Signed to the practice squad Sunday, new Bucs receiver Moss wore No. 84 in Monday’s practice. Dale Moss, that is.
If you immediately thought of Randy Moss, you probably aren’t alone in thinking you missed a huge roster move over the holiday weekend. Unless you are a draftnik, or a big fan of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, most people didn’t hear about Dale Moss until South Dakota State’s Pro Day on March 22.
In front of scouts from seven NFL teams, the 6-3, 213 pound Moss ran a 4.45 40-yard dash (it was reported that some scouts clocked Moss at 4.38 seconds), posted a 41.5-inch vertical jump, had a 10-10 broad jump, and ran the three-cone in 6.32 seconds. To compare with the prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine, Moss’ three-cone time would have been the fastest, his vertical would have been the second highest, and his broad jump would have been fifth overall had the receiver been invited to Indianapolis.
Moss did not get an invite to the Combine in February despite putting up respectable numbers as a senior last season with 61 receptions, 949 yards and six touchdowns. The reason was attributed to 2011 being the only year Moss played football collegiately.
That one season was impressive enough to get Moss on the roster in the 2012 East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field in January. Moss had draft sites buzzing after impressing national scouts throughout the week in practice.
A multi-sport athlete at Brandon Valley High School, SD Moss lettered in football, basketball, and track before committing to South Dakota State’s basketball program. As a guard, Moss only missed two games in four years as a member of the Jackrabbits basketball squad, starting every game in 2010-11. When the basketball season was over, Moss asked for and was granted, another year of eligibility to pursue football.
Moss went undrafted in April, but signed with Green Bay in May. The Packers have a deep receiving corps including an ageless Donald Driver who is still performing, and a need to keep other positions due to injuries and suspensions left Moss’ chances of making the 53-man roster slim.
The Packers released Moss on Friday when final NFL rosters were due and Sunday Moss was back in Tampa Bay, where his professional future began to take hold.
Along with his all-star appearance in St. Petersburg, Moss trained with Mike Gough of Athletic Edge in Lakewood Ranch in preparation for the draft.
The South Dakota native feels like Tampa Bay is his professional home.
“I’m really familiar with the area, I feel really good here.” Moss said. “I love Florida. But also, yeah – this is where it all started for me, basically when I started training in the (East-West) Shrine Game. You know, I thought it was kind of funny when things didn’t work out in Green Bay, where Tampa called and gave me an opportunity so I feel really good about it.”
Signing a four-year basketball player who converted his extra year of eligibility into a football season is not uncommon for the Buccaneers.
In 2009, the Bucs signed Demar Dotson after Dotson played only one season of football as a defensive lineman for Southern Mississippi. Dotson, a JuCo transfer from Southeastern Illinois College, played his first two years in Hattiesburg as the Golden Eagles’ forward/center on the basketball team. Dotson joined Southern Miss as a defensive lineman and then was briefly converted to tight end last season, before his now-offensive tackle position after arriving in Tampa Bay.
Unlike Dotson, however, Moss will not be converted into any other position. The transition to the NFL should be smoother for Moss than it was for Dotson, according to the Bucs’ offensive lineman.
“He plays a skill position, so it’s a little different from skill position than the trenches,” Dotson said, “so he might see it a little faster than I did because using his speed, he’s got good hands because he played basketball, he’s got good feet – he can run routes. So, you know, he’s at the right position – wide receiver. I had it a little different because I’m in the trenches; it’s a whole lot different than playing basketball.
“What are you doing? Running and catching. That’s what you do in basketball – run and catch. So he’s doing what he’s always been doing.”
Measurables aside, Moss looks like an NFL wide receiver, even with only one collegiate year under his belt. From the 30 minutes the media was allowed to watch practice on Monday, Moss ran fluidly, caught every pass thrown at him, and showed great balance on an out-route when the ball was thrown in front of him. Moss used his long arms (33 inches, one inch longer than Jackson’s) to haul the ball in while tip-toeing to keep both feet inbounds. Moss then quickly adjusted and took off down the sidelines.
A natural athlete, Moss is the nephew of Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska’s Heisman winning punt returner/wide receiver/running back in 1972.
Despite the athleticism, Moss said it took a lot of work to get him where he is today.
“It was a lot of work behind the scenes just because athletically and stuff, I was good, I felt like I was right there. But there’s so much more with technique and just being consistent and not giving away your routes, so it was a lot of work. By position it’s going to be different, whatever position you play. As a wide receiver you’re going against the best athletes on the other side of the ball too, so you really have to fine tune things and be really precise with things, so that was the biggest difference.”
The Buccaneers front office has been known to take chances on exceptional athletes and that is just what they did when they signed Moss to the practice squad. Now, the organization has to hope that a receiver-hungry team doesn’t swoop in and sign him to their active roster and the Bucs can capitalize on his upside and high ceiling.
The weekend was definitely eventful for Moss, who was driving back home from Green Bay to South Dakota when he received the call that Tampa Bay was interested. Midway through the eight-hour drive, Moss turned north and headed up to Minneapolis. The next day, Moss flew down and signed with the Bucs.
“I feel real comfortable with the area, obviously the system’s new, but it just feels good here – everything about it,” Moss said. “It was kind of a wild couple of days, but I’m happy to be down here for sure.”