Randy Moss: The story behind the story


Randy Moss: The story behind the story

"I think that in order to get to know me I guess you've got to come back to my hometown to where I'm from to really understand what really drives and pushes me to be able to be the best."
--Randy Moss, Sept. 20

Future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss has not spoken to the media often since he signed with the 49ers in the offseason. On this day, he was asked about the place he identified as his alma mater on "Sunday Night Football."

"Rand University."

The 49ers were getting ready to embark on a two-game road trip with a five-day stop in Youngstown, Ohio, to prepare between games at Minnesota and the New York Jets.

It was a 250-mile drive from where we were staying just outside of Youngstown to the Rand, W.V. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to take Moss up on his challenge to see his hometown and understand what drives and pushes him.

A three-part series "Hometown: Randy Moss" aired last week on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Moss makes no secret of his dislike of the media. That was something he expressed to me in a memorable give-and-take one of the first times I approached him in the 49ers locker room.

But, this time, he actually seemed excited at what I was telling him. CSN photographer J.C. Garcia and I planned to drive to Moss' hometown on a day off during our stay in Ohio.

"You're going to Rand?" Moss asked, excitedly.

Moss provided a list of things to do and people to see while in Rand.

Before he excused himself from the conversation, Moss offered one last piece of advice: "Oh, yeah, and make sure you're out of town before it gets dark."

I could not tell if he was joking, but it sounded like a reasonable suggestion. Perhaps, he does not dislike the media so much, after all.

The people we met during our day in Rand could not have been more hospitable. Tommy Canterbury, the principal of DuPont Middle School, walked us around campus and introduced us to three of the young football players Moss coached during the summer of 2011.

Donnie "Blue" Jones is Moss' "right-hand man." He showed us around the compact town. And he told the story behind "Rand University" -- the 7-Eleven, the only convenience store in town. Actually, it's the only business of any kind on this town with no stoplights.

It was a memorable day, and the most fun I've had telling a story. Yes, we were even offered two different kinds of moonshine, including "the good stuff" -- from West Virginia, of course. But with a 250-mile drive back to Ohio ahead of us, we had to politely turn down even a swig.

One thing that was obvious during our trip and the subsequent sit-down interview with Moss is the pride he has in his hometown and his home state. When I waited for Moss off the practice field one day for a pre-arranged interview, he said he would be back out of the locker room in five minutes.

When he came out for the interview, he was wearing a West Virginia State Police hat. I did not find out until later that the state of West Virginia had been recently jolted by the shooting deaths of two state troopers during a routine traffic stop.

On that day in Rand, one of Moss' friends laughed when I told him that Moss seemed genuinely excited that we were coming to Rand for a visit.

"He just wanted you to come all this way and see that there's nothing here," he said.

We found just the opposite. There was far more to this simple town than we ever expected to find.

First round complete: Re-ranking 49ers' top 2017 draft needs

First round complete: Re-ranking 49ers' top 2017 draft needs

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers begin Day 2 of the NFL Draft without a second-round draft pick.

The team’s second-round selection turned into a first-rounder late Thursday evening.

General manager John Lynch packaged the 49ers’ second-round pick at No. 34 and a fourth-round pick acquired earlier in the day to move up to No. 31 for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

The 49ers are scheduled to have back-to-back picks early in the third round at Nos. 66 and 67 on Friday.

Here’s a look at the 49ers remaining top needs:

Defensive back
During the 49ers’ voluntary minicamp, Jimmie Ward was at free safety with Eric Reid at strong safety. Jaquiski Tartt is next in line.

The 49ers parted ways with a projected starting conerback Tramaine Brock after his arrest for an alleged domestic incident. The 49ers’ first-team cornerbacks are currently Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. Will Redmond and K’Waun Williams worked in at nickel back.

Ward’s versatility makes it possible the 49ers could go with either a cornerback or safety. There is some young talent already on the roster at cornerback, but most of it is completely unproven at this level. All things being equal, it would seem the 49ers’ next pick would be a defensive back.

Write it in ink: Brian Hoyer will be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2017.

The 49ers have two quarterbacks under contract – Hoyer and Matt Barkley – and they are certain to add a quarterback at some point. But regardless of whom they add at this point, Hoyer will be the starter. The top quarterbacks still available are Davis Webb (Cal) and DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame).

Two players to watch are Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh) and Brad Kaaya (Miami), who come from pro-style offenses. Both could still be available when the 49ers go on the clock in the third round.

Running back
Oft-injured Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his contract, and he has something to prove to the new coaching staff. Veteran Tim Hightower is the only other proven NFL back on the roster.

There will be plenty of solid options at running back in the final two days of the draft.

Coach Kyle Shanahan has a knack for identifying unique traits in running backs and scheming his offense to put those players in advantageous spots to make plays on third downs.

Supply is greater than demand at running back in the draft, so Shanahan is certain to identify someone capable of making an impact in a specific role.

Wide receiver
The 49ers parted ways with Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton, while adding Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson. Big-bodied receiver Eric Rogers, who dominated in the CFL, is still rehabbing from a torn ACL sustained last summer.

The 49ers have room on their roster to develop a young receiver who can learn the ins and outs of the professional game from Garçon. It’s part of the reason the 49ers made him their most-lucrative free-agent acquisition.

Edge rusher
Sure, the 49ers already selected a defensive lineman. And while the 49ers believe Solomon Thomas can play the pass-rusher spot in the team’s new defense, his best attribute is his versatility.

Teams can never have too many pure pass-rushers, and the 49ers still have a shortage in that area. They can still use an edge rusher to compete with and push Arik Armstead, Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks to fight in order to hold onto their jobs.

The 49ers signed veteran Robbie Gould in the offseason and awarded him a $500,000 signing bonus. Gould, 35, was targeted to replace ultra-reliable Phil Dawson. Gould signed with the Giants in October of last year. He made all 10 field-goal attempts but missed three of his 23 extra-point tries.

It’s not a huge priority, of course, but it remains possible the 49ers add a kicker on Day 3. They could draft someone, such as Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, or bring Stanford’s Conrad Ukropina to camp to compete as an undrafted rookie.

1. First round, No. 2: DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford
2. First round, No. 31: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama

3. Third round: No. 66 overall
4. Third round: No. 67 overall (from Chicago for No. 2 pick)
5. Fourth round: No. 109 overall
6. Fourth round: No. 143 overall (compensatory)
7. Fifth round: No. 146 overall
8. Fifth round: No. 161 (from Washington in 2015 trade for TE Derek Carrier)
9. Sixth round: No. 198 overall (from Baltimore in trade with C Jeremy Zuttah for No. 186)
10. Sixth round: No. 202 overall (pick acquired from Denver in 2015 trade for TE Vernon Davis)
11. Seventh round: No. 219 overall (pick acquired from Cleveland in 2015 trade for Andy Lee)

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected defensive linemen with their top picks in the final two drafts under general manager Trent Baalke.

The 49ers fired Baalke at the conclusion of the team’s 2-14 season, and new general manager John Lynch stepped into a tear-down project.

That complete rebuild began Thursday evening with Lynch’s selection of another defensive lineman. The 49ers traded back one spot and selected Solomon Thomas of Stanford with the No. 3 overall pick.

“We see a special football player, disruptive football player, who has tremendous versatility,” Lynch said. “I think he fits in with the current group that we have because he’s a little different than the guys we have. And when I think of Solomon, I think of speed and quickness and disruption.”

The 49ers expect to play more of an aggressive, attacking style of defense under first-year coordinator Robert Saleh. Perhaps, the team’s biggest need is at the “Leo” position, the weak side end that is considered more of a pass-rusher.

Thomas appears better-suited at the other end or at a defensive tackle position, but the 49ers are keeping an open mind about using him at nearly every spot along the defensive line in the team’s new 4-3 scheme.

“There are four defensive linemen and what’s intriguing about Solomon is he has the ability to play all four of them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s what makes him so unique. That’s why I think John says he’s a little bit different than some of the guys we have, because you can move him around. He has the quickness and speed to play on the outside. He has enough sides to play on the inside, so you don’t want to put him in one spot.

“We don’t think he has to be one specific role. Obviously, he is a defensive lineman, but there’s four spots he can play at and I think that’s going to depend on down and distance, whether we’re expecting run, whether we’re expecting pass and the type of personnel we’re going against.”