Updated: May 24
How did Orgeron's Tigers take the college football screenwriters hostage by the man-bun & force a strong re-write? How did we take every top defensive coordinator, program, or player in our path and lay them to waste like an extra from Kindergarten Cop? How did Burrow, Delpit, Queen, Edwards-Helaire, Chase, Shelvin, Jefferson, etc usher in an era of flagrant, orgasmic, intergalactic dominance?
Inner maturity, positive swagger, unspoken confidence, a winning edge, and most of all, a united front hellbent on improving every game.
This team weren't focusing on the cinematic scope we are in the aftermath...they remained mired in the weeds of detail picking, geauxing for the jugular in preparation, work ethic, and a good old fashioned Dana White "kick your ass" mentality.
Below, at #8 is someone who exemplifies the selfless characteristics of the 2019 LSU Tigers, a player who took the world by storm in his lone ranger quest for Tigers glory.
(Red Shirt Junior)
-47 catches, 570 yards (12.1 yards per catch)
(More catches than Terrace Marshall)
-4 touchdowns (3 in the CFP games)
-Set LSU records for receptions & yards in a single-season
-Went nuclear in the National Title Game for 2 Touchdowns
-Never (officially) dropped a pass in 2019
(there are two "inaccurate passes" which were 50/50)
With 2019 being his maiden (and swansong) campaign for LSU, pass-catching thoroughbred Thaddeus Moss (yes, that Moss) broke the single-season Tiger records for receptions (47) and yards (570) by a tight end, but if Thaddeus Moss remained in Baton Rouge another season or hadn't missed his first two years as a Tiger, the 6'3 250 lb tight end would've undoubtedly surpassed Richard Dickson, David LeFleur, Eric Edwards, or Robert Royal as the greatest LSU tight end.
In the end, our NFL-bound tight end's LSU career turned out much like the 12 month money shot trajectories of Patrick Queen, CEH or Joe Burrow...though unlike the others, Thaddeus' perfectly timed one season wonder wasn't preceded by scattered amounts of on the field experience:
When my own father asked, "I didn't know Randy's son was on LSU, is he a freshman?"
I replied: "Nope...but it's true: we haven't seen him before...he's a red shirt something something..."
We truly didn't know much about #81, and just like his private father, most of Moss's personal life is shrouded in understandable mystery....but I have to confess:
As a diehard Randy Moss-obsessive, I couldn't have pictured anything more once-in-a-lifetime than our greatest quarterback throwing to a trio of our greatest receivers and....Randy Moss's son...no to mention watching Randy become LSU family.
We didn't know just what he was capable of....but I had a strong sensation he would live up to the name on the back of his jersey as much as he would honor the three letters on the front.
For mainstream fans, Thaddeus Moss's football life is distilled into one season, as an indefensible wrinkle of Steve Ensminger's "repeated boot to the groin" passing attack....however, the young man shined brightly during a turbulent, all-action high school career:
Ranked as the 17th best tight end of the 2016 class, Thaddeus endured a bizarre, yet fascinating high school career:
Attending five different schools in four different states, Thaddeus played both ways, shutting down left tackles as an impossibly good defensive end (grabbing 32 tackles as a freshman) while catching 66 passes for 988 yards and 14 touchdowns (in his freshman and senior years combined...sophomore, junior high school year statistics are unknown).
As the children of NFL Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, Thaddeus, his sister Sydney, and his brother Montigo are all blessed with their father's otherworldly athletic ability, specifically in the hands department:
As a senior at Mallard Creek in North Carolina, Thaddeus completed a plethora of acrobatic, Randy-esque grabs, belying his hulking size as he could be seen flying over corners or bullying safeties...using his long, virtuosic reach to clap the ball at its apex.
In a single high school highlight reel, Moss could've persuaded Stevie Wonder of his skills: the hands, the flight, the cheekbones, the pure will and badass vibe...all of Randy's intangibles were in the family blood....and it didn't take long for top schools to take notice.
With Alabama, Florida, Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, and NC State calling, young Thad somehow decided to stay at home, a decision which would later prove fortuitous, the enterprising Moss enrolling at NC State for his freshman year...one which wouldn't be up to his standards.
The fear of losing his chance to start in a high octane offense, play for a national title, and follow his father's trailblazing Hall of Fame footsteps became too great for him to stay in North Carolina....
“I wasn’t comfortable there, and I didn’t like my game, where it was," Moss said. "I got worse in my freshman season. I didn’t like what I put on tape. I knew that if I wanted to reach my ultimate goal of being in the NFL, that just wasn’t the place for me.”
So, in 2017 Moss entered the transfer portal....needing talent at tight end, Louisiana State University came calling.
Deciding they desperately needed an all around tight end who could be a versatile threat shifted out wide, down in the stance, or as a slot option, Ensminger, Jorge Munoz, and the rest of the Tigers' offensive staff were equally impressed by Thad's overwhelming production as a blocker.
As soon as Moss could be identified as an all-around team-first guy who could produce vicious blocks in the trenches, using his immortal hands to deliver blows (most O-linemen had trouble performing some of these tasks), Orgeron insisted upon his signature.
It had been a long time since LSU's last dynamic tight end...and Thaddeus Moss fit the bill.
"LSU was the first school I talked to once I got my release from North Carolina State," Moss said. "I got on the phone with (then LSU offensive coordinator) Matt (Canada) on Tuesday. Flew out Friday. Went to LSU's spring game that Saturday. Got offered Sunday. Committed Sunday."
There were rumors of character issues, questions surrounding his constant movement from different high schools, but when you listen to the unselfish Zen of Thad, you realize his maturity goes beyond his years, continuously "preaching the team", selflessly blocking on many plays without a complaint for a reception...and this was Randy's son.
"LSU jumped out to me because LSU is a national, global name, a global school," Moss said. "It’s one of the meccas, one of the powerhouses in college football. When I got a phone call from LSU, I was already on edge, smiling. So as soon as Coach O offered, I jumped and committed on the spot. I didn’t care who else was talking to me. I didn’t care."
While having the talent, background, and status to protest for the ball, Moss never once cried for Joe to throw him a pass, he never wined about having to block:
"I don't care about the individual stuff, it's about winning. We won, that's all that matters," the Zen Moss would utter after announcing himself vs Utah State, Alabama, or Oklahoma...he repeated the same mantras...Thad bought in 150%.
With perfect hands (not just in catching, but tussling with DBs to give himself space, or clobbering DEs' at the line), Moss was a matchup nightmare for coordinators:
Throughout 2019, Moss was simply too lengthy for corners to deal with, too fast for linebackers to keep track of, and far too large for safeties to handle over the middle...as far as tight ends geaux, Thaddeus Moss joins LSU freshman Arik Gilbert as one of the most NFL-ready tight end prospects we've seen in a long time...
The best part?
Nobody knew what was possible going into 2019...not even his father...
Upon his arrival in Baton Rouge, Thaddeus went through surgery on his broken foot, though he wasn't expected to miss any time:
"Once I had the first surgery I was told I 'wasn't gonna miss a game'. They said 'I was good to go and I'd be ready to play Miami', but it never happened, so it's kinda what it was...like a week by week thing, but it was extremely hard, extremely frustrating. It was mentally draining, physically draining, trying to get ready to play every week, cause I'd never played here...then I hurt my foot again...."
His first surgery (July 2018) wasn't successful and Thad re-injured his foot during the season's practices as he battled his way back to the field.
It was during this time when Joe Burrow and Thaddeus became close friends and their football chemistry elevated to another dimension:
"All last year when I was hurt, he was throwing routes to me," Moss said of Burrow. "Whenever we get the chance, he's throwing with me. Every weekend this past off-season, we were throwing routes."
“I know as soon as I come out of my break, and look back at him, he’s looking at me in my eyes, and I’m looking at him in his eyes," Moss said. "I know where to expect the ball. I know where to expect the ball if a defender’s playing a certain way. I know when to expect the ball when he’s in his third of fifth step.”
Finally, in late November 2018, Moss had a successful surgery, repairing his foot...Thaddeus didn't know if the pitfalls were behind him, yet he barreled ahead regardless, determined to plant a healthy foot upon the blood-stained killing fields of Death Valley's behemoth phenomena.
Right as the seeds of legendary greatness were planted in LSU's offense by the innovation of Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger ("The Bayou Gandalf"), with the route combinations & playbook additions of 29 year old renegade Joe "Playboy" Brady, led by the beautiful mind of Joe Burrow, Thaddeus recovered from his foot problems just in time for the beginning of the most magical run in recent sports memory.
Though he was primarily deployed in the stance as a blocker at first, once he showed his inner rabid ability to escape the first and second hits, he took flight.
On an early Saturday afternoon vs Utah State in Death Valley, Thaddeus caught his first Tigers touchdown vs Utah State, also his first score since his freshman year... nearly a 4 year period....all through no fault of his own and beyond his control.
But the rest of 2019 lay squeezed in between both hands...as what transpired next became an NC-17 bootleg these coordinators will duck away and use for a backwater Alabama exorcism in the years to come, barking at the screen as clumps of Saban hair come chewing out of their own scalps:
Earlier in the Utah State game, Moss had an inaccurate, high throw from Jeaux ricochet off his hands and into an Aggie defender's grasp, angering Burrow to the point he delivered a challenge to Moss.
Joe, Thad and Edwards-Helaire were always seen together, so Joe being let down by one of his best buddies on the team hurt the Heisman winner mentally, emotionally, and physically...Joe was beside himself, just as he'd screamed at freshman John Emery earlier for missing a pass protection assignment. Using taunts of his father's greatness against what Thaddeus had produced up to that point himself, Joe injected his swagger and confidence inside the young tight end's head, readying his pal to geaux above and beyond.
After the touchdown vs Utah State, Moss never looked back, becoming an intrinsic part of the Joe Burrow "Captain Ahab meets Cortez" offense, catching passes in every one of his 13 appearances, averaging 12.1 yards per catch, as well as earning 24 1st down receptions. The catching is one alien facet of Moss's array of skills...but the way Thad Moss destroys future NFL talent in the blocking game became a huge secret weapon for the Tigers:
Featuring Moss's ability to block like an extra, 3 star left tackle or leave his station for a sudden route, defenses were lost while Moss could be seen burying opposing defensive ends with the moves he knew all too well from his time in the position. Thaddeus was flagged on only one occasion for a holding penalty, negating a 50 yard bomb down the sidelines to Justin Jefferson, however for a tight end playing in his first season in three years....the Zen Moss became physically imposing.
Against Auburn's #1 defense, and in our toughest game of the season, Thad Moss caught 7 passes, earning 6.4 yards per catch, two key first downs (other catches directly set up more 1st down conversions) and addressed the possibility of Joe now having a second safety valve during the 23-20(13) victory;
More impressively, when he cleaned out the #1 defense's edge rushers on 9 occasions, he directly assisted Edwards-Helaire (or Joe) in grabbing 5+ yard gains, humiliating Kevin Steele's defense like Jesse Ventura dressing down Mark Zuckerberg at an IHop.
Earning a solid 69.2 blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, you just have to spin back the tapes of 2019 to watch Moss relentlessly cannibalizing some of the best defensive ends in college football:
Opposing defensive ends thought they'd be facing off against Randy Moss's "receiver diva" son... Instead they were greeted by a punishment akin to a face to face meeting with Henry Rollins' forehead and a cleaver.
Another huge reason Moss takes a spot as the 8th best LSU Tiger of 2019?
His dynamic presence became such a mismatch, his mere existence being moved around the offensive formation caused confusion and fear in so many opposing defenses:
Roll back the tape...
Yes, while Moss caught more passes than Terrace Marshall (to be fair, Terrace missed 6 games due to a broken foot, Thad missed 2), his large body did far more than just provide Joe a fourth dynamic, dangerous option for the defense to account for:
Freeze the frame...we have Burrow lined up with CEH at his side, Thaddeus in the slot, while Marshall, Chase and Jefferson are all outside.
Once Joe calls for it and Lloyd Cushenberry snaps the ball, the play is run and routes develop, immediately defenders are caught in multiple vulnerable spots, stranded in a no man's land of empty space for LSU's tidal wave of flesh crave to devour.
All season, Moss forced linebackers to either follow his routes or crash in on the RPO action (sometimes decoy routes before or after an initial block), with many busted coverages or gaps in the flat exposed by Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Joe Burrow's dangerous, sexy mind.
If he wasn't helping Clyde out in the flat, it was the threat of his catching-ability, brutish size, or the dual-attack of the tight end's route-tree which supplied extra yards of space to the three best receivers college football has ever seen.
These are receiving assassins, not unlike young versions of his father, any one of the trio capable of pulling off the toughest grabs against the most flagrant pass interferences...
So... what happened when Moss went vertical on a play?
The best defensive coordinators from all over collectively left stadiums with a trail of brown stains marking their sordid pathway to the locker room.
But what makes Moss the 8th best LSU Tiger of 2019?
Among a large John Hughes cast of characters, all coming from various backgrounds, experiencing a wide variety of life-altering events and trials, veterans we'd known since the Les Miles / Joe Alleva days, guys who'd battled alongside legends such as Devin White, D.J Chark or Derrius Guice for years, scrubs who'd become captains, the freshmen sensations who lived up to the hype (and then some), the transfers welcomed as part of the Louisiana fold, the intense brotherhood, the professional structure laid out by Coach Orgeron, the superhuman science behind Tommy Moffitt's strength and conditioning of the players, the inscrutable details & weaknesses Dave Aranda's men exploited on defense...next to all of these stars aligning, Thaddeus Moss had to be on the list for the pure importance of his contributions.
The tougher the competition, the higher the level at which Moss performed:
During the "Real Game of the Century", a masterpiece littered with special plays, the most frightening non-CEH pieces of skill arrived via Thad's end of half tap-dancing routine, deriving from his father's heritage by showing off Chris Carter-esque intuition / positioning and Pink Panther-esque reflexes.
Known as "The Catch", this play seemed destined to have been made out of bounds, never to be shown again. Suddenly, much to Saban's bastardized dismay, the line judge raised both arms, immediately ruling Moss's dazzling footloose magic was indeed a completed catch.
Saban lost it...and so did Bama's fragile fans expecting a picnic, somehow having to make due with a Bayou Burrow-Moss Pain Sandwich.
Thanks to the unbelievable footage showing his remarkably quick footwork, Thaddeus Moss became a household name overnight, further bolstering the trusted receiving options for Joe in the red zone.
Suddenly Moss became a star, a whirlwind of expectation now following him on the whispers of his surname...but he just laughed and itched his head to that, walking on...he owed nothing to the vulchers on the outside.
When LSU hit the postseason and attacked Georgia to an SEC title victory, Moss only had a a single catch for 12 yards...however, he didn't moan or cry...he worked...like everyone on the squad, all they cared about was winning.
But in the next two games, Thaddeus Moss's legend would be crystalized.
During the greatest thirty minutes of football ever played vs Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl, when Joe Burrow went James Cameron on us all, throwing 7 touchdowns as he danced upon Lincoln Riley's face...all before halftime, then ran for another in the 3rd quarter, an injured Edwards-Helaire plowed over a few dudes, freshman running back Chris Curry blew up, and Justin Jefferson snagged 4 touchdowns...oh yeah...and Thaddeus Moss broke out, too.
Out wide, #81 burst off the line quickly (and despite being callously shoved by a Sooners corner rendered helpless by Moss's deceptive pace), Burrow watched his route and belted a bomb to his close friend, Randy's son scampering out of the shadows, riding a horse collar tackle attempt on his way into the end zone, scoring a 62-yard TD which displayed every reason why the kid is a high quality NFL talent.
Moss went for 99 yards on the day, flipping over defenders, and finally sealing himself as a bona fide every-down threat.
On January 13th, 2020 when every yard counted in the National Championship game vs Clemson, Thaddeus flew to new heights (literally and figuratively), taking a starring role with 2 crucial touchdowns, the first score completing the 10 point comeback and the second (in the 3rd quarter) to take control with a 10 point lead of our own.
First, he catches the ball standing in the end zone, completely open, though Joe took a horrific shot to the ribcage in the act of throwing the touchdown. If you see Thaddeus' celebration, he doesn't even smile, Moss looks back in worry over whether his quarterback survived the brutal nature of the sport's dark desires revealed through Skalski's spearing helmet.
On the second touchdown vs Clemson, Thaddeus rolls out and makes the grab in the red zone, then motors around, through, and into the netherworld beyond....diving for the ultimate eternal...a demonstration of pure desire, molten will, a testimony to the faithless: you shall be condemned in your stupidity for not believing in Thaddeus.
After all these years, living a life where the last name had always been a bit of a burden, a cross to bear in the public and private eye, now became a signifying salvation...a blessing.
For the first time in his life, Thaddeus stood outside the blinding gleam of his father's light...as his own man...but in becoming an LSU legend and a guaranteed high NFL Draft pick, he's very much his father's son.
Dedicated to our favorite nurse, @NURSEKORT
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HARD WORK, SACRIFICE & HUMOR!
#7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and the shocker at #1 all coming soon!
Hold on tight...
Where we're geauxing, there are no roads...only championships...
Title Town Since 1958"
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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