First ballot, homeboy!
Randy Moss, the mercurial, enigmatic, self-proclaimed “SuperFreak” who re-energized the Vikings’ entire franchise in 1998, is heading to Canton, Ohio, as a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. Of 27 modern-era receivers, Moss is only the sixth to make it in his first year of eligibility and only the second this century after Jerry Rice (2010).
“Man, I started this season at U.S. Bank Stadium getting a purple jacket as part of going into the Vikings Ring of Honor,” Moss said. “And I’m ending it at U.S. Bank Stadium getting a gold jacket as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It’s been a good year.”
Meanwhile, former Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson failed to make the Hall in his first year of eligibility. He made the cut from 15 to 10 modern-era finalists but was eliminated in the cut to five.
Joining Moss in the Class of 2018 are senior committee candidates Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer; contributors candidate Bobby Beathard; fellow first-ballot linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher; safety Brian Dawkins; and receiver Terrell Owens.
They will be introduced at U.S. Bank Stadium during Sunday’s Super Bowl LII. The gold jackets will come during enshrinement ceremonies in Canton in August.
“I started playing this game at 6 years old in Rand, W.Va.,” Moss said. “It’s 2 hours, 15 minutes from Rand to the Hall of Fame. There was a lot of doubts. I never imagined putting on a gold jacket. It’s just a blessing from above.”
Forty-seven selectors — including this writer — met at the airport Marriott on Saturday and discussed the 18 candidates for 8 hours, 15 minutes. One selector was ill and could not attend.
The receivers were presented last. The discussion on Moss lasted 36 minutes, the second longest of the day. Owens’ discussion lasted 46 minutes but was considerably softer in tone than his first two years as a finalist.
The consistency of Moss’ effort on the field was closely scrutinized and weighed against his one-of-a-kind skill set that produced 156 touchdown catches — No. 2 behind Rice’s 197 — and some of the greatest highlight-reel plays the league has ever seen.
Players knocked out in the cut from 15 to 10 were: receiver Isaac Bruce, offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, running back Edgerrin James, safety John Lynch and cornerback Everson Walls.
Eliminated in the cut from 10 to five were: Hutchinson, offensive tackle Tony Boselli, guard Alan Faneca, cornerback Ty Law and center Kevin Mawae.
Hutchinson was one of five offensive linemen discussed. Only Jacoby, in his last year of eligibility as a modern-era candidate, didn’t make the final 10. No linemen advanced, creating a continuing logjam at the position next year, when safety Ed Reed and tight end Tony Gonzalez further cloud the field by becoming eligible.
For Moss, the football journey is complete. The only thing missing from Saturday’s moment was the late Denny Green, who selected Moss 21st overall in the 1998 draft.
“If Coach Green had never made that call, I wonder if I would have been able to showcase my God-given ability,” Moss said. “He gave me that opportunity to be able to reach a goal. I wish he was here to share this with me.”
Moss played his first seven season in Minnesota, catching 90 of his 92 touchdown passes as a Viking. Owner Red McCombs traded him to Oakland before the 2005 season. Moss spent two years there before being traded to New England, where he set the single-season record for touchdown catches (23) during the only 16-0 season in league history.
Moss was traded back to Minnesota early in the 2010 season. He lasted only a month before coach Brad Childress released him. He spent the rest of that season with Tennessee, didn’t play in 2011 and finished his career with San Francisco in 2012.
Moss ranks fourth in total touchdowns. In 1998, the Vikings went 15-1 and scored a record 556 points. In 2007, the Patriots went 16-0 and broke that record with 589 points. Moss is the only person who played on both teams.
And he led the league in receiving touchdowns both years, setting the rookie record (17) the first year and the NFL record the second year.
Since he retired, there has been much debate about whether Moss’ inconsistent effort on the field would cause him to wait for enshrinement. Discussion intensified as Moss neared his first year of eligibility as Owens’ locker room baggage factored into T.O. being rejected by the selection committee the past two years.
But the doubt ended when the tears began to flow after Hall of Fame President David Baker knocked on Moss’ hotel door to break the news.
“Tears of joy,” Moss said.
As the night was winding down, 40-year-old Moss looked back at 6-year-old Moss.
“I can remember being in the yard talking about, ‘Hey man, I’m going to throw this pass like Joe Montana,’ ” Moss said. “And, ‘Hey, man, I’m going to run you over like Walter Payton.’ And, ‘Hey, man, I’m going to catch this ball like Jerry Rice.’
“Now, being a Hall of Famer, the kids back in Rand, W.Va., can say, ‘Hey, man, I’m going to Moss you!’ Not just Randy Moss. ‘You’ve been Mossed!’ is going to Canton, Ohio.”