GREEN BAY, Wis. — Randy Moss sees the same thing others do in Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
He sees the resemblance.
“As far as his size and the structure of his body, the way he looks, for sure,” Moss said. “And the way he makes things look easy.”
Put a 25-year-old Moss next to the Green Bay Packers‘ Scantling, who celebrated his quarter-century birthday this week, and the similarities would be striking — 6-foot-4, 205-to-210 pounds, long and lean. Put them on a track and the stopwatches would read in the 4.3-seconds range for the 40-yard dash.
By the time he turned 25, Moss already had four 1,000-yard NFL seasons to his credit, made three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams and led the NFL in touchdown catches in two different years.
Valdes-Scantling’s assimilation has been slower. Early in his second pro season, he’s shown flashes of Moss-like big-play ability. He has two catches of 40-plus yards this season and six dating to Week 6 of last season, second-most in the NFL during that stretch.
While the similarities look far more eye-catching off the field than on it, Moss also sees something others don’t in Valdes-Scantling. The Hall of Fame receiver notices the kind of things that only someone who works closely with another athlete would notice.
“When I first met him, I could tell how talented he was and how he made things look easy,” Moss said. “But I told him that he needed some work.”
What impressed Moss was Valdes-Scantling didn’t balk, didn’t roll his eyes. He listened.
“I said, ‘Now, what if you put that with some hard work? There’s no telling how things will look then,'” Moss said. “I know it’s always a process, but I’ve been impressed with his development.”
It’s a mentor-protégé relationship that is two years in the making and has its roots in Tampa, Florida. Valdes-Scantling is from the neighboring city of St. Petersburg and played in college at South Florida. He trains at the Applied Science and Performance Institute (ASPI) in Tampa, where he first met Moss before the 2018 season.
“I got to work out with him for like a week,” Valdes-Scantling said.
He wanted more.
“This year, I said I really wanted to get going with him,” Valdes-Scantling said.
With the help of former NFL receiver Yo Murphy, who played with Moss in Minnesota and serves as ASPI’s director of sports performance, Valdes-Scantling spent most of this past summer before training camp with Moss.
When Moss works with receivers he has one rule: No gloves.
If receivers want to wear gloves in games, that’s fine.
But not during their workouts.
“The biggest thing with Moss is what guys end up leaving with is a ton of confidence,” Murphy said. “They rip the gloves off and in July heat, it’s tough not to catch with gloves, but he doesn’t allow you to wear gloves, so you get confident catching the ball. I really believe it’s confidence, and that’s [why] I think Moss is so good.”
The workouts lasted up to two hours, four days a week. Moss would fly into Tampa on Monday morning and leave late Thursday night or early Friday morning.
Valdes-Scantling paid for the sessions out of his own pocket.
“I’m paying the facility (ASPI) where I work out; I wasn’t just paying Randy,” he said. “Obviously, he doesn’t need the money. He said he wishes he had people to teach him the things he learned later on his career, so I think he likes giving back to the younger players.”
New Packers receivers coach Alvis Whitted certainly approved — not just because Valdes-Scantling worked with a Hall of Fame receiver but because he also experienced firsthand how Moss works. Whitted’s 10-year NFL career overlapped with Moss in Oakland for two seasons, and he said the most underrated aspect of Moss’ career was how hard he worked.
“People don’t know that about him,” Whitted said.
Said Valdes-Scantling: “When [Whitted] found out I worked with him, and he told me his work ethic was unmatched. His ball-tracking skill was crazy. Me and Randy did some of the drills that he would do when he was in his offseason.”
Despite the physical similarities, Valdes-Scantling hasn’t tried to copy Moss — or anyone else.
In fact, Moss told him not to.
“That’s kind of the focus that he always said, ‘Don’t try to go out and be me or emulate me. I can teach you some things that I did, but you can be yourself,'” Valdes-Scantling said. “So that’s the thing he always preached.
“He said, ‘I can teach you some things, but you got to the league off what you can do, not what others can do.’ Obviously, you take stuff from different players and put it into your game but be yourself.”
Not all of their work came on the field. There was a mental aspect to Moss’ tutelage.
“A lot of it was just being a pro,” Moss said. “I said, ‘You have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, and it really didn’t seem right that he didn’t have a lot of other options. He was the third receiver and moved himself up. Just his development is what I’ve really appreciated.”
Moss in the house
Moss will be at Lambeau Field on Monday (8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN) for the Packers’ game against the Detroit Lions as part of ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown crew. A regular feature on the show is the “You Got Mossed” segment, in which Moss-like catches are shown.
Valdes-Scantling hasn’t made the clips yet.
“Not on our show,” Moss said.
His lone catch last week could be a candidate.
While Rodgers had only four completions to receivers in last week’s 34-23 win over the Cowboys, one of them was a sideline 18-yarder in which Valdes-Scantling high-pointed the ball and toe-tapped in bounds.
“But I think for me my biggest thing that I wanted to see him do is more moving up the totem pole of giving Aaron a reliable and trustworthy option,” Moss said. “For the past two years [that’s what] I’ve really been focusing on [with] him. He’s done that up to this point.”