By Gabriel Stovall
STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — Randy Moss is widely regarded by many as the most talented wide receiver to ever run routes and snag passes in the NFL, and none of the high school athletes who attended the Randy Moss Academy’s Wide Receivers camp this past Saturday at Stockbridge High would argue.
Moss starred with the Minnesota Vikings and helped lead the New England Patriots to the 2007 Super Bowl. He also had stints with the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers. He’s an NFL record holder and a sure-fire future Hall-of-Famer, but none of that matters to him when it comes to the time he spends each summer trying to share priceless nuggets of wide receiver wisdom with up and coming high school athletes.
Before Moss stepped out onto Tiger Field in Stockbridge this past Saturday, thecrescentbuzz.com’s editor Gabriel Stovall had an opportunity to pick Moss’s brain on what inspires him to do what he does, post-NFL career.
STOVALL: How did you get wind of Stockbridge High School, and what made you decide to bring your camp here?
MOSS: “I think it was through word of mouth, and just us knowing some of the same people and just knowing people throughout my career. Stockbridge is a school that was mentioned to me as a place that the (Randy Moss Academy) should throw a camp at to reach out to kids. Last week we were in Fayetteville, NC. Next week we’ll be in, I think, Orlando, Fla. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but being here in Stockbridge and being in Georgia, crazy thing about it, is just having the amount of talent here. We knew this would be a place where a lot of the college talent is gonna be coming from.”
STOVALL: How much does a state or an area’s depth of high school talent weigh in to your decision to bring a camp to a particular city?
MOSS: “Well, it’s not really all based on talent. I think it’s really based on just the community and coaches being able to step up and help make it happen. One thing a lot of people are saying, they’re looking at the Academy and saying that we’re trying to change up the scheme and things like that of playing wide receiver. But we’re not trying to change up any schemes.
“Football in our country is pretty much the same nationwide. The ABCs and 123s of the game are pretty much taught the same way no matter who you’re talking about. If a coach tells you to run a hitch route, you’re going to run it the same way whether you’re in Georgia, California or Minnesota. So it’s just about trying to be able to simplify things — simplify the way you do things — first, and then go from there.”
STOVALL: When you go out there on the field with the kids, what’s your approach with them, and what are your goals when you’re working them out?
MOSS: “First and foremost, we try to teach the academic side of it. I’m no big scholar, but I think that the road that I traveled to get to where I was, it didn’t really have much to do with school, and I think nowadays the kids really need to understand that education comes first. I was more of the guy who was like, you know, ‘Give me the ball.’ On friday nights, tip off, basketball, whatever. I knew about studying and things like that, but I put a little bit more focus in my sports, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I wasn’t a dumb athlete, but I just didn’t apply myself. Later in life, I had to educate myself as I grew older. But the things that I understand now is that educating yourself is a little bit harder than listening to the teacher and following instructions and doing what you need to do in school, so we teach that.
Secondly, we teach the kind of focus and discipline in football that you need to put out four good quarters of football. You know, a lot of kids think football is just going out and running a nine route or going out and hitting the tackle. But there are a lot of things you have to understand dealing with being successful in the Academy.”
STOVALL: Based on your background, and the way you say you came up, do you feel an obligation to reach back to kids and sort of help them be strong in areas that you perhaps neglected a bit?
MOSS: “I think it’s just more of learning understanding life. You’ve got different people on different levels that give back and do things for others, whether it’s the poor, homeless or whatever it may be. For me, I really want to focus on the youth. And it’s not just football with me, you know. I go to schools and read and do a lot of other things like that. I do not do it looking for any publicity, but it’s just giving back to kids, man. Giving the kids a piece of mind, and something to look forward to in their lives.”
STOVALL: What kind of performance level are you looking for from the kids at your camp?
MOSS: “What I’m looking for? Who’s polished. Who’s working on their game. The game of football has taken off to a different level than anything when I was coming up. When I Was coming through the ranks, we didn’t have 7-on-7s, training outside of high school or the university you went to. It’s definitely something different evolving in the game, but in a positive way. And because of that, I think the Academy is just something I think this generation needs.”
STOVALL: Has this kind of outreach to kids been something you’ve always wanted to do after your playing days were done?
MOSS: “I’ve always just been with kids, if I go to a camp, I look at a kid and I can see, ‘Oh, he’s a good kid, but he can’t run a curl route. He’s a talented kid, but he can only execute a go route.’ We don’t put a point of emphasis on one particular thing. We go all around, from blocking to catching and running proper routes, running after the catch and, like I said earlier, just the discipline and focus it takes to maintain four solid quarters of football. It’s more to it than just the pitching and catching part of it.
“One thing I do tell kids, though, with what they’ve seen with my highlights and my career and things like that, is they’re seeing the work. For me it was just focus and work. Focus and work. Throughout my whole life I only really cared about football. Now, that hasn’t really changed. I’m married with a family now, but some sort of football I mess with in some way almost every single day.”
STOVALL: At the end of a camp, how do you go back and measure or gauge its success?
MOSS: “I don’t think you’ll be able to tell until a couple of years from now. These kids, they get a lot of this in one ear and a lot of that in the other. I think what I’ve accomplished and the road I had to travel, you know, it’s really no different from any other man or any other woman, but what I’ve accomplished in NFL in college, in high school, it’s helpful, but like I said, football is evolving, and the wide receiver position is taking a step in the right way toward the next level.
“When I came into the league, they were looking for the tall wide receivers, and then about four or five years later it shifted to the smaller guys like the Steve Smiths, you know, the guys with the quickness and stuff like that. Now they’ve gotten back to more of a mixture, you get what I’m saying? So it’s not really a particular size now that they’re looking for, but rather, do you understand the game of football? And can you focus and get your education while doing it. Because the education, that’s what’s free.
“And then, for the kid who’s maybe on the verge of getting a scholarship or maybe going to the streets, this (Academy) could be a difference maker for them. So it’s just a lot of things at the Academy I try to teach. Certain times you go home and say, ‘Dag, I should’ve said this,’ or ‘Dag, I should’ve let them know that. But for me, it’s heartfelt. I don’t go by scripts. I don’t write things down. I’m not a billboard type of guy where we’re going to sit up there and just read the white board. I just bring my experience and what I’ve done, and maybe three or five years from now, you look back on a kid who maybe had a shot to play in college or a shot in the NFL, and you see if they became a successful football player, or just a successful young man.”