It’s amazing how one idea can change an athlete’s life. In Eddie Moss’ case, there were two:
His Poplar Bluff High School football coach moved Moss from the defensive line to the offensive backfield for his senior season. Then, after college, Moss returned home to assist the football program, where one player encouraged him not to give up on the National Football League.
The result was that Moss emerged, in order, as an all-conference fullback for Poplar Bluff, then a standout rusher for Southeast Missouri State before – and can you believe this? – earning the starting fullback job with Don Coryell’s St. Louis Football Cardinals. And, with Moss aboard, the Cardinals reached the NFL playoffs three consecutive years.
Thus, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Moss with the Class of 2016.
“It all worked out where I got a blessing on a top of a blessing,” Moss said. “If I had to do it again, I’d do it the same way.”
Moss certainly climbed the long, hard road to the top. His life was one of growing up on a small farm outside Poplar Bluff as one of 15 children born to Jordan “JD” and Willie Marie Moss. And there wasn’t much time for sports.
However, a series of events eventually would transform Moss from a basketball hopeful into the featured blocking back for the Cardinals’ great Terry Metcalf.
For one, the schools desegregated just before Moss’ sophomore year, and so he transferred from the city’s all-black school to Poplar Bluff High School. That put him front and center with football coach Jim Lohr, who talked Moss’ parents into letting their son spend a month one summer under his guidance. Moss had never played football, other than on the sandlot.
“He taught me the game of football, how to block and run the ball, long snap and play all the positions,” Moss said. “He worked with me. So the first day when we went one-on-one full pads, I was playing nose tackle and I remember I threw my forearm at the guy in front of me and his facemask cracked. Blood spilled everywhere.
“I said, ‘I like this game.”
As a junior, Moss was an all-conference nose tackle and center. But the coach shifted him to fullback and linebacker the next season, and he was voted all-conference again in 1966, when Poplar Bluff finished 9-0.
The move to the backfield had a far-reaching impact.
From there, Moss went on to play two seasons for Centerville Community College in Iowa and transferred to Southeast Missouri State. In Cape Girardeau, he was the team’s top rusher in 1970 and 1971 as Moss churned out 581 and 667 yards, respectively, and combined to score 16 touchdowns in those two seasons. In one game against Rolla, he scored 32 points. In fact, the NFL’s Buffalo Bills made Moss a 13th-round draft pick in 1972, making Moss the first player from Poplar Bluff ever drafted.
Unfortunately for Moss, the Bills cut him in the preseason, and he returned to Poplar Bluff as a running backs coach. And yet his story was far from finished.
“I was walking down the hall one day and this player said, ‘Coach, I think you can still do it,’” Moss said, and the seed of an idea was planted. After kicking it around, Moss had SEMO send game films to the Cardinals.
“Next thing I know I was on the roster,” Moss said.
Moss played for the Cardinals from 1973-1976, helping St. Louis to a 10-, 11- and 10-win playoff seasons his final three years, including two NFC East division championships.
In his first preseason game, he tried to block Chicago Bears great Dick Butkus. “He threw me to the side like I was a slice of bread,” Moss said, laughing. He also remembers trying to block Dallas’ Ed “Too Tall” Jones in the thighs, and, “it was like running into a brick wall,” said Moss, who finished his NFL career with the Washington Redskins in 1977 and 1978.
After his NFL days, Moss worked 27 years for the United Parcel Service in St. Louis, where he and his wife, Phyllis, raised daughters Deborah, Amanda Lynn and son Brian.
“I was very fortunate to come out of a small town like Poplar Bluff and be the first player to get drafted …” Moss said with an air of amazement. “My aspiration was never to be a professional football player. All I wanted to do was play ball and get an education.”
Enshrinement in Cape Girardeau
What: Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016
When: Noon reception & 1 p.m. luncheon & ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 6
Where: The Show Me Center, Cape Girardeau
Missouri Sports Legend: Three Rivers Community College basketball coach Gene Bess
Inductees: Blake Dewitt (Sikeston/Dodgers/Cubs/Braves), James Wilder (Sikeston/Mizzou/Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Mark Littell (Gideon/Royals/Cardinals), Eddie Moss (Poplar Bluff/Southeast Missouri State/St. Louis Football Cardinals), Dr. Rick Wright (Sikeston/Mizzou/St. Louis Blues), track standout Miles Smith (St. Louis/Southeast Missouri State), high school basketball coach Lennies McFerren (Charleston/New Madrid), softball coach Lana Richmond (Southeast Missouri State), soccer/basketball coach Brad Wittenborn (Notre Dame High School), high school football coach Bob Stolzer (Ste. Genevieve), Capahas semi-pro baseball program (Cape Girardeau), the Scott County Central High School boys and girls basketball programs (Sikeston), the Valle Catholic High School football program (St. Genevieve), and the 1979 and 1992 Three Rivers Community College men’s basketball teams (Poplar Bluff) that won NJCAA national championships.
President’s Award: Poplar Bluff attorney Joe Scott, a former Gainesville/Mizzou basketball standout
Tickets: Call 417-889-3100. An individual ticket is $125. A table of eight is $1,250 and includes autographed print of Coach Bess, an autographed print of the induction class as well as sponsorship recognition at the table and in the printed program. Numerous sponsorships are available, too, such as congratulatory ads.