Good Old Boys - Jason Williams & Randy Moss May 20 2019, 4 Comments
Randy Moss and Jason Williams paired at DuPont High School to form one of the most entertaining duos in sports history. Born deep in the back country roads of West Virginia, the pair would shake up the nation with their exploits on and off the court. Featured in one of the greatest Nike commercials of all time. The short 30 second ad, shows footage of both Williams and Moss teaming up as kids in Belle, West Virginia. They were teammates for two seasons, leading the DuPont basketball team to the state finals in 1994. While both faced trying times in college and high school, each had serious success in the professional ranks. Two young men who grew up less than a mile apart, would have unmeasured success in their respective sports.
Welcome to Rand, a half-mile from Jason's boyhood home, Randy was raised here in a small house on Church Street. Rand is a small section tucked between the Allegheny Mountains and the Kanawha River. Although it’s only a 10-minute drive from the state capital, it’s rural in every other respect. As discussed in the ESPN feature Rand University, the town had several points of racial tension. But Moss and Williams always seem to ignore that, instead focusing on the bond between the two. Randy moved to Rand at a young age and football was big in his neighborhood. He played a game known as Razzle Dazzle, Moss attributes much of his dynamic play to the game he and his friends played.
The two found each other long before high school. “We were in fourth grade, playing midget football on different teams,” Moss recalls. “He was quarterback and ran a bootleg. Next thing we knew, he was high-stepping into the end zone like Walter Payton. We wanted to kill him. But we never caught him.” By eighth grade, Moss was on the business end of Williams bombs. “I’d throw it as far as I could, and Randy would get it,” Williams says. “All I wanted to do was throw him the bomb.” Said Williams. “That’s the only play we really needed. I never wanted to throw any short passes to him because he was so fast. I used to drop back and throw it as high and as far as I could throw it. Randy would take care of the rest. He could run and jump and do it all”.
Jason's father, Terry, was a state trooper, and had the keys to the gym. Jason took full advantage, practicing for long hours throwing around the back passes against a tape square on the gym wall. The young Williams also spent hours dribbling with wrist weights on. At age four, Jason was already an accomplished ball handler, and by age seven he had determined that he would become an NBA player some day.
DuPont High School
They both attended the now defunct DuPont High School in Belle, West Virginia. Williams won the Mr. Basketball award in West Virginia as a senior in 1993-1994. While Moss took home Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football award as a senior in 1994-1995.After taking advantage of his father having the gym keys, Williams started for the varsity as a freshman in 1990-91. The following year Moss followed and enrolled at DuPont. Williams had a spectacular high school career, starting all four years. He finished off his career with a senior average of 18 points and 10 assists. Williams was the only player in DuPont history to reach 1,000 points and 500 assists. As a senior Williams was invited to the Nike All-American camp, a prestigious honor, considering only one player from the state made the camp. While Jason turned some heads at camp, his play was not dominant.
Moss and his friends were known to indulge in typical teenage actives like drinking and smoking Marijuana. But in the hallways of DuPont, racial tensions grew fierce. Moss was involved in 7 racially motivated fights over his high school career. Near the end of his senior year at DuPont, Moss took part in a fight that sent a student to the hospital. The incident would put his future in jeopardy and eventually result in jail time.
Both Williams and Moss faced rather serious problems in college, each was dismissed from a college team. Each had issues in their college career with substance abuse. Moss and Williams were each caught multiple times failing drug tests in college.
Coming out of high school, Jason originally committed to play ball for Providence, feeling he had connected with coach Rick Barnes. But when Barnes left for Clemson, Jason got out of his letter of intent. That fall, he enrolled in Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. Which lasted all of three days, when he was handed a vocabulary quiz with 300 words on it, he had seen enough. Jason’s dad suggested he explore the possibilities at Division-II Marshall in West Virginia. He had met head coach Billy Donovan and was impressed. After red-shirting 1994-95, the redshirt freshman averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 assists for the Thundering Herd in 1995-1996. After sitting out the 1996–97 season, he followed coach Billy Donovan to Florida and became the starting point guard during the 1997–98 season. As a Gator, Williams had immediate success setting a school single-game record with 17 assists. Through twenty games, he averaged 17.1 points, 6.7 assists and 2.8 steals per game against top flight competition. He even led the Gators to an 86–78 upset of the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington. His darting, spinning drives, reckless penetration and impossible behind-the-back passes, majestic three-pointers, and uncanny showmanship brought fans out of their seats. Many compared him to another SEC legend, Pete Maravich. Jason was the hottest thing in college ball. However a series of failed drug test led Donovan to suspend Williams the first time. The second time he was caught, he was kicked off the team. His career at Florida lasted just 20 games before he was kicked off the team for a marijuana violation. All of his focus turned to the 1998 NBA draft.
After he was kicked out of DuPont high school, Randy Moss was denied enrollment at Notre Dame. Head coach Lou Holtz advised Randy to give Florida State’s Bobby Bowden a call. The Seminoles gave Randy a second chance, as he spent his freshman season as a redshirt. Moss dominated in spring ball so much that Bowden began referring to him as a bigger version of Deion Sanders. Just a few months later, Randy violated his probation by failing a drug test, thus resulting in more jail time and his dismissal from FSU. Few major programs had interest in Moss at that point. After dealing with a bevy of trouble and having to transfer from Florida State. He eventually found his way to local Marshall University for the 1996 and 1997 season. He signed to play at Marshall because they were Division I-AA at the time and he wouldn’t have to sit out another season. At Marshall, Moss vowed to change his ways. Choosing to spend all of his time in his apartment or at the Marshall practice facility, he removed himself from the hype of the outside world. He stared with future NFL pro bowl quarterback Chad Pennington and formed a dynamic offensive duo. His sophomore season saw Moss put up 1,709 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns. As a junior at Marshall, Moss went nuts racking up 1,820 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. The small school star receiver finished 3rd in the Heisman voting.
Both Williams and Moss were both drafted in the first round of their respective sports. To the surprise of many, Williams went higher than Moss in the draft. Moss sat a considerably longer time than most expected, being selected 21st overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL draft. For his childhood friend Jason, the experience was different. Williams surpassed draft experts elevations when he was selected 7th overall by the Sacramento Kings in the NBA draft. “Since I was little I wanted to play in the NBA," he says, "where you didn't have to deal with foolishness like homework.” Both players dazzled their respective leagues in their rookie season. Setting the sports marketing world on fire with their dynamic and unique on court style.
When Moss burst onto the NFL scene in 1998, he was 6-foot-5, ran a 4.25 40, and made catches that defied physics. He instantly led the Vikings to a 15-1 regular-season record and an NFC championship playoff run, he intimidated every defensive coordinator in the league, and teammate Cris Carter admitted that Moss could be better than Jerry Rice. In 1998, Moss helped the Vikings to become the number 1 rated offense ever at the time, setting the single-season record for scoring (later surpassed by the 2007 New England Patriots, a team that also featured Moss) with 556 points. He was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for his rookie-record 17 touchdown receptions and the third highest receiving yardage with 1,313.
RetirementRandy Moss retired as the most physically gifted wide receiver to ever put on cleats. Bobby Bowden put it best: “He was as good as Deion Sanders. Deion’s my measuring stick for athletic ability, and this kid was just a bigger Deion.” When it was all said and done, Moss was a key factor in 2 different NFL record breaking offenses. While not as physically dominant in his pro career, Williams style remained one of the most unique in the history of basketball. It was one of the most crowd pleasing styles since the late Pete Maravich in the 1970’s. Both players impact is clear even years after both have retried from the game.
Although they went their separate ways, the two always kept in touch during their pro career. Often exchanging calls and texts a couple of times a month. Eventually the two retired within months of each other. Both players significantly influenced the way youth played the game. The two remain two of the most exciting players to ever play in their respective sports. While both athletes faced their share of problems, each would face their demons. Both were able to overcome their mistakes, learn from them and ultimately have an enormous amount of success. Pretty good for a couple of kids that grew up on the backroads of West Virginia.