Randy Moss let the world know we could have seen a Peyton Manning to Randy Moss connection during their college years, but Manning was too late, literally. The six-time Pro Bowl wideout jumped on the Monday night return of ESPN’s alternate commentary show “Manning Cast,” with Peyton and Eli Manning. When Moss jumped on as one of the guests during the Buccaneers-Saints game, he let the world know that he could have been on the receiving end of a Peyton Manning pass, but the Hall of Fame QB dropped the ball during Moss’s official recruitment trip to Tennessee.
Manning was a star quarterback for the University of Tennessee Volunteers under head coach Phillip Fulmer instead of playing for the Ole Miss Rebels, where his father Archie played. It was a solid move as Manning became Tennessee’s all-time leading passer and won 39 of 45 games as a starter, racking up records in the Southeastern Conference for career wins. However, when Moss came one weekend to the school, the two were supposed to meet, but Manning wasn’t there.
.@RandyMoss says Peyton Manning messed up his recruitment to Tennessee 😂
"That was the reason I didn't become a Volunteer, Peyton was late." pic.twitter.com/BlohotL6P6
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 6, 2022
Peyton Manning Fumbles
“When I went to Tennessee, all I heard was, ‘Peyton Manning’s in Virginia at a family member’s house. He’s trying to drive back here just to recruit you,'” Moss said. “I was like, ‘Well, if he’s driving here just to recruit me, why isn’t he here right now to get me?’ It was kind of like, Peyton being late, he wasn’t punctual, so that was the reason I didn’t become a Volunteer. Peyton was late.”
Manning was allegedly driving back to Tennessee from Virginia, but for Moss, it was a deal breaker, who felt Manning should have already been there to sway him to committing.
Quickly his brother Eli jumped on Moss’s bandwagon parody, shaming Peyton for what could be considered the loss of a collegiate lifetime. Ironically, Moss and Peyton were finalists for the 1997 Heisman Trophy, with Manning finishing second and Moss coming in fourth.
The Moss Factor
In high school, Moss was a two-sport phenom in football and basketball at DuPont High School in Bell, West Virginia. He carried his football team to back-to-back state championships and earned West Virginia Player of the Year honors in football and basketball. Moss eventually went to play for the Florida State Seminoles, although his time in Tallahassee wasn’t long after he tested positive for cannabis, violating a prior probation arrangement.
Moss left Tallahassee and returned to his home state of West Virginia to play for the Marshall University Thundering Herd. At Marshall, Moss met expectations of becoming a star in the college ranks. In just two seasons at the school, he and future NFL quarterback Chad Pennington led the Thundering Herd to a 15-0 record and NCAA Division I-AA national title in 1996.
According to the Marshall Athletics website, Moss scored 29 touchdowns (28 receiving, one rushing), breaking the school scoring record reached 56 years earlier by College Football Hall of Famer Jackie Hunt. Moss caught 25 more TD passes the following season as he won the Biletnikoff and Warfield Awards as college football’s top receiver. He finished with 174 catches, 3,529 receiving yards, and 54 receiving touchdowns during his two seasons playing at the college level.
After Manning and Moss have had NFL Hall of Fame careers, the world will wonder, “what if” Manning had been on time and the two shared the green in college.