Good Old Boys - Jason Williams & Randy Moss May 20 2019, 0 Comments

Randy Moss and Jason Williams

             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.

Childhood

             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 Williams High School
             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

DuPont Basketball 1994

             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.
Jason Williams High School
             Randy Moss excelled in football, basketball, baseball and track. He was also on the school's debate team. He took home the Mr. Basketball award for West Virginia as a senior in 1995. After Jason Williams attended All-American camp, Moss was chosen as the state representative for the Nike All-American camp the following summer. Moss instantly realized that his 6-4 frame, wasn't ideal to play a forward spot (after matching up with teenage superstar Kevin Garnett ). As a sophomore in 1992, Moss joined the track & field team and was the West Virginia state champion in the 100 and 200 meters with times of 10.94 seconds and 21.95 seconds. This was the only year he competed on the school's track team, but he would later join the Marshall track team and lower his 200 m time to 21.15 seconds. He even played center field for the baseball team for one season, where he excelled as a defensive player.
Randy Moss Dupont High School
             Moss was a national standout while on the gridiron at DuPont. He was at the top of recruiting list nationally and led the football team to three straight state titles. As a senior in 1994 he was named the West Virginia Football Player of the year. On the field, Moss teamed with future Chicago Bears linebacker Bobbie Howard and division one running back Sean Singleton. He was a star at wide receiver, but also played free safety, returned kickoffs and punts, and was the team's kicker and punter. Parade magazine named him to their annual All-American high school football team in 1995. The football squad was so dominant, they cut off all the lights in Rand when the DuPont team played home games, because everyone in town attended the games. Opposing teams in West Virginia simply weren't athletic enough to deal with Moss in any sort of situation on the gridiron. While everyone in the state wanted Randy to choose West Virginia, he committed to play for Lou Holtz and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
         The duo was easily the most exciting duo in the history of West Virginia basketball. As a junior and senior, he teamed up with Randy Moss on the hardwood for some iconic mixtape plays. The flashy Williams used his ball handling and passing ability to dazzle crowds. Moss was an all world athlete using his jumping ability. DuPont's gym held 1,000 people, if you weren't there an hour early, you were standing outside. In Jason's senior year, all the starters could dunk, and once all did in the same game. They drew hundreds of fans on game nights, forcing the school to install temporary bleachers to accommodate the overflow crowds. The duo led DuPont to the state championship before loosing to Martinsburg 79-73. Despite DuPont showcasing a bevy of highlights, Martinsburg came away with the win. In the last game they played together, Williams had 17 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds. Moss went for 33 points and 14 rebounds.

           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.

College Career

             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.
Jason Williams Florida Gators
             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.
Randy Moss Marshall
             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.

Pro Career

             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.

Randy Moss SI Cover
             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.

             In 1999, Moss had another impressive season, catching 80 passes for 1,413 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2000, Moss finished the season with a career-high 1,437 yards and league leading 15 touchdown catches. Making him the youngest player ever to catch for over 3,000 yards and 45 touchdowns. During the 2002 season Moss caught a career high 106 passes for only 7 touchdowns. The following year was one of his finest, playing only 12 games while catching for 1,632 yard sand 17 touchdowns.
             After an injury plagued 2004 season his off field antics eventually got him traded to the Oakland Raiders, where he spent the worst 2 seasons of his career. Eventually he found his way to the New England Patriots, where he would once again set the NFL on fire. His first year with the Patriots was his best, he caught a record 23 touchdowns to go along with 1,493 receiving yards. The Patriots remained undefeated until they lost in a Superbowl thriller to the New York Giants. During the 2008 season Tom Brady was injured and Moss caught for only 11 touchdowns and 1,008 yards. 2009 was his last good season as he returned to form, catching for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns. The twilight of his career saw the receiver bounce around with the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, before finally retiring with the Minnesota Vikings. He was named to the All-Pro team 3 times in Minnesota and again in 2007 with the Patriots. Moss finished his career as the number 2 all time receiver in yards and touchdowns. Although Jason Williams was no slouch talent-wise, he and Moss don’t really belong in the same conversation when it comes to professional on field accomplishments. Moss retires as the most physically gifted wide receiver to ever put on cleats. Still Jason Williams managed to get the one thing that escaped Randy Moss, a championship ring.
 Jason Williams Slam Cover           
          It’s easy to forget Williams’ monumental arrival in the NBA. At the time, the NBA was looking for anything that could help them shoulder the loss of Michael Jordan. Jason’s game was electric, his flashy style of play gained him millions of fans almost overnight. Drafted seventh overall in 1998, Williams helped transform the revamped Sacramento Kings into the league’s most exciting team and an instant playoff contender. The NBA marketing machine loved Jason, and he gave them nightly highlight-reel material. His nickname, “White Chocolate,” became one of the league’s most widely known. His jerseys were among the NBA best sellers and he signed a big endorsement deal with Nike. Appearing in the Nike Freestyle Commercial, his personal signature commercial and his signature "Good old Boys" commercial (featuring him and Randy Moss). Jason's popularity grew by leaps and bounds. The behind-the-back and no-look passes were thrown with a flair seldom seen in the NBA. His play was one of the flashiest in league history, and the fans instantly recognized it. This led him to be compared once again to the legendary Pete Maravich. The elbow pass he threw rookie weekend was one of the most creative moves ever thought up on hardwood. Jason led the team with 299 assists in the shortened 1999 season, and the Kings finished with a decent 27-23 record. Sacramento's year ended in the playoffs with a 99-92 overtime loss, to Utah Jazz in the first round. Jason's rookie year saw him average 12.8 points and 6 assists per game. However his play was as much reckless as it was entertaining, often to dismay of his head coach Rick Adelman. 
             Williams spent another season with the Kings, winning 57 games in the 2000 season. The following season he was traded to Memphis, head coach Hubie Brown made a real impact on the philosophy of Jason’s game. His game blossomed, he made the basic plays and began to excel as a point guard. His finest individual year came with the Grizzlies during the 2001-2002 season, he averaged 14.8 points and 8 assists per game. Toward the twilight of his career he found his way to the Miami Heat. Where he paired with Gary Payton at point guard, to help Miami win the NBA Championship. He started all of Miami's playoff games in 2006 during their run to the championship. He would serve as the third leading scorer for Miami averaging 12.3 points a game, and only trailed Wade with 4.9 assists per contest. Williams spent the next two seasons in Miami before moving on to Orlando. In Orlando he played just a season and a half before retiring with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Retirement

             Randy 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.