Seeing greatness before its time (pat, pat) is just part of my job

A "breaking" story about Terrell Owens got me thinking about Randy Moss—hey, that’s just how my brain works.


Owens made news Thursday by announcing he would not attend his enshrinement next summer into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Now, if you would have asked me a year ago to name a receiver who might pull this kind of stunt, I would have handed you over two names: Owens and Moss.

The fact these petulant pattern runners made it to Canton in the same HOF class seems entirely appropriate. They deserve each other, I would say, but I also digress.

Owens made me think of Moss because I was vacationing in Spain last February and COMPLETELY missed the announcement of this year’s hall of fame class.

Had I had been paying attention then, I wouldn’t be forced into shamelessly gloating now.

So, belated congratulations to the class of 2018, which includes Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Brian Dawkins along with contributor (Bobby Beathard) and seniors committee nominees Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile.

Mostly, though, congrats to Randy Moss and, last but not least, me.

Sometimes you just know HOF material when you come across it. Seeing it early is one of the joys, frankly, of being alive.

It was August of 1997, but it seems like yesterday (fade to montage).

I was sitting in the stadium press box at Huntington, W.V., to watch a training camp scrimmage featuring the Marshall Thundering Herd.

I had pitched my bosses a story on the “best player in America you’ve never heard of.”

I persuaded current TMG colleague Mark Blaudschun, then of the Boston Globe, to join me on this trip knowing there was a greyhound racing track just outside of town. One of our rules of pack journalism was "Never go to a place like Huntington...alone."

Randy Moss took a short pass, from quarterback Chad Pennington, and took off like a Chuck Connors "Rifleman" blast toward the end zone.

Blaudschun and I looked at each other and said, “Holy ##$#AFFK.”

It was like we discovered a hot stock that was about to tear up the Dow Jones.

Moss was a piece-of-work—with a back story that chased him off the campuses of Notre Dame and Florida State.

He sulked into a post-practice interview with the L.A. Times and Boston Globe, said some incendiary things that we dutifully published, then held a press conference the next day denying he said those things.

Moss had one problem. I had taped the interview.

Moss was a hot mess of emotions, contradictions and talent—but we loved it, and him.

Blaudschun and Dufresne touted Moss from the treetops of Palo Alto.

We got into heated arguments all season with colleagues about Moss being a worthy Heisman candidate in 1997. The best came after an Ohio State game, in the parking lot of a Damon’s barbeque joint. Management finally had to move us along because our screaming was scaring the geese on the Olentangy River.

The anti-Moss crowd (you STILL know who you are) contended he could not be Heisman-worthy because he played against inferior talent at Marshall.

We thought this logic laughable and contended Moss would go down as one of the greatest receivers in the history of football.

Moss finished fourth in 1997 Heisman balloting, behind Charles Woodson, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.

Except for Leaf, that’s three HOFers.

Randy moved on to a decent pro career, catching 982 passes for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns.


Moss averaged 15.6 yards per reception.

One of the joys of being a sportswriter, or even a fan, is cashing in on a prediction and then rubbing in various faces.

My post-college roommates used to mockingly mark up the morning paper every time my-guy (since 1972) Nolan Ryan had a rough outing.

My response was “We’ll see you in Cooperstown.”

Ryan was inducted in 1999. I was there--my roommates were not. Stick it where the rent don't shine.

I was so outraged Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood was HOF snubbed, year after year, I poison-penned a column about if for the Los Angeles Times.

How could the NFL even have a hall of fame, I reasoned, if Jack Youngblood wasn’t in it?

The headline said it all. “Leaving Youngblood Out makes it a Hall of Shame.

Terrell Owens, so I understand, is apparently miffed it took him three tries to make it to Canton.

Jack Youngblood was rejected 11 times before the jockstrap committee finally enshrined him in the 2001 class.

I saw the HOF in Steve Young in 1984, shortly after he joined the Los Angeles Express. My two worries: 1) he was never going to be seen in the attendance-challenged USFL and 2) he was going to spend his NFL career stuck behind Joe Montana.

Young finally got his shot…and breezed into Canton.

Mike Trout?

I stuck my neck out, in print, a few weeks after the Angels called him up from AAA in the spring of 2012.

In a June 3 story for the Times, I proclaimed Trout “the most mesmerizing prospect in the Angels’ 51-year history.”

Six years later, well, he's still on the roster.

At a charity event, two years ago, I joked to manager Mike Scioscia that some of us had more early faith in Trout than he did.

He chirped that sportswriters always think they know everything.

You talk about getting a fastball, belt high. I countered that it wasn’t a sportswriter who sent Trout back to AAA Salt Lake after 2012 spring training.


Being right is so much fun.

Being wrong, well, that’s a much different, longer story.

Not that it’s ever happened to me, unless you think UCLA quarterback Cade McNown didn’t pan out in Chicago, or that Notre Dame wasn’t worthy of my preseason No.1 prediction in 2016?