CANTON, OHIO - Here's the thing I've learned over the years about Randy Moss: When he speaks, a decent amount of truth generally comes forth. In his own inimitable fashion, Moss met the media Friday afternoon at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the day before he's scheduled to be enshrined as part of 2018's star-studded eight-man Hall draft class.
At various times defiant, expansive and reflective, Moss looked back on his 14-year NFL career, touching on subjects as varied as Terrell Owens' absence from this weekend's festivities, to how certain he is that he could still be active and playing alongside his fellow 41-year-old Tom Brady if circumstances were different. Starting his media session with his typical bluntness — "Let's get it'' — here are the highlights of Moss's 45-minutes before the cameras and microphones….
Q: What season were you at the height of your game in the NFL? Was it 1998, 2007 or even 2000?
A: The only thing I really look at in a 14-year career, man, is my last year in the league (2012 in San Francisco) I never got a chance to show that I could still play. I mean, I'm 41 right now and I can still play in this game, and I really truly believe I could still average 10 touchdowns a year. The game is that easy, and I don't mean that being cocky. I'm not arrogant.
I love the game, I studied the game and I guess if you do all those things it may look easy to y'all, but I really feel that I could bring that much to the game. For me to sit back and reflect now that I'm retired, it was a great ride, it was a great road to travel.
Q: Tom Brady turned 41 today. If circumstances were different, could you still be playing with him today in New England rather than going into the Hall of Fame?
A: Aren't they telling players to stand up for this national anthem? Well there's a lot of things done wrong or there'd be a lot of players still in this league. (At least) non-quarterbacks.
Q: On his thoughts this weekend of his football legacy?
A: Leaving a legacy, that's nothing that I really thought about. Now it's just I'm rewarded late in my career. I get to put on a gold jacket, regardless of the stuff that was written and the things that was said about me my whole career. And thing about it, they brainwashed a whole lot of football fans out in the world. I think it was very unfair to me, I think it was unfair to my family. Just to be able to look back and reflect, I wouldn't change it. So now that I look back and reflect and 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.
Q: What's important to you about going into the Hall of Fame as a Viking?
A: There's no loyalty in football, so I don't really think there's no significance. There's no loyalty in football. If I really tell you the true story of how I'm going in as a Viking, I don't think people would believe me, so we'll leave it at that.
Q: You are a first ballot Hall of Famer. What is your reaction to Terrell Owens not being here in part as a protest against the election process?
A: You're talking about first ballot and T.O's not here. T.O should have been first ballot. You're talking about first ballot, there's a lot of stuff going on, man. A lot of people say, "Randy why don't you shut your mouth, you were first ballot, so just leave it at that.'' Man, I love the game, I really do, and what's wrong is what's wrong and what's fair is what's fair. But I'm just glad I'm in.
Q: What would you like to convey to Owens about this weekend?
A: First of all, let T.O. know that I do love you, I respect you, and whatever he's going through, that's him. He's dealing with it. So if you're asking me if it affects me personally, for him not being here, yes, because it is a fraternity.
But at the same time I don't know what T.O.'s battling. I don't know what he's battling inside. So for me to sit up here and be judgmental, like a LOT of people in this country is, I'm not the one to jump to judgment. Because it's not my place and time to do it.
So whatever he's battling, he's battling. But we do want to let him know (we) do love him here. His name was brought up in the (Ray Nitschke) luncheon and all that was said was brotherly love, nothing negative. Everybody was embracing Terrell Owens. So, T.O. if you hear this story, all these gold jackets want to put their arms around you, bro, and that's for real. That's coming from my heart.
Q: Other than Dennis Green drafting you in Minnesota in 1998, was anything more critical to you being here as a Hall of Famer than getting out of Oakland and to New England in 2007?
A: I caught a lot of flak from the Raiders fans because the thing that was written about was Randy didn't give it all in Oakland. I just looked at a stat the other day. I think I had eight touchdowns that year and 1,000 yards! And I think I was last (Raiders) receiver with 1,000 yards until (Amari) Cooper or (Michael) Crabtree. So I said if they gave me all this flak, what do you have to say about the other receivers before the last 1,000-yard receiver?
For me it was a matter of trying to make the best of what was in Oakland. Oakland to this day keeps some of the best talent in the National Football League, but they just can't seem to put it together. I just know I got traded overnight. I had no say so, no nothing. I just take it in stride and go with it.
We didn't win a lot of games there in two years, but I guess what I was was the punching board. I was the one to point the finger (at), and I was cool with that. That's why it made it so gratifying to put up 23 touchdowns (in 2007 in New England) and rub it in people's faces.
Q: How do you remember your experience at Marshall University?
A: It was a decent experience. I won't call it great. I'd just call it decent. I was battling a lot of stuff, man, and one of the biggest things I was battling was racism. So for me to overcome adversity and understand that the show must go, to smile in front of the cameras when everything wasn't all peaches and cream, there was a lot I had to endure, man. There was a lot I had to take in and just take it. It was a hard road, it was a hard journey and I did have to battle a lot just to get where I'm at.
Q: In your glory days, were you having as much fun as the fans were who got to watch you play?
A: No, because the game, the business side of the game takes a lot of fun out of the game for players. So, no it wasn't fun. It really wasn't fun. The only time I could really feel free to go out there and enjoy myself was in between the lines. It wasn't really much fun at practice and going to functions and things like that. Where I really felt free was between the white lines.
Q: You are having your son, Thaddeus present you tomorrow. Was that important to you to choose him?
A: It was going to be (ex-Vikings) coach Dennis Green (who passed away in mid-2016). I think he's here in spirit, man. While writing my speech, while thinking about the festivities and things going on here at the Hall of Fame, I always kept coach Green in my mind.
I just remember the day when coach Green left (Minnesota), all the negative things written about him, all the columns, all the negative stuff. I'm being rewarded and being praised and I still think it's unfair. The man just didn't get his due and it's just sad, but he's here with me in spirit and where would I be if coach Green never drafted me in Minnesota?
Q: Did you really expect to make such a dramatic impact on the league when you entered it in 1998?
A: You don't remember me saying what I was going to do when I came into the National Football League? (Moss promised to do his best to "rip the NFL up.'') How old are you? (Reporter answers: "I'm 37. I was a junior in high school.'') Moss says: "Next question.''
Q: What was it like meeting all the other Hall of Famers at today's luncheon?
A: Just being able to sit at the Ray Nitschke luncheon, as you can see on my Instagram, I was a kid. All the guys I grew up watching and trying to emulate in the backyard. I mean, I'm at a table with Mean Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Aeneas Williams, Jerome Bettis. To sit with the guys that really make up the history of the National Football League. I know I'm one of those guys (now), but I'm the newcomer. I'm talking about the guys I grew up as a kid watching and emulating. It was a great experience to have. Those guys set the foundation.
Q: Some of your former teammates praise your work ethic and your film study, as a student of the game. What's that mean to you?
A: Give it to me again, that question, they praised my what? I remember there was a lot of things written about me how I wasn't (playing hard). Things change now. I don't really think you all have any idea when you all write something how that affects a player. And when you continue to write it week after week, month after month, how that affects a player.
I think that's what makes my message and my story so powerful, when all the odds are stacked against you. That's really what makes Randy Moss, Randy Moss. It's kind of crazy that I'm getting a gold jacket and now I'm getting praised after I'm done. Why couldn't I get this level when I played? Answer that question. You don't have to answer today, but answer it sooner or later. Why couldn't I get this much love when I played? Was it hatred? Next question.
Q: Are you happy with your career and this honor?
A: I'm content. I'm more happy for my family. I'm more happy for the fans that really followed me through thick and thin. For me it's mostly about the people that I made happy. That's really what my 14-year career was about.