Thaddeus Moss visited LSU in April 2017 looking to transfer from North Carolina State. Within a couple days, the tight end wanted to play for coach Ed Orgeron.
One reason was Orgeron wanted Moss the tight end, not his father and Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss.
“Coach O, he’s a big coach, he’s been in big places, he’s had big players before,” Moss said. “K.J. Malone (son of former NBA All-Star Karl Malone) was on the team before I was here. So, it wasn’t like I was the first one with a name behind myself.
“He recruited me, and not my dad.”
Though it’s hard to ignore fathers during the recruiting process when they’re Hall of Famers.
The Manning family is one the most popular Southeastern Conference examples of sons following their fathers —and in many cases, grandfathers — into football. Teams across the league currently have players living out family legacies.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix followed his father’s footsteps, playing the same position at the same school his dad did. Shilo Sanders plays at South Carolina, not father Deion’s alma mater Florida State. He is a teammate of Joe Horn’s son, Jaycee, and Duce Staley’s son, Damani. Grant Miller plays on Vanderbilt’s offensive line, though his father Fred played at Baylor before winning a Super Bowl ring in the NFL.
Arkansas has 12 second or third generation players on its roster. Quarterback John Stephen Jones, grandson of Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, is among seven carrying on the Razorbacks’ family legacy. LSU freshman cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.’s father played minor league baseball, but grandfather Darryl was an NFL receiver for New England before being paralyzed in 1978.
Moss introduced his father at the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Orgeron said Randy Moss stayed out of the mix when his son was deciding to leave North Carolina State. The LSU coach talked to Moss two or three times.
The coach says it’s different when recruiting players with family football history.
“You have to be careful that you don't pay too much attention to the dad because he's so famous,” Orgeron said. “Sometimes I have to get the recruit away from the dad because I want to give him all the attention I can. I want to make him feel we're recruiting him and not his family."
It worked with Moss. Now the 6-foot-3, 249-pound Moss has 27 catches for 292 yards and a touchdown this season. He caught six passes for 46 yards in LSU’s win last weekend over Alabama.
Being teammates with sons who have famous fathers can also be a tricky subject.
South Carolina has three NFL father-son combinations, and linebacker Ernest Jones said the Gamecocks don’t joke much with freshman cornerback Shilo Sanders yet. They do, however, keep telling starting cornerback Jaycee Horn he needs to hook them up with New Orleans Saints’ tickets.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said Joe Horn and Deion Sanders understand what coaches go through during the recruiting process. What the fathers did playing in the NFL also has trickled down to their sons with attention to detail and strong work ethics.
“Jaycee and Shilo are both really hard workers,” Muschamp said. “They take it serious. It's important to them. That's why Jaycee's been a very productive player for us and Shilo will, too. We're going to try and preserve his redshirt this year. He's played in four games, holding him right now."
Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson now understands why his father pushed him when he was younger. Shawn played 13 seasons in the NFL as a receiver out of Central Florida, and now is assistant head coach/receivers coach with the New York Jets.
Jefferson talked with some of the Jets receivers this past summer while visiting — and training — with his father.
“He taught me life lessons and things I want to transition and teach my little girl,” Jefferson said. “So I think you know just him doing that when I was little helped me out a lot and, you know. I still got a lot more maturing to do and things like that, but he taught me a lot, man. And you know, he's the best dad I could ask for. So I thank God for that."
Nix has one of the bigger challenges in the SEC playing the same position at his father’s alma mater. Patrick Nix played at Auburn between 1992 and 1995 and threw the game-winning touchdown to Frank Sanders with 30 seconds left to beat No. 1 Florida in Gainesville in 1994. His father also coached him to two state high school titles
Growing up an Auburn fan made his choice of college easy, and Nix says he and his father both know they’re different quarterbacks playing in different ages of the game.
“You're always going to have people say, 'You're his son,’” Nix said. “But I think at the end of the day, people can kind of separate us and we can have our own different legacies.”
AP Sports Writers Brett Martel, Mark Long, Pete Iacobelli, John Zenor, Steve Megargee and Gary B. Graves contributed to this story.
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