Randy Moss turned 40 the other day, and the NFL celebrated with a really cool montage of all of his 40-plus yard touchdowns over the course of his career. An electric collection of scores, it showed just how devastating Moss could really be.
I covered him for three-plus years, and one of the things that stood out to me — and one of the things that players and coaches always said about Moss — were his hands. He was blessed with great size, amazing balance, and all sorts of skills. And teammates say he was one of the hardest workers they had ever come across. But his hands and how he used them were what really set him apart.
“Guys like Randy Moss who were great at it, not raising his hands to catch the ball until the ball is almost past him,” Bill Belichick said back in 2015. “You couldn’t do that against him, but the other receivers, when they move their hands to catch the ball, defensively if you match their hands, then that’s where the ball is going to be.”
With that in mind, I wrote this story a few years ago on the “importance of shooting late hands.” I talked to a few receivers who played with Moss (or just studied him), and they all said the thing that was the most amazing about him was the fact that he didn’t always put his hands up until he needed to. The thinking? You have a defensive back chasing you and you throw your hands up, that defensive back knows the ball is coming. Like Brandon LaFell said, you have to “shoot late hands.”
“Most of the time, when you beat a defensive back and he’s in catch-up mode, he’s not going to turn around and look at the ball. He’ll look at your eyes. He’ll look at your hands,” LaFell said. “The sooner you throw your hands up, the sooner he’s going to try and rake. The better you do when you shoot late hands, the better chance you have to catch the ball. You still might have to catch the ball at a low point, but those late hands help you out in those situations.”
LaFell also said it was something he learned from Steve Smith Sr. when they were together in Carolina.
“He did it so well, especially on fade balls in the red zone,” LaFell said. “He’d just be running and looking back and the DB is just waiting, waiting, waiting to see him shoot his hands, and the ball just drops over his shoulder and he just catches it real low at the last minute. He’s a guy I pretty much learned that from in my first four years in the league.”
Some food for thought when it comes to the legacy of one of the best receivers in the history of the game.