By ASHLEY B. CRAIG
DAILY MAIL STAFF
Standing before a large group of young men and boys at the West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth in Harrison County, Randy Moss talked about his own experiences on the wrong side of the law and made his case for the juvenile offenders to turn their lives around.
The male inmates, ranging in age from 12 to 21, were seated in a large assembly room at the Salem facility Wednesday morning. They paid rapt attention as the 34-year-old Moss moved around the room telling them about his life and the "bumps in the road" he has met.
Moss, a Rand native and NFL wide receiver, has had more than just a few bumps in the road. He said he has worked hard to turn his life around and give back to his home state.
After speaking to 130 male inmates, he spoke to the facility's 12 female inmates before moving on to the eight inmates in the maximum-security ward.
"The decisions you made to put yourself here were a mistake," he told them. "It happens. I've been there."
He spoke candidly about the fight in the halls at DuPont High School in 1995 and about the time he spent in jail afterward. The fight cost him a football scholarship to the University of Notre Dame.
The high school All-American wide receiver Moss, then 18, and another student at the school got into a fight over a racial slur the student had supposedly written on a desk. He was arrested and later pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor battery.
He talked about how he got on at Florida State University, had a successful year as a red shirt freshman and then lost that opportunity after failing a drug test. He also talked about how he came back home to West Virginia to get his life back on track.
As part of his work release program after the drug offense, he took two classes at what is now West Virginia State University while spending his nights at South Central Regional Jail. He had those credits transferred to Marshall University, where he walked on the team hoping to make a name for himself. He had dreams of becoming a professional athlete and turned his life around to make it happen, he said.
"Everybody is entitled to a mistake or two or three," Moss said during an interview. "I don't want them to think my road was easy. I've had some bumps in the road.
"I've been there. I've been where they are. I've worn those orange jumpsuits."
Moss spent about 30 days in jail after the fight and roughly three months on work release before he walked on at Marshall. After a successful run with the Thundering Herd, he was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings where he spent several seasons breaking records as a wide receiver with an extensive reach.
He was traded to the Oakland Raiders and then to the New England Patriots, whom he played with until 2010. After a brief stint back in Minnesota, he ended the season with the Tennessee Titans. He will be a free agent in the upcoming season.