LINCOLN – The hope was to blend in as the new kid in a new high school.
But that wasn’t a luxury afforded to Thaddeus Moss, and it didn’t take this precocious young football player long to realize that he wasn’t in Kentucky or West Virginia any more.
Moss arrived at Lincoln High School in March, and the school’s lights seemingly became more luminous the moment he was spotted in the hallways. He was commanding nonstop attention, though in an entirely different fashion as what he was accustomed to on the gridiron.
The son of Randy Moss, one of the most electrifying and talented wide receivers in NFL history, actually goes to our high school? It was a sight that many Lincoln students had to see for themselves, for it’s not every day that fame brushes the Old River Road campus.
“I knew what to expect to a point. I didn’t expect on my first day to see people following me from behind and standing outside my classroom, just peeping in to get a look at me,” recalled Thaddeus Moss earlier this week while sitting on an aluminum bench at Ferguson Field. “It was uncomfortable. I had never had that (degree of attention) before. There were a lot of eyes and people who were talking.
“People in Kentucky and West Virginia, they saw me growing up and knew what to expect,” Moss continued, while watching his Lincoln teammates prepare to face Thanksgiving Eve foe Central Falls (the game will now take place Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Perez Field).
Moss set out to fly under the radar and convey a strong sense of normal to the various stargazers and other interested observers. So what if his famous father was part of pass-catching history with the New England Patriots? Thaddeus is his own person, not someone who’s going to ride coattails and coast through life.
“If I don’t know anybody, I’m just going to head to class and get my work done. I’m not going to talk to many people,” relayed Moss, a high-school sophomore whose natural talents has translated into him doing a little bit of everything for head coach Dave Waycott’s Lions this fall. “Eventually everyone got used to it.”
Few athletes have scaled the heights that Randy Moss did during a 14-year pro career that saw him strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses every time he took the field.
“Just hearing the name on TV and seeing him scoring against double and triple teams; that was the same person who walked in the house,” said Thaddeus with a slight southern drawl. “That’s my dad out there.”
Thaddeus Moss never ventured to Gillette Stadium when his dad played in New England. But he has memories of seeing his dad in person, striding down the field and into end zones, while Randy caught passes in Minnesota and Oakland.
“In the stadium, it was cool to see the atmosphere and the buzz he created,” Thaddeus said.
The question that has been boiling like water on a stove since the word got out that Thaddeus Moss was in town, was “why,” as in “why did he end up at Lincoln High School?”
“It was just family stuff,” he answered, wishing to leave it at that. “I came here with an open mind about everything.”
When he arrived in town last spring to move in with his father, he knew nothing about the town other than the fact that it’s the place his dad called home during his stint with the Patriots from 2007-10.
Moss came to Rhode Island via West Virginia after spending the beginning of the 2012-13 school term in Kentucky, which is where he mainly grew up.
“I was in Kentucky for one-third of the school year, then West Virginia for one-third before coming here,” he stated.
“I don’t like moving … it’s not an easy thing to say goodbye to family, which is mostly in West Virginia,” Moss said. “It was a hard thing.”
A police officer in Lincoln, Waycott vividly remembers that March day when a car pulled up in front of Lincoln High – one driven by Randy – and out popped a possible godsend to his football program.
“I was in the parking lot and asked if he was enrolling and if he was a football player,” Waycott shared.
In response to the latter inquiry, Moss told his future high school coach, “We’ll see.”
Looking back, Waycott said he understands the noncommittal response.
“It was his first day, and obviously he doesn’t want to hear that as he’s walking into a new school,” said the Lincoln mentor.
But at the same time, he may have done Moss a favor by giving him fair warning of how much attention was about to bombard him.
Waycott said that close to 100 students were interested in coming out for the 2013 season when the buzz around Thaddeus Moss peaked. Right before the season, Thaddeus reached out to Waycott, asking if there was room on the team.
Waycott’s response was outright elation. Moss was listed as a tight end/defensive end on the Lincoln roster that was submitted to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League prior to the season opener. Thaddeus was also listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, though according to the Lion gridder himself, he’s about “6-2, 6-3.”
The athleticism he possesses was apparent the moment Thaddeus strapped on a helmet. He produced several highlight-worthy moments on both sides of the ball during Lincoln’s Division III opener against Moses Brown on Sept. 21. He hasn’t slowed down since – in the Lions’ league finale against Tiverton on Nov. 16, Moss caught four passes for 111 yards, 49 coming on a touchdown grab.
Understanding that his talent was going to demand constant attention, particularly on offense, Waycott countered by having Thaddeus Moss line up isolated to the left of the quarterback – the go-to “X” option – while stacking three Lincoln wideouts on the right side. On some occasions, Waycott elected to put Moss under center and have him direct the offense, something that took place in the Nov. 1 game against Burrillville.
“Talking to him and explaining one of the routes, he replied, ‘Oh, a whip route.’ Everything has been very easy,” Waycott said. “You could tell he grew up in a football family and has a football background. He not only understands the terminology, but what we’re trying to do.”
On the Swiss Army knife approach that has come to define his role with the Lions, Moss replied, “I just kind of go with the flow. I’m trying to put the team in the best position to win.”
Thaddeus has a different build from his dad. He is strapping and broad while Randy is tall, long and lanky. But watch him take off from the line of scrimmage and you can’t help but think, “where have I seen this before?”
“I never was double teamed before I came up here. It’s definitely frustrating not being able to get open as easy, but if they have multiple people on me, that leaves someone else open,” Moss said. “I grew up watching my dad being out there on the island. The attention I’m drawing and the attention he drew from opponents, it’s cool to reminisce.”
Thaddeus Moss was asked if he plans to stay around Lincoln. The answer he supplied outlined what Randy wants for his son.
“Me and my dad have talked about grades and SAT scores, which is what he wants first and foremost,” Thaddeus says.
Even though finds himself living in the shadows of his acclaimed father, Thaddeus Moss continues to view Randy in the simplest light. He knows all the tales surrounding Randy, hence why it’s easy for him to separate the celebratory football lifestyle from the parental aspect.
“I’ve never been a player to talk much. I’ll talk on the field, but it will be to point little things out. I’m not one to scream in practice or during games,” Thaddeus said. “I’m going to buckle my chin strap and lead by example. That’s what my dad has always taught me.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03