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Robert Smith: 'This Isn't Going to be Fair'

Posted Sep 5, 2017

There was chatter about Randy Moss in the Vikings locker room even before he decided to leave Marshall University and turn pro. 

The 100-yard games, multi-touchdown performances and highlight-reel catches were all part of the buzz Moss created while in college that swept across the country.

Former Vikings running back Robert Smith and his teammates took notice.

“It’s funny because when we were in the locker room in 1997, you’d see the highlights because SportsCenter would always be on,” Smith said. “You’d see those long Randy highlights. So when he dropped to us on draft day, the first thought I had was, ‘This isn’t going to be fair.’

“With what we already had in place,” Smith said. “You just knew it was going to be a powerhouse offense.”

Smith had finished seventh in the league in 1997 with 1,266 rushing yards while adding six touchdowns. It was the first of four straight 1,000-yard seasons, culminating in a career-best 1,521 yards and seven scores in 2000.

With opponents respecting the run first, the Vikings devised a way to fool them.

Smith would get handed the ball and take a step or two forward before pitching the ball back to the quarterback to launch a deep pass to Moss for a touchdown.

The ol’ flea flicker often worked to perfection.

“We always felt pretty good about that play,” Smith said with a laugh. “Even if people were covering Randy, Randall (Cunningham) or whoever was playing quarterback could just kind of throw the ball up, and he’d make a play on it anyway.

“It was kind of natural because teams were stopping the run so much,” Smith added. “It was difficult and kind of like picking your poison, and it was something that just worked out for us.”

Before he got to the NFL and went to two Pro Bowls, Smith was a standout sprinter who once raced against legendary Olympian Carl Lewis.

But even Smith, a superb athlete himself, was blown away by what he saw from his new teammate in Mankato in the summer of 1998.

“I’ve been around a lot of great athletes, but when you see somebody that just stands out so far above everyone else that you’ve ever seen, it really strikes you,” Smith said. “He was so different and so smooth and just snatched the ball out of the air. It was really incredible.

“When I saw him at the very first practice in training camp, I remember speaking to one of my friends back in Cleveland over lunch break,” Smith recalled. “They asked me how Randy looked and I said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this. If he stays healthy, this guy is going to be a Hall of Famer.’  There was no question about it.”