By Jim Wexell
Posted Mar 6, 2007
At 6-6½, 250 pounds, Jarvis Moss brings to mind another Florida pass-rusher by the name of Jevon Kearse.
The Steelers, of course, passed on Kearse in 1999 in lieu of wide receiver Troy Edwards, and Edwards was such a disappointment that they’ve since drafted two receivers in the first round.
The last time the Steelers drafted a linebacker in the first round was in 1991, and he too came from Florida and he too had the size dimensions of Moss and Kearse.
Funny thing, though: When the Steelers drafted the 6-4½, 246-pound Huey Richardson in 1991, they were looking for a wide receiver. But after targets Mike Pritchard, Alvin Harper and Herman Moore had been picked, the Steelers took Richardson. He lasted one year.
Richardson was a defensive end who ran a 4.8 40 before the draft and the Steelers thought he could move to linebacker. Kearse, on the other hand, was a safety, strong safety, outside linebacker, middle linebacker and defensive end, who ran, according to differing reports, either a 4.43 or a 4.57 at the combine. But the Steelers believed him to be a defensive end.
Of the two examples, Moss appears to compare better with Richardson. Moss plays defensive end but projects to outside linebacker because he doesn’t play the run well. His 40 times at the combine were 4.69 and 4.75. He also benched 225 pounds only 16 times.
Richardson, by the way, was the 15th pick of the 1991 draft, the only time in team history the Steelers picked from that position. They, of course, are scheduled to pick 15th on April 28. The Steelers talked to Moss at the combine. He said they were one of 15 teams to talk to him, and they talked to him about playing linebacker.
“I told them I’m up for whatever (position),” Moss said. “Whatever my need is called and whatever is going to help the team win, I’m ready for it.”
Had he ever dropped into coverage at Florida?
“My position was called ‘The Fox,’ where I would drop into coverage during our fire zones,” he said. “I did some when I was working out in Orlando. We did some linebacker-specific drills. It’s something I enjoy. My body moves well and I can run well and I’m really athletic, so it’s something I really enjoy. I’m looking forward to it if it’s my calling.”
When Moss wasn’t being asked about his position, he said he was being asked about his character. So he had a ready and honest response when asked why he was suspended the week after blocking two kicks to preserve a one-point win over South Carolina. They were the only blocks of Moss’s college career.
“I tested positive for marijuana on the 15th of October,” he said matter-of-factly. “It was a real humbling experience for me. It came after the game of my life, after the South Carolina game. I feel like it was God’s way of bringing me back down to Earth. It was something that I definitely learned from. My coaches stuck by me and we stuck together as a family. I regained that trust and we went on to do some pretty special things the rest of the year.”
On the typed transcript, the follow-up question is this: How did it happen?
But those at the interview session clearly heard Rick Gosselin follow up his initial question with this: With so much to lose, how could you let this happen?
“It was a mistake, just like any other person makes mistake,” Moss said. “I got caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like I said, it was a real humbling experience for me and it allowed me to put things back in perspective.”
It might be the exact question the Steelers have on draft day. Already the specter of Huey Richardson looms in the background. And it seems that for every positive Moss provides, there’s a question mark that follows.
For one, there’s his background. Moss endured plenty of adversity growing up in Denton, Texas. “But my story is no sadder than anybody else,” he said. “That’s what makes you who you are, just overcoming lots of adversity growing up. So hopefully teams will see in the fourth quarter, when there’s adversity, I’m going to be there.”
Moss didn’t tell the entire story, but he said enough to underscore his saga.
“My grandparents were split up but I lived with my grandpa and I lived with my grandma and some of my aunts and some of my cousins, so I lived with quite a few people coming up.”
Yet, he helped Ryan High School to three 4A state championship games in four years. The school won titles his junior and senior year, when he was named a Parade All-America, even though he missed most of the season with a mysterious injury.
“I went to sleep and woke up one morning and I couldn’t walk,” he said. “I couldn’t put my own jeans on and it was real scary and real mysterious. It stayed with me my first two years of college and nobody knew what was wrong with me. We had a coaching change. Coach (Urban) Meyer and his staff came in and gave me his resources to find out what was going on. We got it diagnosed and treated it with a medicine. I was out for seven weeks and it knocked everything out of me. I had my examinations yesterday and they said my pelvis area is fine.”
Doctors at Florida believe Moss had a staph infection on his pelvis bone that they suspect was “pushed through” when he received a cortisone shot in high school.
Moss lost close to 30 pounds and some believe he’s just now returning to full health. A serious car accident didn’t help matters. On his way to Florida for classes the summer before his freshman season, while driving his girlfriend’s Toyota 4Runner, Moss said he was driving 80 m.p.h. when “her phone rang and she was sleeping so I reached over to pick it up.” The vehicle swerved and flipped onto the median.
He came out of it without a scratch, but the infection kept him out of full-time action until his redshirt sophomore season.
He had 7.5 sacks in 2005 and the same number last season. He had two sacks in the national championship game, but his performance was overshadowed by that of bookend Derrick Harvey and even Ray McDonald. But at least Moss played. His roommate, Marcus Thomas, perhaps the most talented player on the talented Florida defensive line, was thrown off the team because he couldn’t stop smoking marijuana.
Has Moss? And if so, will he be healthy? And if those two questions can be answered in the positive, is he more like Huey Richardson or Jevon Kearse?
It’s difficult enough to answer questions about “tweeners” without having to answer all the other questions that have piled up through Moss’s young life. The guess here is the Steelers won’t attempt to answer them all.