Randy Moss: The story behind the story

November 21, 2012, 3:45 pm
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"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.