Everybody's watching him. Randy Moss can feel the eyes of the lunchtime crowd at the Bob Evans restaurant, the double takes and furtive glances from the men in short sleeves and wide ties. He's got his act down: gray hood over his head, butt slumped in the booth, eyes as lifeless as buttons. Moss is a wide receiver at Marshall University, in Huntington, W.Va., and he figures to be rich before long. He jabs at his toast with a plastic straw.
"If I didn't have this hood on, and they saw us sitting here, people would say an agent picked up Randy Moss and took him to Bob Evans," he says. "That's why I got this hood on. Some people are looking, and some are not. Some know I'm here and you're here, they see a bill and they'll say, 'The agent paid for his food.' Anything can happen."
He shrugs. Moss says he doesn't care about the world's judgments anymore, and it's easy to believe he means it. Certainly no player in college football bears more stains on his name. Two and a half years ago, as a high school senior, Moss stomped a kid in a fight, pleaded guilty to two counts of battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a year's probation. That cost him a scholarship to Notre Dame. He enrolled at Florida State. The following spring he broke probation by smoking marijuana, was kicked out of Florida State and served two more months in prison. Then last fall, as Moss was on his way to shattering various NCAA and Marshall records with 28 touchdowns and 1,709 receiving yards as a freshman, he was charged with domestic battery against the mother of his baby daughter.
Yet Moss is not much interested in image-mending. His first words this morning were that he slept through his communications class. His hair is braided in long rows against his skull, a style he knows will give the wrong impression. "People perceive: Only black thug guys have braids," he says, his voice carrying to a dozen tables. "If I want to grow hair, I'll grow it. If I want to wear lipstick and makeup, I'll do that. God didn't put makeup on this world just for women. They perceive me as a thug? I'm not. I'm a gentleman. I know what I am, my mom knows what I am, most people know what I am. Don't judge me until you know me."