What a special Wednesday it was for the Vikings, having both Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad, two of the greatest receivers in team history, in town on the day it announced that both players would be inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor this season.

Moss is perhaps the most popular Vikings player of all time, and one of the most colorful athletes I’ve covered as a reporter. He gave me one of the best quotes of my career when he said, “I play when I want to play.” That quote came up again at his news conference Wednesday, but Moss was plain-spoken when he said that he wished he would have phrased that quote differently.

When asked about getting the news of his induction, Moss said that the surprise left him speechless.

“I was coming up here for a business meeting to try to do some business throughout the week of the Super Bowl, myself with the Minnesota Vikings,” he said. “I had no idea that I was going into the Ring of Honor. So, I was actually speechless. I walked down the hallway, I’m looking at [Mick] Tingelhoff, I’m looking at [Cris] Carter, I’m looking at [Chris] Doleman. Now, my friend [Rashad], we’re getting ready to be in that hallway, ya hear me?

“It’s just a lot of guys, I know my history, I know my players, to be able to see them. So, when I come out of that meeting, I didn’t see my jersey on that wall. So when I come out, I said, ‘Hold up, wait a minute? Did you all just put this up here?’ So, it was actually, like I say man it was definitely humbling and I’m speechless.”

Later, I asked Moss about his many career accomplishments. He has the most receiving touchdowns in a season, 23 in 2007 with the Patriots; the most receiving touchdowns as a rookie, 17 for the Vikings in 1998; and the second-most career receiving touchdowns, 156. But the four-time first-team All Pro said his favorite thing about football was simply getting to play.

“I enjoyed meeting people, enjoyed meeting people’s families, flying to Hawaii [for the Pro Bowl],” Moss said, “but to boil it down, all I wanted to do is play football. I just love football. It’s all I wanted to do.

“I think I might have stepped on a few people’s toes by doing that, but I think when you look at the passion that other players carry on their shoulder, that’s the same passion I carried on mine. I don’t know how I made it look or whatnot, but I’ve always loved playing the game of football. Going out in front of 65,000 fans, 70, 75,000 fans, that was just something that I had to grow to love. Playing on Sundays is something I miss.”

Moss said that this Vikings honor is special, though, and that being rewarded is a sort of validation for his not only his playing career but his image off the field.

“I think it’s an honor for me to be able to put so much heart, so much focus, so much determination into being great, to do great things,” he said. “I think any person, any hardworking person, wants to be rewarded.

“Throughout the course of my career I always wondered what kind of legacy I was going to leave and the things that were going to be said about me and thought about me when I retired. For me to be able to go into this Ring of Honor is just basically saying I did something right.”

Lots of thanks

When asked what he might say on the day he is inducted, Moss was humble in saying the day won’t really be about him.

“I think it’s more to just give recognition to teammates, coaches, coach [Dennis] Green of course, [current Vice President of Football Operations] Rob Brzezinski was here, Red McCombs was the owner here, and then the fans, of course,” he said. “I think for a day like that it’s really not my day, it’s a day for everybody to enjoy that day. I’ve always been a humble person, been appreciative my whole life. I think it’s just a day to give thanks to everybody who helped me get to where I’m at.”

Speaking of Green, Moss talked about how great of an influence his former coach was on his career and life.

“Knowing that he’s gone, and God rest his soul man — that’s one of those nights where there’s a lot of people I have to thank,” Moss said. “It’s not my night. I know it’s my name. I know the jersey I wore is going up in the Ring of Honor, but for a night like that, there’s a lot of people I owe respect and thanks to be there.”

Rashad’s top honor

For Rashad, who remains fifth in franchise history in receiving touchdowns, sixth in receptions and seventh in receiving yards, he talked about the importance of this award in view of his amazing playing career and a long and illustrious broadcasting career.

“This is probably the biggest honor that I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “Because it meant so much to me to play for the Vikings. To play for the Vikings was the greatest time I had. I had so much fun playing. I made so many great friends playing here. We had such a great football team. I can’t think of anything better than that. This is bigger than anything I’ve ever done.

“It’s one of those things where you join a group of guys that you’ve always admired — like my teammates Jim Marshall, and Alan Page, all of the guys that I really admired that were on the team, to be able to join that group that they’re in, it’s through the roof.”

When Bud Grant traded with Seattle for Rashad in 1976, the Vikings coach said there was some question if the trade would go through. But Fran Tarkenton put an end to any questions about the deal.

“I think people didn’t think that Bud and I were going to get along because I was headstrong and Bud didn’t really have headstrong people around him on the team,” he recalled. “But Bud and I hit it off so well, I mean we hit it off right off the bat. I couldn’t think of anyone who I would rather play for.

“I remember being here and they said there was something wrong with my knee and they were going to try to send me back. Fran Tarkenton came in and said, ‘If you send him back, then I won’t play here.’ Right after that time, I stayed here and the rest of it was history.”

And Rashad recalled perhaps the most historic game of his career, when he helped the Vikings engineer an amazing comeback against the Browns in 1980 that ended with his Hail Mary touchdown, clinching a 28-23 victory and the NFC Central title.

“That was a do-or-die game,” he recalled. “It was one of the games I’ll never forget. It was absolutely one of the greatest games that was ever played at Met Stadium.”

Yes, it’s a special day when two of the greatest receivers in Vikings history get such big honors, and even bigger when they’re both in town to get the news.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. on Monday and Friday, at 2 p.m. on Friday and at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. E-mail: shartman@startribune.com