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Before Randy Moss became a Hall of Fame wide receiver in the NFL — primarily with the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots — he set records in college playing for the Marshall Thundering Herd. In 1997, he was a Heisman finalist alongside Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson (the eventual winner), Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf, and Tennessee QB Peyton Manning. During the Week 13 Monday Night Football Manningcast, Moss reunited with Peyton. And the retired stars revealed how Peyton Manning’s wife cost the Tennessee Volunteers a shot at pairing this incredible duo up in college.

How Peyton Manning’s wife cost Tennessee Vols Randy Moss

Randy Moss’ college career did not go as planned (more on that below). And while he did end up signing with three different college football programs, the University of Tennessee wasn’t one of them.

Moss did visit the Vols, but the recruiting trip didn’t go all that well, as the superstar wide receiver felt ignored by Tennessee’s all-world quarterback.

The two Hall of Famers reminisced about the incident on the Monday night Manningcast, and Peyton Manning revealed the role his wife played in Moss’ decision to spurn Tennessee.   

“When I went to Tennessee, all I heard was, ‘Peyton Manning is in Virginia, at a family member’s house. He’s trying to drive back here just to recruit you,'” Moss remembered. “And I was like, well, if he’s driving here just to recruit me, why isn’t he here right now to get me!? So, it was kind of like Peyton being late. He wasn’t punctual. That was the reason I didn’t become a Volunteer. Peyton was late.”

Manning responded by revealing exactly where he was that fateful weekend and why he wasn’t in Knoxville to recruit Moss.

“That hurts. I was seeing my girlfriend — now wife — at Virginia,” Manning admitted. “I got up at three in the morning, drove all the way back, I said, ‘Randy, we’re going to throw it every play here. Three years, you’ll be coming out in the NFL. He was not hearing it. He was headed to Notre Dame. I gave him my best pitch, though.”

And that was what led to Randy Moss setting records in college football with Chad Pennington instead of Peyton Manning.

The Hall of Fame wideout had a tough time in college 

Peyton Manning's wife, Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Tennessee, Manningcast
(L-R) Randy Moss, Peyton Manning | Robert Laberge/Allsport/Getty Images; Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

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The trials and tribulations of Randy Moss in college are well-documented. His dream was to go to Notre Dame, but after he signed with the Fighting Irish, he got in a fight, and Lou Holtz rescinded his scholarship.

Florida State was next, but after a positive test for marijuana, Bobby Bowden dismissed Moss as well.

The final stop was at Marshall, a university an hour west of where Moss grew up in Rand, West Virginia. There, the future Hall of Famer teamed up with future New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, and the two made history together.

In his two-season career with the Thundering Herd, Moss caught 174 balls for 3,529 yards and a staggering 54 touchdowns. He set Division 1-AA (now FCS) records for most consecutive games with a touchdown (11), most receiving yards in a single game (288), and most yards and receptions in a 1-AA playoff tournament (636, nine).

Moss came out after two seasons at Marshall (thanks to his redshirt season at FSU). The mercurial wideout skipped the NFL combine but did work out for scouts at Marshall Pro Day. He ran two sub-4.3-second 40-yard dashes there, and a legendary career began.  

Due to the issues in high school and early college, several NFL teams passed on Moss. The most glaring was the Tennessee Titans taking Utah WR Kevin Dyson at No. 16, five spots before the Vikings took a chance on Moss at No. 21.

Six Pro Bowls, four All-Pro teams, one Rookie of the Year Award, 982 catches, 15,292 receiving yards, and 156 touchdown catches later, Moss ended up in Canton in 2018.

But if it weren’t for Peyton Manning’s wife, Moss might be a Tennessee legend now, too.