Redskins Legend Offers Lessons in Leadership

Redskins Legend Offers Lessons in Leadership

Photo via Marty Shoup/Blue Lion Multimedia

Santana Moss’ career with the Washington Redskins is best remembered for two game-changing receptions and one game against the team’s biggest rival.

Trailing at Dallas 13-0 late in the fourth quarter, Moss caught a 40-yard touchdown pass. On the team’s next offensive play, Moss hauled in a 70-yard pass that would give the Redskins the lead, and eventually the win. Moss’ heroics stunned the Cowboys and created an all-time great moments for Redskins fans.

Now retired from the Redskins as one of the team’s top receivers of all time, Moss addressed the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce June 1 to share stories, and lessons, about leading others on and off the field. A Loudoun resident, the receiver discussed his relationship with former coaches, how he views leadership and, of course, that memorable Monday night in Dallas.

Moss said his career’s best-known moment began with a recommendation from Clinton Portis, the enigmatic running back and his teammate with both the Redskins and the University of Miami, that sparked the plays. Portis urged the coaches to give Moss a chance for a deep pass, even though he had struggled earlier in the game. He also said he gets too much credit for the catches when compared to quarterback Mark Brunell, the man who threw those passes, and his teammates on defense who made just enough stops to give the team a chance for the win.

“It was one of those memories that I gave a lot of praise for, but there was a whole circle of people who made it happen,” Moss said.

He also gave credit to his coaches during that game and the rest of his 10 years in Burgundy and Gold. His first coach was Joe Gibbs, the three-time Super Bowl champion in his second stint leading the Redskins. Moss said Gibbs showed the power behind motivating others.

“You have to be a great motivator,” Moss said. “If you motivate someone enough, they’ll run through a brick wall.”

After Gibbs retired following the 2006 season, he was replaced by Jim Zorn, a former quarterback and position coach who had never been a head coach before. Though Zorn would be fired following two largely unsuccessful seasons, Moss lauded his former coach for his communication skills, which he said were critical in all walks of life.

Zorn was replaced by Mike Shanahan, a former two-time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos. Shanahan moved Moss to the slot receiver position, meaning he would have less playing time. Moss said he was initially disappointed by the move, but after consulting with his coach, he agreed to embrace the change. That first season in the new position would end up being one of Moss’ most prolific.

Along with the great on-field production, Moss told the Chamber it provided a valuable lesson in management. He said these coaches and their teaching all helped further his underdog career into becoming one of the most illustrious in franchise history.

It was never easy to get there. At 5’10” Moss, was undersized for a football player and belittled when he tried out for his high school team.  After making the team, he played in a run-heavy offense at Miami’s Carol City Senior High, hurting his chances to shine as a pass-catcher.

He had to walk-on at the University of Miami, but quickly earned a scholarship through his success on the field and would go on to break the powerhouse school’s all-time career receiving yardage record.

Drafted 16th overall by the New York Jets in the 2001 NFL Draft, Moss had hoped had hoped to be selected by the Redskins, but they instead used the 15th pick to choose another receiver in Rod Gardner. Moss battled injuries his rookie season and admitted he had a rough go during his time in the Big Apple.

Four years later, Washington traded for Moss, starting a decade-long run with the team and a spot in franchise lore. He would finish third in team history in receptions, fourth in yards and seventh in receiving touchdowns.

After he retired following the 2014 season, Moss hasn’t stopped being a presence in the community. He’s stayed active in Loudoun real estate and provides color commentary for the Arena Football League’s Washington Valor. He’s also raising his three children with lessons he learned both during and after a successful career on the gridiron.

“I always say don’t worry about what other people say,” Moss said. “Go out and do what you feel you can do. Always believe in that.”