When the NFL draft had ended with his name still uncalled, Thaddeus Moss said his emotions “were all over the place,” the whole thing “a slap in the face.” So when his agent called shortly after with the names of three teams who wanted to sign him, all he cared about was who called first.
Which is how the tight end from LSU, the son of Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, chose the Washington Redskins.
It didn’t matter that one of the other two teams was the New England Patriots, where his father once starred and a team that had built Super Bowl champion offenses around tight ends. Nor was he interested in the other team, Cincinnati, which had just drafted his college quarterback, Joe Burrow. Neither had phoned before the Redskins. Neither could have wanted him as much.
“That’s what I was going to go with and stick with,” Moss said Wednesday on a video conference call.
Undrafted rookie free agents rarely get special news conferences. At rookie minicamps like the one Washington would have had this month, they are the invisible pieces swirling unnoticed around the players taken in the recent draft. But Moss is different, a man with a famous last name, who many of the team’s fans had hoped it would draft given his pedigree and the fact the Redskins don’t have an obvious starting tight end on their roster, perhaps the team’s greatest hole right now.
All of this makes Moss different from most NFL rookies. He spoke with determination and with a hint of an edge on the call, his words flat when he described how players “will know” how hard he blocks when practices ultimately start. When asked if he will introduce himself to star running back Adrian Peterson, who briefly played with Randy Moss in Minnesota, he said no, not to be impolite but “that’s not me.”
His tone was clear. He is here to prove he belongs in the NFL.
He said he is “not going out there with a vengeance” to show the other teams they made a mistake when they didn’t choose him in the draft. He had a sense as the last day of selections wore on that he probably wasn’t going to be taken.
Most pre-draft scouting reports noted that Moss didn’t have the type of speed that would allow him to race downfield to catch long throws, but highlighted his willingness to block and catch short, contested passes. He also had a small Jones fracture in his foot, an injury discovered at the scouting combine that needed surgery and a two to three month recovery. These things created trouble for his draft stock. Still, the snub burned at him.
“I put a lot of work in, years of football we went undefeated and won a national championship [last season at LSU] and I played my best ball in my biggest games, so I definitely felt it was a slap in the face not getting drafted [and] having kickers and punters and special teams guys getting picked over me,” Moss said.
Throughout the draft’s final hours, Randy Moss sat beside his son on the couch, patiently waiting. For years, the father had been one of his son’s most honest critics, pointing out mistakes and things Thaddeus needed to improve. For a year, Randy was the defensive coordinator of Thaddeus’ high school team. They talked football on the drives home after practice.
But when the draft was over, Randy Moss didn’t know what to say. Thaddeus did, however.
He told his father that he was going to fight to make an NFL roster because he’s always had to fight to show people that simply having the same last name as a Hall of Fame football player was never a free ticket to anything.
“Being an undrafted free agent, I don’t have a lot of expectations, so going in there and just playing football and having to get it out of the mud and work for everything, that’s what I’ve had to do my whole life,” Thaddeus Moss said on the call. “I think that’s one thing people don’t understand and get misconstrued with me having the last name that I have. A lot of people think I was handed a lot of things, given a lot of things, but actually it’s the opposite. People ask me, with the last name, what are the pros and cons. That’s definitely a con.
“But absolutely I’m looking forward to have an opportunity to work for everything and whatever my NFL career is, whether that be one year, two, three, four, five to 10, you’re going to have to respect it, because I had to work for everything,” he added. “I wasn’t given anything.”
By the time training camp presumably starts in August, his foot, repaired by famed foot surgeon Robert Anderson in Green Bay, will have healed, Moss said. He believes he will be cleared to play. He will have something to show the NFL — but not to prove the other teams were wrong.
“Just proving myself right,” he said.