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There were always many layers to Randy Moss. He was exhilarating and sometimes frustrating. But he was always interesting.
One of those layers will always be the “I play when I want to play” quote that will follow him forever. On Wednesday, when he was officially elected as a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ Ring of Honor, he gave some new perspective to that story.
Sid Hartman, the longtime Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist who published the infamous quote in 2001, asked Moss about it Wednesday. And Moss said it was “mixed up over the years.” The context of the quote was in relation to what motivates him to play and it took on a life of its own.
“As you mature, you grow, and I think I should have spoke about what I really meant,” Moss said in a news conference broadcast on the Vikings’ Twitter feed.
That unforgettable quote painted him in a certain light for some fans, but with all things Moss, there are layers that run deeper than just that one line. As he spoke with pride about being honored by the Vikings, and what he really meant by “I play when I want to play,” he gushed about how much he loved the game. From the time he was 6 years old, football was his life.
“I love the game so much. I sacrificed so much,” Moss said. “I honestly think I got traded out of here because I only cared about the game of football. I know that seems weird, it sounds weird, but I didn’t really do anything outside of the game of football. I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t like to mingle a lot, I only cared about football. That was probably, maybe one of my worst attributes of trying to branch off outside of the game of football. But hey, that’s all I knew, that’s what I grew up believing.”
Moss acknowledged that some loved him, and there were “people I rubbed wrong.” He didn’t apologize for anything. Some thought he didn’t love the game – and played when he wanted to play – but his only focus in life was to be great at football. He talked about working constantly to get better.
“When I tell you I wore the game of football on my shoulder, I really wore it on my shoulder. I didn’t give myself any breaks, no time off,” Moss said.
“To some it might have been arrogance. To me, I was just focused. Tunnel vision, man. I always wanted to play the game of football. Something I grew up loving to do as a kid. Some people like to play with their cars, some girls like to play with their doll babies. Ever since I was 6 years old, I loved the game of football, man. That’s what drove me to where I’m at today.”
To Moss, the man who gave him the chance to live his NFL dream will always be his first coach, Dennis Green. The Vikings selected Moss 21st overall in 1998 after he slipped due to character concerns. Green died last year. Moss was asked Wednesday what he would tell Green on the day he was honored by the Vikings. It took him a while to answer, as he wiped away tears.
“On draft day, I really don’t know why I was treated the way I was treated on draft day, but coach Green gave me an opportunity,” Moss said. “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 into his arms and give him a hug. There’s no words I can tell him.”
Moss became one of the all-time greats. He finished third all-time in career receiving yards and second in career touchdowns. He earned his spot in the Vikings’ Ring of Honor, and it was clear how much it meant to him. Moss should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer next year, but after watching Terrell Owens wait, nothing is certain.
Moss wanted everyone to know Wednesday he didn’t just play when he wanted to play. It’s all he ever wanted to do.
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