CLEAR BROOK — Shortly after getting an autograph from Santana Moss on Saturday, 28-year-old Ryan Steele from Bunker Hill, West Virginia, explained the appeal of the former Washington Football Team wide receiver.
"When I was a kid, I like that he performed all the time," said Steele following Saturday's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast at the Frederick County Fairgrounds.
There were a lot of rough moments for Washington during Moss' time with the franchise from 2005-14, but fans of the team could pretty much always count on a determined and committed effort from Moss. The 41-year-old has been retired for seven years now, but his interest in the franchise still remains plenty strong.
Moss got the chance to host a pregame show before each of the WFT games last season on washingtonfootball.com and 980 AM radio, and participate in other shows throughout the week.
Moss said it means a lot to him to still be around the game, even though he never expected to go into broadcasting when he retired after the 2014 season. Moss ranks third all-time in WFT history with 581 catches (for 7,887 yards and 47 touchdowns) and led the team in receiving every year from 2005-10.
"I thought my passion for the game itself would have probably led me to go into coaching," said Moss, who hasn't ruled out a future in coaching, during a phone interview on Thursday. "When I got presented with this, it was like a no-brainer.
"It was new, so it wasn't something that was easy for me. I've always been a guy who's spoke up for the team when asked upon, but I've always been a guy of not many words at the same time. But now, being in front of the camera, and being on the radio, it's something I've embraced and something I look forward to doing, just talking about something I know so well."
Prior to COVID-19, Moss also talked football with Travis Thomas — who works for 980 AM — on "The Santana Moss Show" on YouTube. Moss said he hopes to bring back that show this year.
Moss said he liked what he saw from Washington in its first season under Ron Rivera. WFT went 7-9 and won the NFC East to earn its first playoff berth since 2015.
"I liked seeing a young, competitive team," Moss said. "I saw a staff that really got the best out of their guys. I really truly believe that Ron and his staff gets the best out of his talent. He's not there just throwing stuff on the board and saying, 'Go out there and get it done.' He's actually finding the best man to go out there and get it done.' That's what I appreciate the most, just seeing those guys, every week, build themselves into being a pretty good team late in the season, and they were able to take that into the postseason.
"That's unlikely, especially for your first year. So many young guys, a lot of guys not familiar with each other. For them to get into the postseason, that should be a great confidence builder for the guys coming in this year, and anybody else who's new coming into the team. Now they have something to really build off of and look forward to."
Moss said improved quarterback play will be key for Washington this year. WFT added Ryan Fitzpatrick to a team that also has holdovers Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke and Steven Montez.
"That's been to me the Achilles' heel for us for so many years," Moss said. "If we get that solved, who knows how far this team can go."
Washington made four picks in the first three rounds of the NFL draft that took place on Thursday and Friday, and Moss thought two of them were particularly intriguing during an interview on Saturday morning — linebacker Jamin Davis from Kentucky in the first round and third round pick Dyami Brown of North Carolina.
"To see the guy that [Washington] got a linebacker, he fits the mold of their style of play," said Moss, who added that Davis reminds him of two linebackers that Rivera coached in Carolina in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. "And then to see the young receiver that they got [Friday], they're filling the team up with some nice, good young depth."
As Moss gears up for another NFL season, he's also keeping his eye on the children of Northern Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and his native Miami.
After reading off Moss' myriad football accomplishments while introducing him during the Sports Breakfast, Middletown mayor Charles Harbaugh IV then talked about Moss' non-profit organization "89 Ways to Give Foundation," a reference to Moss' jersey number. The organization holds football clinics but also conducts things like food drives, and supplies clothes and uniforms.
"We try and do everything we can for the community," said Moss on Thursday. "If you need a helping hand, we're there for you the best that we can. I'm basically doing what a lot of people fail to do when it comes to these kids, man. I'm reaching out and showing them that hey, 'I'm in your backyard. I'm there every day. You probably heard about me from your parents. I want to be able to teach you some of the little things that helped me get to where I'm at today.'
"If that's having camps for these kids, bringing different folks out to speak to them ... like I tell the parents, I'm not here to make your kid a great athlete or football player. But I'm hoping I can help build that character and teach them some of the elements that are going to be needed to be successful in life."