Randy Moss thought he was in town just to discuss some opportunities to represent the Minnesota Vikings during Super Bowl week next February when U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis will host Super Bowl LII.
Ahmad Rashad, another legendary receiver in Vikings history, was also in town after having ankle surgery last week.
Neither of them expected there was a reason as big as their selection for the highest honor the team bestows on their former players, the Ring of Honor.
“Whenever we do the Ring of Honor, we typically like to do it when they’re not expecting it,” Vikings owner Mark Wilf told Viking Update. “It depends on the circumstances, but it worked out that they were both in town and they’re certainly both deserving. They’ve been great Vikings, both on and off the field, but we couldn’t be happier for Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad, two great Vikings.”
Moss was a first-round pick of the Vikings in 1998 and became NFL Rookie of the Year after taking the league by storm with 17 touchdowns in his inaugural NFL season. He ended his 14-year NFL career with the second-most receiving touchdowns (156), was third in receiving yards (15,292) and holds the single-season record for most touchdown catches in a season, 23, with the New England Patriots in 2007.
The Vikings were fortunate he was still available with the 21st pick in the 1998 draft due to off-the-field concerns.
“I think that sometimes my passion for the game got in the way of the business side of it. Like I said, you live and you learn, you mature,” Moss said Wednesday. “I think I lived and learned from a lot of my mistakes. I think they were my own personal mistakes, nothing crazy. I’m not pointing the finger or blaming anyone. But, I think it’s just more of growing up. I’m married now; I’m happily married. I’ve got my family, we’re straight. So, now I can just reflect back on the touchdowns, the games against the Green Bay Packers, the games against the Chicago Bears. All that stuff, man, was great for me. But like I said, all the memories that I have - good and bad - I won’t trade them for nothing.”
Wilf said there were no concerns about the sometime-brash Moss and how he may have rubbed some people, including team sponsors, the wrong way during his career.
“We make decisions as we go along through the process. I can’t recall how that whole process worked really,” Wilf said. “But he’s been a great Viking and I know the fans love him and he’s been great for the organization and we’re very happy he’s in the Ring of Honor.”
While Moss seemed to acknowledge that he didn’t always handle himself professionally off the field, he left little doubt about his gratitude toward the late Dennis Green, the head coach who took a chance on drafting the amazingly talented but controversial receiver in 1998 when 19 other teams passed on him.
“I really don’t know why I was treated the way I was treated on draft day. But, Coach Green gave me an opportunity, man,” Moss said after gathering his emotions as he prepared to speak about Green while wiping away tears. “I told him, ‘Coach, you’re not going to regret this.’ So, you ask me what I would say to him? Man, I’d probably just fall in his arms and give him a hug. Man, it’s no words that I could tell him. The man passed away without me really, really giving him my love and thanks for what he was able to do for me and my family, man.
“There was a lot of teams out there that passed on me for wrong reasons. Coach Green gave me that opportunity. So, when all of y’all Vikings fans are sitting up here going back in the past, remembering the teams that I played on, the teams that Ahmad played on, the teams that Coach Green coached. Man, however you feel about me, you can feel. But if you feel a good way about me, Coach Green brought me here. Whatever talents I was able to showcase, he helped me do that. Just fall in his arms and give him a big hug, man. That’s my man. You see how emotional I am about him. I’m very thankful to be able to cross paths with Coach Green.”
Rashad had seven of his 10 NFL seasons with the Vikings and made the Pro Bowl in four of those years. He led the team in receiving three times (1977, ’79 and ’80) and was the first Vikings receiver to notch consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
He started 95 of 98 games played with the Vikings during the Bud Grant coaching years.
“Bud Grant was one of the most wonderful people that has come through my life of anybody. He was just a wonderful, wonderful man. He was all about football, but he was also about life,” Rashad reflected. “Bud was a guy that could prepare as hard as he could, go out and play the game as hard as he could and then go home and have dinner. Nothing got Bud that excited and you found yourself trying to do things to make him excited.
“I remember I could make a touchdown and I could walk by him and Bud would say silly things like, ‘I could’ve done that. I just don’t have the right shoes on.’ You know, just things you would never expect to come out of Bud’s mouth. There was a time when we were in a preseason game and all of our receivers have gotten hurt. Bud just kind of looked at me and goes, ‘Well, it’s either you or me. But, I don’t have my helmet.’”
Wilf said there was no concerted effort to have two receivers go into the Ring of Honor this year, but they will be the first inductees since 2013. The team didn’t induct a former player during the two seasons the Vikings played at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota or the inaugural season at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings Ring of Honor now has 23 members: Moss, Rashad, Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Jim Finks, Bud Grant, Paul Krause, Fred Zamberletti, Jim Marshall, Ron Yary, Korey Stringer, Mick Tingelhoff, Carl Eller, Cris Carter, Bill Brown, Jerry Burns, Randall McDaniel, Chuck Foreman, John Randle, Scott Studwell, Chris Doleman, Matt Blair and Joey Browner.
This year, two are being added and both were surprised to find out about it.
“He was surprised,” Wilf said of Moss, “but he was really happy.”