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Everybody's watching him. Randy Moss can feel the eyes of the
lunchtime crowd at the Bob Evans restaurant, the double takes
and furtive glances from the men in short sleeves and wide ties.
He's got his act down: gray hood over his head, butt slumped in
the booth, eyes as lifeless as buttons. Moss is a wide receiver
at Marshall University, in Huntington, W.Va., and he figures to
be rich before long. He jabs at his toast with a plastic straw.

"If I didn't have this hood on, and they saw us sitting here,
people would say an agent picked up Randy Moss and took him to
Bob Evans," he says. "That's why I got this hood on. Some people
are looking, and some are not. Some know I'm here and you're
here, they see a bill and they'll say, 'The agent paid for his
food.' Anything can happen."

He shrugs. Moss says he doesn't care about the world's judgments
anymore, and it's easy to believe he means it. Certainly no
player in college football bears more stains on his name. Two
and a half years ago, as a high school senior, Moss stomped a
kid in a fight, pleaded guilty to two counts of battery and was
sentenced to 30 days in jail and a year's probation. That cost
him a scholarship to Notre Dame. He enrolled at Florida State.
The following spring he broke probation by smoking marijuana,
was kicked out of Florida State and served two more months in
prison. Then last fall, as Moss was on his way to shattering
various NCAA and Marshall records with 28 touchdowns and 1,709
receiving yards as a freshman, he was charged with domestic
battery against the mother of his baby daughter.

Yet Moss is not much interested in image-mending. His first
words this morning were that he slept through his communications
class. His hair is braided in long rows against his skull, a
style he knows will give the wrong impression. "People perceive:
Only black thug guys have braids," he says, his voice carrying
to a dozen tables. "If I want to grow hair, I'll grow it. If I
want to wear lipstick and makeup, I'll do that. God didn't put
makeup on this world just for women. They perceive me as a thug?
I'm not. I'm a gentleman. I know what I am, my mom knows what I
am, most people know what I am. Don't judge me until you know me."

Notre Dame did just that, and Moss will never forgive the school
for it. "They didn't take me, because they see me as a thug," he
says. "Then Florida State...I don't know. You win some, you lose
some. That's a loss." Moss pauses, laughs a humorless laugh.
"But in the long run I'm going to have the victory. In the long

Moss is sure of this because he has sports' trump card: talent.
Better, Moss has the kind of breathtaking athletic gifts seen
once in a generation. At 6'5", with a 39-inch vertical leap and
4.25 speed in the 40, he established himself as West Virginia's
greatest high school athlete since Jerry West. Irish coach Lou
Holtz declared him one of the best high school football players
he'd ever seen. Moss was twice named West Virginia's Player of
the Year--in basketball. "He does things you've never seen
anyone else do," says Jim Fout, Moss's basketball coach at
DuPont High in the town of Belle. Moss also ran track for a
while. As a sophomore he was the state champ in the 100 and 200

Nearly every college wanted him, troubled or not. During Moss's
trial for the stomping incident, Kanawha County prosecutor Bill
Forbes received a half-dozen calls from football coaches around
the country assuring him they could make Moss a better citizen
if he was released to their care. Florida State coach Bobby
Bowden ultimately got Moss and quickly understood his
colleagues' hunger. Early in the fall of 1995, during an
impromptu late-night footrace among the Seminoles' fastest
players, Moss came in second. When he went through practice the
following spring as a redshirt freshman, the defense couldn't
stop him from scoring. "He was as good as Deion Sanders," Bowden
says. "Deion's my measuring stick for athletic ability, and this
kid was just a bigger Deion."

Marshall took Moss in last summer after his chances elsewhere
had dwindled to nothing, and he was instantly recognized as the
best player on the practice field. He then strolled through
Marshall's Southern Conference schedule like a grown man dropped
into Pop Warner games. His teammates called him the Freak. In
the Division I-AA title game, a 49-29 rout of Montana, Moss
caught four touchdown passes to tie the single-season college
record of 28 set by Jerry Rice in 1984 as a senior. Then, in
February, Moss entered the Southern Conference indoor track
championships after only three days of practice and won the 55
meters in 6.32 seconds and the 200 meters in 21.15--just .02 off
the conference record.

Before coming to Marshall last year, football coach Bobby Pruett
spent two years as defensive coordinator at Florida watching
dominant Gators wideouts such as Ike Hilliard and Reidel
Anthony, who went seventh and 16th, respectively, in the first
round of the 1997 NFL draft. Neither, Pruett says, has Moss's
weaponry. "He's the best athlete I've ever been around," Pruett
says. Last year against Western Carolina, Marshall running back
Llow Turner took a handoff on a sweep with Moss five yards
behind him. "Next thing I know," Pruett says, "Randy's five
yards in front, and in a matter of 15 yards he threw two blocks
and sprung Llow for a touchdown. Llow runs a 4.5, and Randy
caught him.

"Here's a guy who's 6'5". That's hard to find. Can jump out of
the gym. Hard to find. Great body control. Hard to find. He's
got great hands, and he can run faster than anybody else on the
field!" By now Pruett has his hands up around his face, mouth
wide open, looking like one of those horror-struck victims in a
Dracula flick.

Already, Moss is being touted as a top-five pick in next year's
draft, and few believe he won't go pro after this season. "If I
have half as good a season as I had last year, then why not
leave?" Moss says. "I have nothing else to prove." If he does go
pro, says Atlanta Falcons scout Boyd Dowler, "there's no doubt
where he'd be placed: very, very high. Joey Galloway, J.J.
Stokes, Keyshawn Johnson--I don't recall anybody who's had his
combination of exceptional athletic ability in all these areas.
Keyshawn is bigger than Randy, but he's not as talented, not as
fast and not as quick."

That kind of praise doesn't impress Moss anymore. "The way I
look at it," he says, "God's got a magic wand, and he taps just
a few on the head." That he can say this, straight-faced, isn't
nearly as disconcerting as the fact that he says it here, in a
place about as far from the universe of blue-chip cockiness as
you can get. Huntington, wedged between Kentucky and Ohio along
the Ohio River, has none of the bucolic self-importance of South
Bend or Tallahassee; its aging downtown wages a daily battle
between development and decay. The Marshall football program
had, until recently, a tradition marked mostly by losing,
disgrace and catastrophe. In 1970, one year after the school was
kicked out of the Mid-American Conference as punishment for more
than 100 NCAA violations, a chartered plane carrying 75 players,
coaches, fans, university employees and crew crashed, killing
all on board. It remains the worst disaster in U.S. sports

Much has changed since then. Coming off its second Division I-AA
national championship, Marshall will this year complete a
remarkable resurrection with a trio of milestones. The
Thundering Herd, long overshadowed by upstate rival West
Virginia, will enter the Mountaineers' class on Aug. 30 by
joining Division I-A, rejoining the MAC and opening the season
with its first game against West Virginia since 1923. Yet
nothing legitimizes the Marshall program more than Moss, whose
outspoken opinions make the Thundering Herd impossible to
ignore. "I don't see any way they can win," Moss says of the
Mountaineers, whose scholarship offers he twice turned down. "If
West Virginia were like Florida State, the type of team that can
get to the big game and win it, I would be there. But I don't
like losing."

Indeed, everything about Moss--ambition, talent, trouble and
talk--leaves the impression that he is bigger than Marshall,
that he is the kind of show-time player churned out yearly by
Miami or Nebraska, capable of dazzling the nation on Saturday
and causing his coach headaches during the week. "Be blunt: I'm
the...I don't want to say big star, but let's say main
standout," Moss says. He is, in fact, the school's first Heisman
Trophy candidate, but he says the award doesn't matter to him.

No, Marshall has never seen anyone like Moss, and the result is
an odd lack of connection between player and school. Marshall
has long been an insular, homey place, relying on its own people
in the worst of times, and the university takes great pride in
the fact that so many of its coaches, announcers and
administrators are Marshall grads come home. Yet here is the
school's greatest player ever colliding with the greatest moment
in Marshall sports history, and he feels as if he's besieged. "I
don't trust anybody," Moss says. "If I've got a girlfriend, I
don't trust her. My mom, my daughter, I trust them, but anybody
else? I don't even trust my roommate."

Coaches, teammates and fans approach Moss and tell him to be
careful. He doesn't want to hear it. "If I needed someone to
give me advice, then I'd have a second brain to tell me what to
do," he says. "I already know: You're not going to get past the
judicial system, so many strikes and you're out. I wish my first
two hadn't occurred. Nobody told me to kick the guy while he was
down, or go out and smoke some herb. I did that on my own. If I
did that, I can make my own decisions."

So Moss is a star, alone and wrestling with his mistakes, and
the shame of it is all in the timing. For although every college
football fan will tell you that his school's program is special,
that "it's about more than just football here," Marshall may
well be the only place where this is true. No program in America
has been beaten down so far and risen again, and this season
promises to be the cathartic first step into a new era. Moss is
20 and has no idea what kind of horse he's riding.

"The plane crash was before my time," he says. "I don't try to
go back in the past and say this football game is for the people
in the plane crash. I've seen the burial ground. I went up there
and looked at the names. It was a tragedy, but it really wasn't
nothing big."

Up on the hill overlooking Huntington, a flame of stone burns in
a downpour. The flame does not flicker, it gives no heat. It
sits atop the monument with the 75 names like a lightless
beacon, sending a beam no one sees. But everyone can feel
it--everyone in town of a certain age, everyone connected to the
university, and almost everyone who has anything to do with the
modern stadium down the hill.

The stadium is empty today, silenced by July's lazy hand, but in
one of its rooms a man sits by a window overlooking the football
field. He stares out at the rain and sees faces: Frank Loria.
Deke Brackett. Ted Shoebridge. Players, coaches. The doctor who
introduced him to the woman who would be his wife. "It's every
day," Red Dawson says. "Every day something comes up, and you
have a flashback."

It has been 27 years. On Nov. 14, 1970, a plane carrying 37
members of the football team, five coaches, 21 boosters, seven
university employees and a crew of five back from Marshall's
17-14 loss to East Carolina crashed on approach to Tri-State
Airport near Huntington. The plane tore a 95-foot gash in the
hillside, disintegrated, left a wake of fire. Dawson, a
27-year-old defensive coordinator at the time, had driven to
East Carolina so he could make some recruiting stops en route.
He heard the news of the crash on his car radio during the drive
home. When he arrived in Huntington in the middle of the night,
searchers were gathering the scattered bodies. For a time Dawson
was put in charge of the football program. He saw the dead. He
met with their families. "It was devastating," he says.

A year later Dawson left coaching forever. He still lives in
Huntington, where he runs a construction firm. But he has been
to only a few Thundering Herd games since the crash, and he was
plagued by a low-level horror on each occasion. Now and then he
goes to the stadium parking lot to tailgate. Once, thinking
himself "insulated," as he puts it, by a few beers, he let
someone talk him into walking into the stadium. He lasted only a
few minutes. "Ask people who've survived any catastrophe: They
have guilt feelings," Dawson says. "I did. That's what my
problem was, and is."

Dawson isn't alone.The Tri-State crash wasn't the typical air
disaster, unknown victims dying on unfamiliar ground. Thundering
Herd football had been the emotional core of this corner of West
Virginia for decades, drawing players from families who had been
in the state for generations. The program's boosters were the
town's elite. The crash, says retired Marshall professor of
geography Sam Clagg, was the region's "great immense event,"
savaging the 60,000 residents in a way few outsiders understand.

When a new athletic director was appointed in 1971, he tried to
get the school to move on. "He said, 'Forget all this...put it
behind you.' Just like that," Dawson says, eyes widening,
moistening. "The son of a bitch is dead. I wish he hadn't died.
I'd still like to cuss him."

Ten days after the crash the official grieving period ended, but
"you could say it never stopped," Clagg says. "A lot of people
are still carrying that cross." So much so that the crash has
even come to define the seasons in Huntington. Every year on
Nov. 14 a ceremony is held on campus in front of a fountain
built in memory of the dead. The surrounding plaza fills with
students, teachers, survivors. The captains of the football team
lay a wreath. A prayer is said. A bugler plays taps. Just as the
last lonely notes cut through the midday air, the water pouring
out of the fountain slows, then stops, leaving everyone standing
in a well of silence. Winter begins. The water does not flow
again until the first day of spring.

"I'd have people coming in and saying, 'I'm a orphan from the
plane wreck,' and afterward I'd have to sit back for four or
five minutes and catch my breath," athletic director Lance West
says of his first days at Marshall, in 1995. "There's always a
real sense of that plane. We're not trying to bring it up. It is
this community."

In such a place someone like Randy Moss is almost mystifying.
Dawson knew two people on the plane who, he believes, were on
their way to greatness. Loria, the defensive coordinator, would
have been a superb head coach, Dawson says, and a running back
named Joe Hood would have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Dawson would like to talk to Moss. "It's hard for me to
understand how somebody with his talent is on the verge of
throwing it all away," Dawson says.

Still, Dawson is a football guy, and he loves the way Moss
plays. Meanwhile, time has eased Dawson's discomfort enough for
him to use the word we again when he talks about Marshall. He
has even made plans to go to Morgantown for the West Virginia
showdown. He can't believe how far the program has come.

As Dawson talks about the '60s, when Marshall lost so often that
it was a national joke, a door bangs open at the opposite end of
the room, and a coach enters with a cameraman and a
sportscaster. Dawson stops. The men continue talking among
themselves, and Dawson nods and says, "Yeah. That guy right
there." It is confusing. What guy? Dawson's voice drops into his
chest and he mumbles, "Keith Morehouse." Still it doesn't sink
in. Outsiders can be so dense. Morehouse, the team's
play-by-play announcer, host of the coach's TV show and sports
anchor on the top station in town, has for years been the voice
and face of Marshall football. Dawson repeats the name, softly.

"His dad was on the plane," he says.

The place is nearly empty, a cavern of weight machines and
pulleys and heavy bars in which just two men cruise, station to
station. "What you doing, dawg?" Moss asks his roommate, wide
receiver Jerrald Long. Long gestures, and Moss yelps, "Jerks!"
He grabs a bar and starts flinging it over his head. "Ahh! Ahh!"
he groans loudly. His right biceps is tattooed with a scripted
R; his left reads moss. He's not wearing a hood today, but who
knows? Trouble can follow a Marshall player anywhere. Just this
morning, July 22, the Huntington Herald-Dispatch has one story
on a Thundering Herd fullback shot in the leg outside a
nightclub downtown and another story on a former Marshall
basketball player being sentenced to 10 years for drug
trafficking. Moss isn't taking any chances.

"If I go out, people are going to say, 'Hey, he's drinking,'"
Moss says as he thrusts the weights up and down. "It's just
about being undercover, man, staying home. There's a lot of
jealousy, man, and jealousy is downfall. If I go out, the
jealousy would probably get worse. Jealousy, player
haters--you've got 'em all in Huntington."

Of course, jealousy explains nothing about Moss's litany of
troubles with the law, and he knows it. Once, on his way to
Notre Dame, the school he grew up worshiping, he dreamed of
being "as big as Michael Jordan." But then he began to slide. On
March 23, 1995, he backed a friend in a fight at DuPont High.
According to the Kanawha County sheriff's report, Moss's friend,
Rayeshawn Smith, had been enraged to see his name and the
sentence ALL NIGGERS MUST DIE scrawled on a desk. Suspecting a
white student named Ernest Roy Johnson, Smith enlisted Moss's
help and accosted Johnson in a hallway. According to witnesses,
Smith punched Johnson repeatedly until he dropped to the floor.
Then Moss stepped in and kicked Johnson from one to four times.
Johnson was hospitalized with a lacerated spleen, a concussion,
blood around his kidneys and fluid around his liver.

Moss apologized for his actions at the school's football banquet
two months later. Notre Dame, which had accepted his letter of
intent, declined his enrollment application, saying he had
failed to fill out the form properly. While Moss pleaded guilty
to two counts of battery, a misdemeanor, county prosecutor
Forbes says the initial charge was malicious wounding, a felony.
"It was not lightweight at all," Forbes says. "It was severe and
horrifying. The fact that the [victim] didn't want to go through
with prosecuting because he did not want to be retaliated
against for the rest of his high school life resulted in its
being a misdemeanor." Still, Moss was allowed to serve three of
his 30 days in jail and then defer the remaining 27 days until
after his freshman year in college.

Moss doesn't shirk responsibility for the crime, but says the
school's tense racial atmosphere helped push him to it. "I was
out of my mind, man, just started kicking him," Moss says.
"There's only so much you can take. All through my years,
sophomore, junior, senior year, I was in fights. I won't go out
and look for it, but I won't back down. It's all about respect,
and I feel nobody at that school had any respect for the black
experience." Indeed, Fout, the DuPont basketball coach, says the
incident helped ease tension in black-white relations at the
school by forcing it to the surface. "We've had some racial
problems at our school, and if you have any, it's too much,"
Fout says. "We've done some good in that area."

For his next bout of trouble, Moss has no one to blame but
himself. "I'm the dummy," he says. Holtz had recommended Moss to
Bowden, and Moss was accepted at Florida State on the condition
that he redshirt his freshman year. He practiced so well that
few doubted Moss would start the next season. But in April 1996,
on the day he was to begin finishing his prison sentence, Moss
smoked a joint. He was given a drug test during his first week
in jail, and it came up positive. He was tossed into solitary
confinement for a week, and 60 days were added to his sentence.
Bowden revoked his scholarship. "That hurt inside," Moss says,
"but the only thing I couldn't do was cry, because I did it."

Six months later he slipped again. On Nov. 17, the day after he
broke two Division I-AA receiving records in Marshall's game
against Furman, Moss became embroiled in a violent argument with
his former girlfriend Libby Offutt. The couple had only recently
broken up. It was mid-afternoon, and Moss was returning their
two-year-old daughter, Sydney, to Offutt at her parents' house
in St. Albans, W.Va. Moss pulled up in his new girlfriend's car,
and he and Offutt began to fight. By the time they were through,
according to the police report, Offutt had abrasions around her
neck and minor cuts and bruises on her arm. She said Moss had
repeatedly shoved her and forced her to sit down. She also told
police that Moss "threw steaming hot water" on her, according to
the report. Moss's gold necklace was found to be broken. He and
Offutt were each arrested on misdemeanor charges of domestic
battery. Their trials have not yet been scheduled.

"She just ticked me off, and it got out of hand," Moss says.
"The only thing I regret was I put my hands on her. I don't put
my hands on a woman. But I had to apply some pressure to get her
off of me. I still love her. I didn't want nothing like that to
happen. But that's life, I guess." More to the point, that's
Moss's life, which reads like a case study of a child at risk:
too little attention paid early, and then too much. Growing up
in Rand, 50 miles from Huntington, Moss had little contact with
his father, Randy Pratt. "We're not going to talk about that,"
says his mother, Maxine Moss, who raised Randy, his sister,
Latisia, and brother, Eric, while working as a nurse's aide.
"I'm everything. A lot of people see Randy as an outstanding
athlete, but when I see him, I see a young woman who's poured
her life into him so he could have a life."

By all accounts Maxine imbued her son with a strong sense of
right and wrong. But once Randy began dominating in sports, her
control began to slip. "I couldn't shield him enough," she says.
"You couldn't turn on the TV or open the newspaper without
seeing him there. We're talking about a high school sophomore
getting interviewed, and I never thought that was needed. But
the more I didn't want it, the more it would come."

Fout, who has known Moss since coaching him in Little League,
says Moss has always been influenced by the crowd around him,
for good and bad. He doesn't discount Moss's wild streak, but
also recalls Moss's volunteering to help a special education
class for kids with "severe mental problems. And Randy would
spend time with them, play computer games with them. I've seen
the kids put their arms around him and hold him and tell him
they loved him. He's made mistakes, and you can say he's not a
very good guy. But there's also an awful lot of good there."

While no one excuses Moss's conduct, the mitigating
circumstances of his two arrests for fighting have made them
easier for some people in Huntington to forgive. Who, the
thinking goes, can judge from afar the racial attitudes of
adolescents or the contentious breakup of a couple? Even Frank
Offutt, Libby's father, considers her dustup with Moss
overblown. "He didn't smack her or hit her with his fist,"
Offutt says. "He pushed her. He's 20 years old. When I was 20
years old, I made mistakes."

Offutt believes people have too simplistic an impression of
Moss. "To me he's kind of an enigma," Offutt says. "I've seen
sides of him that are really great. When his high school won the
state championship, everybody else was running around with each
other, and he went and got a small child out of the stands. That
really impressed me. I've seen him effervescent, open, big
smile--he's like Michael Jordan. Then another side comes out
that's less than friendly."

Offutt says that when his daughter first told him, during high
school, that she was going to begin seeing black guys, he was
opposed. "I did not believe blacks and whites should date," he
says. "The first one to come was Randy." But he liked Moss. "I
still like him," Offutt says. "But I have concerns about him,
about how quickly he's learning. I think some of it is, 'I'm a
superstar, I can do whatever I want.' I pray every day that he
doesn't blow it."

Moss swears he has learned more than enough, and when he says
he'll stay away from Sydney for the next few months to avoid
trouble with Libby and then sighs and says, "I've experienced
things that a 90-year-old man hasn't experienced," he seems
aged, tired. He is that increasingly common and disturbing
phenomenon: a young man lacking youth, a college football star
stripped of ideals. He pays little lip service to education,
totes no hokey ideals about winning one for his school. He is
sure that big-time sports is a using game.

Yes, that was embarrassing, seeing himself on TV in the summer
of '96, clad in a jailbird orange jumpsuit, needing a haircut
and a shave, his wrists and ankles chained together for his
arraignment on the marijuana charge. But Moss took it, marked it
down as his price to pay for being a star. And he took his week
of solitary confinement, 23 1/2 hours a day spent staring at
stone, waking to the screams of other prisoners, standing numbly
while guards ransacked his cell in search of drugs or weapons.
Even the prison field trip by a school group didn't bother him,
kids whispering his name as they passed by. He marked it down:
his price.

"One more screwup, and I've got nothing else to look for in
life," Moss says. "So if staying at home, watching TV and
playing at my Playstation are going to keep me out of trouble,
even if I'm bored, I can do it for a couple months. It's all
about that money, man. That money is clanging. If you get the
opportunity, you got to go get it."

The crash blasted the heart out of the Marshall football
program. Everything--uniforms, players, coaches, the athletic
director--was gone. There were calls for the program simply to
shut down. At times it seemed that it had. For the next 13 years
the team limped through autumn winning no more than four games a
season. The only thing that resonated deeply was that plane,
dropped like a stone in a pond, sending concentric ripples that
flowed over families and friends year after year.

"It's weird," says Keith Morehouse, whose father, Gene,
Marshall's play-by-play announcer, died in the crash. "When I
had the opportunity to become the TV voice of the Herd, after
Dad was the radio voice for years, it struck a chord in my
family and me. Maybe there was a calling deep inside saying,
'Finish the job.'"

Beginning in the early '80s a succession of high-profile
coaches--Sonny Randle, Stan Parrish, George Chaump, Jim
Donnan--jump-started the Marshall program, and the school's
appearance in the Division I-AA title game in 1987 (the
Thundering Herd lost to Northeast Louisiana 43-42) made the new
30,000-seat stadium a necessity. The facility opened in 1991. By
then Morehouse had married Debbie Hagley, who lost her father
and mother in the crash. At the new field Marshall has lost only
four games. After the Herd won its first national championship
in 1992, beating Youngstown State 31-28 in the title game,
Morehouse walked into his house, and he and his wife hugged
tightly. "You don't talk about it, you don't dwell on it,"
Morehouse says, "but those people who had connections to the
crash--they're the ones this is all about. They're the ones who
have gotten the most out of the school's success."

Marshall's 15-0 rampage through Division I-AA last year served
as a crowning touch and made this year's upgrade to I-A
inarguable. "It's time for us to move," says Pruett, and the
sweet fact that the Herd moves back into the MAC, which booted
it 28 years ago, is lost on no one.

Strange. Moss should be the hood ornament on this comeback
machine, the beloved local boy making national noise. And make
no mistake: To kids in Huntington, Moss is huge. But among the
establishment, those of the orphan generation, few bother
applying a protective gloss to Moss. No one professes concern
about his turning pro. "People are very wary, wondering if he'll
stay on the straight and narrow," Morehouse says.

Moss can feel it. He has taken private polls, asked unsuspecting
cab drivers what they thought of this Randy Moss, and as often
as not they have trashed him. This too has happened often, Moss
says: Someone has walked up to him and said, "I just don't like

Moss is not bigger than Marshall. On the contrary. The essence
of the place overwhelms his talent, his trouble, his past and
future; it makes even the Heisman Trophy seem minor. There was a
disaster here, and on the hill overlooking the town, the stone
flame burns. It is April, but the newspaper from last Dec. 22 is
still there, stuffed under the plastic ring of green-and-white
ivy at the base of the memorial. THE PERFECT ENDING, it reads.
SEASON. The pages are beginning to crumble under the assault of
snow and time and everything that comes out of the sky.

Randy Moss has learned this much: The past does not stop. Year
after year, it comes back to haunt, demand explanations,
complicate things. It can shackle a man as much as it can a
place, never allowing either to completely move on. Moss never
figured that as part of his price.

His daughter is three years old. He once hoped that Sydney,
being so young, would not be aware of his transgressions. But
she is. She recognizes his name when she hears it on TV. She
asks him to explain. "When she heard, 'Randy Moss is back in
jail tonight,' she knew," Moss says. It is something for which
he is truly sorry. There is nothing he can do about it.

"Whenever we go past the courthouse where I was, she says,
'That's where my daddy was in jail,'" Moss says. "She knows I
was in shackles and cuffs--and her mom was crying--and she
couldn't touch me or hug me. She knows."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY HEINZ KLUETMEIER [Randy Moss wearing hooded sweatshirt]


COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER A MEMENTO OF MARSHALL'S PERFECT '96 SEASON (RIGHT) LIES AGAINST THE MEMORIAL TO VICTIMS OF THE CRASH [Newspaper with headline announcing Marshall University's win of national championship]

B/W PHOTO: UPI/CORBIS BETTMANN [See caption above--wreckage from airplane crash]



Moss has sports' trump card: talent. Better, he has the kind of
breathtaking athletic gifts seen once in a generation. His
teammates call him the freak

This season promises to be the cathartic first step into a new
era at marshall. Moss is 20, and he has no idea what kind of
horse he's riding