Randy Moss talks the making of the ‘Super Freak’ — the NFL’s first signature Air Jordan The legend and his shoe designer recall the early Jordan Brand moments

Randy Moss didn’t always need a football field to put his inhuman speed on display. All he really needed was a treadmill, and a few spectators.

During one workout at a Florida gym back in the early days of his NFL career, the young Minnesota Vikings wide receiver pushed the limit of human athleticism. His training circuit began with a 15- to 20-second treadmill sprint at 15 mph, which Moss and a friend who joined him completed with ease. Next came 17 mph. They both jumped on and, for about 10 seconds, busted out another run.

Then Moss did something crazy: He upped the speed to 19 mph. “F— that, I’m done with this,” one spectator recalls Moss’ friend saying before tapping out. Moss, however, completed the rep and kept going. He cranked the treadmill to an unfathomable 21 mph and prepared to make his move. While holding on to the rails, Moss planted one foot on the machine’s foundation and used his other foot to judge just how fast the belt circulated as he nailed his timing down. The gears in his brain synced with the mechanics of his body.

“He jumps on and whips out 21 mph, just hauling a–,” said the aforementioned spectator, Gentry Humphrey, product director for Jordan Brand at the time. “Just watching him do that, to me, he was a freak of nature … purely a super freak.”

“I just wanted to pay tribute to Michael Jordan. But at the same time, I looked at the shoes and I was like, ‘Oh, those would look good with my uniform.’ ” — Randy Moss

Humphrey can’t recall the exact date or time of year that the treadmill incident unfolded before his eyes, but he does know it took place sometime between 1999 and 2000, within the phenom wideout’s first two NFL seasons. During this period, Humphrey spent as much time as he possibly could with Moss while in the process of designing Moss’ first signature shoe: the Air Jordan Super Freak.

“I realized,” said Humphrey, “that Randy was very, very different.”


In 1999, two years after Nike and Michael Jordan came to terms on Jordan Brand, Moss — then 22, and coming off a monster rookie season — became the first football player to sign an endorsement deal with Jordan Brand. “Jordans were a basketball shoe, but when I came into the league, I was still infatuated by Nike shoes and Jordan shoes,” says Moss now. “My first year, I was just pulling Jordans off the rack and lacing them up.” And playing in them.

Remember, by this point in 1999, Michael Jordan had already retired from the NBA for the second time in his career and had shifted his focus to the business world. In his early formation of Team Jordan, His Airness wanted to branch out from creating products solely for basketball, so he signed New York Yankees All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter to represent the brand through baseball and light heavyweight world champion Roy Jones Jr. to represent boxing. For football, Moss was his guy.

Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings plays in a preseason game in a pair of Air Jordan Super Freaks.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

“I just wanted to pay tribute to Michael,” Moss said. “But at the same time, I looked at the shoes and I was like, ‘Oh, those would look good with my uniform.’ ”

Originally, Jordan Brand’s plan for Moss didn’t include a signature shoe. Instead, he was envisioned as the face of products set to be rolled out as part of a cross-training division. Two factors contributed to a change of plan. First, Humphrey took a look at some of the NFL’s fields and the type of shoes players needed to flourish on them.

“A lot of athletes at the time that were playing on AstroTurf were using basketball shoes,” said Humphrey, who’s now Nike’s vice president of footwear for profile sports. “They were using nubby-bottomed outsoles to really get the traction that they needed on the field. I looked at it as an opportunity to create a new silhouette for training by using that nubby bottom.”

Randy Moss was too athletic, and too much of a superstar-in-the-making, to not have his own shoe.

The second factor was simple: Randy Moss was too athletic, and too much of a superstar-in-the-making, to not have his own shoe. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Moss gave defenses matchup nightmares. “With 4.25 speed in the 40-yard-dash … an impressive 39-inch vertical leap and huge hands with tentacle-like fingers that rarely drop passes,” is how The Associated PressJim Vertuno put it in 1997. That was the year Moss emerged as a Heisman Trophy finalist at Marshall University with 90 catches for 1,647 yards and a Division I-A single-season record 25 receiving touchdowns. “Nobody,” Ball State coach Bill Lynch said of Moss after he caught five touchdown passes against his team in 1997, “in America can cover him.”

The Minnesota Vikings selected Moss with the No. 21 overall pick in the 1998 draft, and what the franchise quickly realized it got in him was a football player in a basketball player’s body. Before the start of his rookie season in Minnesota, Moss — a two-time basketball Player of the Year at DuPont High School near his hometown of Rand, West Virginia — flirted with the idea of trying out for the Minnesota Timberwolves and eventually playing in both the NFL and NBA. “I don’t think so,” said Vikings president Roger Headrick in June 1998. “Overlapping seasons.”

In his first year of pro football during the 1998-99 season, Moss recorded 69 catches for 1,313 yards (third most in the league behind Green Bay’s Antonio Freeman and Buffalo’s Eric Moulds) while grabbing an NFL rookie-record 17 touchdown passes, earning him a trip to the Pro Bowl and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

“The things that he did on the field, the way he ran past people, the way he caught things,” Humphrey says, “he was like the Michael Jordan at the wide receiver position. I think that was kind of the obvious.”

After that record-setting rookie season, Humphrey and Team Jordan embarked upon the 16- to 18-month development process of Moss’ first shoe, seeking to incorporate every aspect of his life, training habits and style of play into the design. “ ‘All right, Gent! What do we got today?’ ” Humphrey remembers Moss animatedly saying in his Southern accent as he took the wide receiver through initial concepts and updated samples. “It was almost like watching a kid at Christmas … how much fun he had designing his first shoe.”

Moss knew exactly what he wanted to call the shoes he’d soon be donning on the field. “He’s the one that kind of came to us and told us that he had been given the name ‘Super Freak,’ ” Humphrey said. It was a moniker that Moss picked up during his high school days in West Virginia, and one that stuck with him through college and into the NFL.

To personify Moss’ freak-of-nature identity, especially after that otherworldly treadmill workout, Jordan Brand attempted to channel the wide receiver’s blazing speed into the shoe. Moss, in Humphrey’s mind, moved as fast as fire, leading the designer to test a metallic-sheen, flame-retardant material on the Super Freak as a unique play off the patent leather featured on the Air Jordan 11s. Humphrey, who began contributing to Jordan designs in 1990 with the Air Jordan 5, also toyed with a material worn on the uniforms and footwear of race car drivers. But because of bonding issues, neither material made it to final production. After trial and error, Humphrey finally found something with the stability and durability to match the tempo at which Moss moved.

“The great thing about someone who is so frickin’ fast is … we always found ourselves using analogies and inspiration that represented speed to show what Randy was all about,” Humphrey said. “We wanted to provide a product that could ultimately give people a piece of the Randy dream.”

By July 25, 2000, in the brief section of a St. Paul Pioneer Press story published at the start of Minnesota Vikings training camp, the last line read, “Randy Moss debuted his new cleats. The high-topped, black cleats are called the ‘Super Freak.’ They will be commercially available soon.” With the arrival of his first signature shoe, which he wore throughout his 77-catch, 1,437-yard and 15-touchdown 2000-01 season, Moss lived and breathed the “Super Freak” persona that matched his fresh new Air Jordans.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss of the NFC runs a pass pattern against the AFC in the 2000 NFL Pro Bowl on Feb. 6, 2000, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. The NFC defeated the AFC 51-31. (Photo by Martin Morrow/Getty Images)

“I mean, they call me ‘Super Freak,’ ” Moss told a reporter after making a 39-yard game-winning catch in a 31-27 win over the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 22, 2000. “Ain’t nobody out there that can really do it like myself.”


It was Jan. 6, 2001, in an NFC divisional-round playoff matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints at Minneapolis’ Metrodome. For the game, Humphrey designed Moss a custom pair of purple and yellow Air Jordan 11s, with his No. 84 emblazoned on the heel of each shoe. But everywhere Moss turned on the AstroTurf field, a different player was sporting his signature Super Freaks — from his Vikings teammates, most notably veteran wide receiver Cris Carter, to Saints opponents, including wide receivers Joe Horn and Jake Reed, as well as running back/return specialist Chad Morton.

“About eight to nine guys had my Super Freak shoe on,” said Moss. “I’m sitting there thinking like, ‘Wow.’ It was kind of overwhelming to see some of the guys with my shoe.” During an era when Jordan Brand had just begun to expand outside of hoops, Moss had sparked a cultural movement in the NFL that witnessed players taking the field in Jordan cleats on grass and Jordan basketball shoes on AstroTurf.

“He was definitely the right guy for Jordan Brand at the right time,” Humphrey said. Soon, the league witnessed Donovan McNabb, Charles Woodson, Warren Sapp, Marvin Harrison and Michael Vick join the exclusive Air Jordan-rocking football fraternity that Moss founded. Nearly two decades later, that family has grown to include Jamal Adams, Dez Bryant, Corey Coleman, Michael Crabtree, Thomas Davis, Joe Haden, Malik Hooker, Melvin Ingram, Alshon Jeffery, DeShone Kizer, Jalen Ramsey, Jordan Reed, Golden Tate and Earl Thomas as active NFL players endorsed by Jordan Brand.

Yet, Moss still remains in a league of his own as the only football player in history to have his own signature Air Jordans — first with the Super Freak and then with the “Mossified,” released in 2001.

“You still got guys out there wearing Jordans, but it started with me,” Moss said. “I don’t know who it’s going to end with, but I am happy to say that I did start that trend.”

The NFL without Odell There’s no Plan B for replacing one of the most recognizable stars in the world in the league’s biggest media market

It was written all over Odell Beckham Jr.’s face. He didn’t have to say a word. His fractured ankle — suffered in Sunday’s 27-22 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, which dropped a decrepit New York Giants squad to 0-5 on the season — will require surgery. Beckham tallied 97 yards on five catches and one touchdown before going down. In what could be his final 2017 image, the league’s most dynamic talent sat demoralized on the back of a cart in tears.

The NFL has many faces. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling. The owners’ resistance to Kaepernick’s impact. Von Miller’s eccentricity. Ezekiel Elliott’s future. Cam Newton’s drama. The New England Patriots’ dominance. Marshawn Lynch’s silence. But Beckham is the face of fun (“fun” being subjective in this case) in a billion-dollar league with very serious — mental health, domestic violence, First Amendment, chronic traumatic encephalopathy — issues.

The loss of Beckham is a hit stick to the league’s cultural capital. He’s set to cash in more than $10 million in endorsements. Nike can’t be too happy: In May, the company and Beckham came to terms on the richest shoe deal in NFL history — nearly $5 million a year for five years. Beckham’s wardrobe, the football equivalent of Russell Westbrook’s, makes nearly as many headlines as the wind sprints, acrobatic one-hand catches and intricate end zone routines that could moonlight as music videos.

Beckham is the most followed NFL player on Instagram, with more than 9 million followers. For context, Miller, J.J. Watt, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Newton have 1.2 million, 2.8 million, 2.8 million, 3.1 million and 3.9 million followers, respectively.

In a quarterback-driven league where fan loyalty largely resides with the entire team, Beckham is an individual, non-quarterback star (like Randy Moss before him) whose brand is just as much about name on the back of his jersey (fourth overall in 2016 sales) as the team logo on his helmet. Beckham’s social media influence is huge — he’s the most followed NFL player on Instagram with more than 9 million followers. For context, Miller, J.J. Watt, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Newton have 1.2 million, 2.8 million, 2.8 million, 3.1 million and 3.9 million followers, respectively. With 55 percent of all 18- to 29-year-olds in America on Instagram, Beckham’s appeal to the younger crowd separates himself from his peers.

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On his off days, Beckham is a regular fixture at NBA games. He has the respect of LeBron James. Kaepernick, too. He’s won the adoration of Drake (and likely a spare set of keys to his mansion). He even, allegedly, friend-zoned Rihanna. He texts Michael Jordan. He takes selfies with Beyoncé and rubs shoulders with an even more famous Beckham — David. And Beckham’s cleats are always in. He shifts the culture by driving it, which is why his injury affects NFL culture far beyond the Giants’ red zone offense.

The Giants’ season had effectively been in rice for weeks. But the loss of Beckham means the loss of one of football’s most popular ambassadors at a time when America’s most popular sport is in the crosshairs of societal debates that the president weighs in on almost daily. While Beckham’s attitude has long been perceived by some as a character’s most notorious flaw, his impact on the sport is felt leaguewide. “I would be remiss not to acknowledge how engaging and professional Odell [Beckham Jr.] was during the entire week of the Pro Bowl,” NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said in February. “By far and away, he represented the New York Football Giants and the NFL with great poise, congeniality and professionalism.”


Max blasts Giants for OBJ injury

Beckham’s fractured ankle, the same one he injured in a preseason game versus the Cleveland Browns, is likely the bookend to his turbulent 2017. The year, of course, began with Beckham, Victor Cruz and several other Giants partying on a yacht in Miami with Trey Songz.

The January boat party followed a playoff-clinching win over the Washington Redskins, and Beckham was largely blamed for the team’s lackluster postseason exit a week later against the Green Bay Packers — for what it’s worth, and as far as the mood on Twitter, the Giants haven’t won a game since. Then, in July, Beckham, who reached 3,500 yards faster than any receiver in league history, declared he wanted to be not only the league’s highest-paid receiver but the highest paid player, “period.” And just last month during a game versus the Philadelphia Eagles, Beckham critics feverishly salivated at the opportunity to throw him under the bus after a touchdown celebration in which he mimicked a dog urinating in the end zone. Beckham revealed later that the celebration was a response to President Donald Trump’s “son of a b—-” statement. After his second touchdown in that game, to far less fanfare and debate, Beckham raised his fist. Except for Kaepernick and maybe Lynch, there is no more polarizing NFL personality than Beckham. The conversation around him never stops. The goalposts just shift in a league that served up the following just on Sunday:

In a long-planned move, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of the Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49ers game as several members of the Niners kneeled during the national anthem. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lashed out after his team’s 35-31 loss to the Packers by saying that any member of the team to “disrespect” the flag would not play. Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster was seen snorting a white substance in a video posted on Facebook by a woman Foerster was confessing his love to. The Tennessee Titans denied Kaepernick a tryout after a hamstring injury to its starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota, opting instead for unsigned journeyman Brandon Weeden. Houston Texans superstar defensive lineman Watt suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg. Meanwhile, after a week of self-inflicted controversy, Carolina Panthers star quarterback Newton pieced together a second consecutive MVP-like performance with 355 yards and three touchdowns versus the Detroit Lions.

In quarterback-driven league and where fan loyalty is to teams, Beckham is the rare individual non-quarterback star (like Randy Moss before him).

And then: “I knew it was bad,” Giants tight end Evan Engram said about Beckham’s injury after the game. “Bad” is an understatement. Beckham’s ankle headlines a decimated Giants receiving corps that had the makings of quite possibly the best in football. Both Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard were ruled out of the second half of Sunday’s game with ankle injuries. Per Adam Schefter, Dwayne Harris’ fractured foot will end his season. Sunday’s setback also destroys Beckham’s quest for a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl and 1,000-yard season and the pipe dream of exorcising the demons of playoffs past. It complicates an already foggy contract situation too. Down their best offensive player, the Giants lose their most marketable face, with two prime-time games still left on the schedule, in a season on pace to go down as one of the worst comedy of errors in team history.

For the NFL, it’s a season in which the biggest headlines come from the sidelines, and the Oval Office. The season isn’t even halfway over and its traffic jam of moral dilemmas, including the saga of Kaepernick’s quest to return, dominate discussion. Which is why the NFL without Beckham is a blow it could ill afford. There’s no Plan B for replacing one of the most recognizable stars in the world in the league’s biggest media market. There’s no way to re-create that cocktail of production, swag and divisiveness that comes from the former LSU standout. The NFL is in a position it’s become all too familiar with in recent years — although Beckham’s injury is, of course, beyond its control — behind the eight ball.

As Beckham was carted off the field Sunday, towel over his head to mask the pain, he again didn’t have to say a word. One of his famous friends already had, fittingly on a song called “Do Not Disturb”: They tell me I need recovery/ Maybe gettin’ back to my regular life will humble me/ I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary.

There’s more to Jarrius Robertson than superfandom The 15-year-old Jimmy V Perseverance Award recipient is transforming lives through organ donation awareness

In the past year, New Orleans Saints superfan Jarrius Robertson has made more appearances than even he can count.

First there were Saints games, Saints training camps, interviews with players and coaching, where Jarrius’ playcalling often rivaled — and debatably fared better than — that of head coach Sean Payton. Last year, after signing a contract to become a Saint, Jarrius bounced from city to city, appearing everywhere from the Good Morning America studios in New York City to the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. But no matter where he is, Jarrius never forgets to spread the message that “It Takes Lives to Save Lives” in order to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation.

It was only fitting that the charismatic 15-year-old was chosen to be the recipient of this year’s Jimmy V Perseverance Award at The ESPYS for the strength and courage he has displayed while battling biliary atresia, a rare, chronic liver disease that affects the bile ducts, beginning at infancy.

“It feels good because I get to go down with some of the greatest people, and it’s a big opportunity,” Jarrius said of the award.

The announcement came just two months after Jarrius’ second liver transplant surgery, which has been helping him get back to everyday activities that he was forced to give up because of the illness.

“Recovery is going good because I can do all the things I couldn’t do with my old liver,” Jarrius said. “I’m eating better and playing and going outside.”

The outpouring of love and support Jarrius has received is something his father, Jordy Robertson, is still getting used to. But he is grateful for the opportunities Jarrius has to speak for other kids who are battling chronic illnesses or waiting to receive an organ. There was a time Jordy Robertson wasn’t sure his son would make it past 1 year old.

Jordy Robertson and Jarrius’ mother, Patricia Hoyal, became parents when they were teenagers.

“We were young,” said Jordy Robertson, 34. “We didn’t know nothing. But as a father, I stayed by his side because this was my first kid. I was so excited, not knowing what I was about to be faced with.”

Jarrius, who appeared to be healthy at birth, was diagnosed with biliary atresia at only 4 weeks old. The rare disease affects about 1 out of 18,000 infants and can cause slow weight gain and stunted growth. Jordy Robertson ended up missing most of his senior year just to be by his son’s side.

“The principal gave me a call and said, ‘Hey, if you could pass this test, you can walk with your class and get your high school diploma,’ ” Jordy Robertson said. “I studied hard that week, aced that test, and when they asked if I was ready to walk with my class I said, ‘I don’t want to walk with my class. I have to run to the hospital.’ I got my diploma, and I ran.”

When Jarrius was 1 year old, Jordy Robertson remained hopeful that the liver transplant his son was about to receive would be the cure for his illness. Instead, what was supposed to be a time of celebration turned into Jordy Robertson’s worst nightmare.

Jarrius successfully made it through his first liver transplant. But after surgery, the 1-year-old aspirated, causing fluid to be drawn into his lungs.

“He never made it out of the [operating room],” Jordy Robertson said.

Jarrius was placed in a medically induced coma for a year. A ventilator moved air in and out of the small boy’s lungs, working to breathe for him. Weeks passed before doctors delivered the crushing news to Jordy Robertson that Jarrius’ progression had significantly decreased. There was nothing more the hospital could do for his son.

“As a family, we signed the papers to not revive him,” Jordy Robertson said. “But once they unplugged him from the ventilator, the doctors said, ‘Hey, this kid is breathing.’ They placed the bag on him and rushed him straight into a room and went to work from there. It was a great moment.”

Since then, Jarrius, who stands a little under 4 feet tall and weighs 52 pounds, has undergone 36 surgeries and two liver transplants. Yet, none of his medical emergencies has dampened his spirit.

“His personality, he gets it from being his age and his size and having the heart that he has,” Jordy Robertson said. “He’s got the heart of a lion but the body of a baby. But if there was a war right now, he’d say, ‘Dad, put me on the front line and let me go.’ He’s a brave person with courage and understanding.”

Besides spreading awareness about organ donation and chronic illness, Jarrius has picked up several famous friends, including Saints quarterback Drew Brees, running back Mark Ingram and defensive end Cameron Jordan, all of whom have been on the receiving end of Jarrius’ tough love and advice to better themselves as football players.

“They don’t challenge me because they know around there, I’m the boss,” Jarrius said.

Jarrius met Saints players for the first time in December 2015 during their annual visit to Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans, where he was being treated for gastrointestinal bleeding. Right before Jarrius was set to be discharged, players walked the halls in their plush red and white Santa hats, giving gifts, taking pictures and chatting with the kids.

“I was happy and excited since I’d never met them before,” Jarrius said. “[Saints punter] Thomas Morstead changed our lives,” Jordy Robertson added. “The hospital partners with his foundation, What You Give Will Grow, and this is how we met them. He was the one who offered us tickets to the game where we could be on the sidelines.”

Although Jarrius sometimes faces complications that cause minor setbacks, they aren’t enough to keep him down for long. Most days, just as any other teenage boy, Jarrius prioritizes video games and family fun over rest. Jordy Robertson laughed while partially placing blame on ESPN analyst Randy Moss for Jarrius’ intermittent sleep patterns.

“That kid stays up all night playing [NBA 2K],” Jordy Robertson said. “If we aren’t doing anything and there’s no hospital visits, he’s not getting up until about 3 p.m. … Randy Moss has him like that. Randy will call me at like 11 or 12 o’clock at night and say, ‘Hey, what are the boys doing?’ I’ll go to their room and check, and Randy will say, ‘Tell ’em I’m ready. Tell ’em it’s time to get it on,’ and they’ll play until 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning.”

Moss learned of Jarrius through Annie Apple’s profile of the teen on Sunday NFL Countdown earlier in the season and immediately took a liking to Jarrius’ sprightly personality. The pair finally met in February on the ESPN set at Super Bowl LI in Houston.

“Jarrius was so full of energy. That hit me instantly,” Moss wrote via email. “When I met him, his excitement lit up our stage. I learned more about his condition and it hit close to home, understanding that I’ve got children of my own that could easily be in the same position. I was battling some things personally, but not like Jarrius. He showed me with his energy, laughter and determination to keep fighting no matter what. God answered both our prayers and for that, I love this kid.”

Jordy doesn’t mind the late hours his son keeps, nor the designated parent-turned-publicist position that Jarrius’ overnight fame has made for him. For Jordy Robertson, watching Jarrius have fun and entertain others while spreading awareness will always trump the nights he has spent praying for a miracle for his son, wary of the lurking complications that could strike at any moment.

“I know that my son is like a superhero, he’s saving lives,” Jordy Robertson said. “But I also get to bring to light something I’ve been stressing over, worried about and fighting for 13 years. It’s hard as a father to wake up in the middle of the night to stand over your kid to see if your kid is breathing or even alive. And even crying and praying over your kid in the middle of the night is something that most people in the world may not have to experience. For me, I did it so many nights it became part of me.”

As Jarrius grows and learns to manage his illness, the future remains bright. Besides helping others, Jarrius aspires to become an actor and comedian, and he hopes to meet actor Kevin Hart.

The most important thing Jordy Robertson hopes for his son is that he’ll keep fighting for not only himself but also for other kids who are battling chronic illnesses. He said he’s grateful for those who help Jarrius through donations, and who attend or volunteer for events hosted by Jarrius’ foundation, It Takes Lives to Save Lives.

“As a father, the major accomplishment I want to achieve is to make my son the face of organ donation,” Jordy Robertson said. “The reason I say that is because when you talk about organ donation, you talk about Jarrius Robertson, a kid who has been fighting for 13 years of his life and is finally getting the chance of winning the battle. He’s fighting for a cause that helped save his life that can help save the lives of other kids, too.”