” Moss said. “His name was brought up in the [Nitschke] luncheon. All that was said was brotherly love. Nothing negative. Everybody was talking about love, embracing Terrell Owens.”

Then, turning back to the cameras, Moss said, “T.O., if you hear this story, man, all these gold jackets want to put their arms around you. And that’s for real. That’s coming from my heart.”

Wearing sunglasses, a white Hall of Fame polo shirt and jeans, Moss opened his 45-minute media session with a boisterous, “Let’s get it!”

Thirty-eight seconds into his session, he lowered his proverbial helmet toward the media, which he felt wasn’t fair with him during a 14-year career with five teams.

“I get to put on a gold jacket and all of a sudden the stuff that was written and said about me my whole career … that brainwashed a whole lot of football fans in the world,” Moss said. “I think it was very unfair to me. I think it was very unfair to my family. … Now that I see all these cameras and all these positive stories written about me, it’s still not fair and I’m still not pleased with it. … Why couldn’t I have gotten all this love when I played?”

Two questions later, Moss used his platform to speak out against the racism he said he experienced as a young black man.

Asked about his experience at Marshall, where he landed after getting dismissed from Notre Dame and Florida State, Moss said: “It was a decent experience. I wouldn’t call it great. I was battling a lot of stuff. And one of the things I was battling was a lot of racism. For me to overcome that adversity and understand that the show must go on, to smile in front of the cameras when everything wasn’t all peaches and cream. There was a lot I had to endure.”

Looking fit and trim as usual, Moss said he could play in the NFL today, just like his old teammate, Tom Brady, the reigning league MVP who turned 41 on Friday.

“And I really, truly believe I could still average 10 touchdowns a year,” Moss said. “The game is that easy [today]. I don’t mean that cocky. I love the game. I study the game.”

When someone asked about the Nitschke Luncheon, Moss acted like that 6-year-old, football-loving kid from Rand, W.Va., that he’s always talking about.

“It was special,” he said. “I mean I am at a table with Mean Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Aeneas Williams, Jerome Bettis. I’m sitting at a table with guys who paved the way.

“I’m blessed and lucky to play this game. I’m humbled to go to a luncheon like this. I know I’m one of those guys, but I’m the newcomer. Just an eye-opening, great experience to have.”

Since 1984, the only receivers to enter the Hall of Fame in their first ballot were Steve Largent (1995), Jerry Rice (2010) and Moss.

Owens has become the most publicized third-ballot Hall of Famer ever. He’s disgruntled, but there’s a long list of greats who weren’t selected until their third year of eligibility.

One of them: Francis Asbury Tarkenton, Class of 1986. All he did was hold the league’s record for passing yards for 19 years.

As Moss was leaving his news conference to get ready for Friday night’s Gold Jacket Ceremony, he was asked what his first-ballot selection meant. He used the moment to say he wishes Owens would have had the same fast track.

“Man, T.O. should have been first ballot,” Moss said. “What’s wrong is what’s wrong, and what’s fair is what’s fair. Robert Brazile is here, and this is his 29th year of eligibility. So for me to go in on first ballot, T.O. to go in [third] ballot, man, I’m just glad I’m in the Hall of Fame.”


Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: mcraig@startribune.com