Smoothie sailing: Moss dons apron at fruit-juice store
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Randy Moss walked behind the counter in a pinstripe suit with a red striped tie, traded his jacket for an apron, took off his sunglasses and went to work -- as the owner of a new fruit-juice store.
Making smoothies gave Moss another chance to smooth out a rift with his home state.
Hundreds of people turned out at the recent grand opening of the Inta Juice store in Charleston to get an autograph from the Oakland Raiders receiver and try the product he first tasted while he was with the Minnesota Vikings.
"Am I getting paid for doing this today?" Moss said, flashing a smile.
"Yeah, we've got minimum wage coming to you," replied Berkley Fuller, executive vice president and chief business development officer of the Fort Collins, Colo.-based Inta Juice.
The first smoothie Moss made was bought by Joe Burgess of South Charleston for his wife, Carol, who returned a few minutes later to get Moss' autograph on her cup.
"I think it's a great thing that he's doing. It's beneficial for the community," Joe Burgess said. "He's putting his roots back down in West Virginia. Right now, Randy is trying to come back and pay back the community."
There are some who thought he needed to do that. Although he was a Heisman Trophy finalist at Marshall in 1997, the Rand native hasn't exactly been a hero in his home state.
He spent a few days in jail for a parole violation in 1996. By his rookie season with the Vikings in 1998, several articles were written in which Moss criticized West Virginia and said he was happy to get out of the state.
In Minnesota, his image continued to take a hit.
He squirted an official with a water bottle in 1999. Two years later, he verbally abused corporate sponsors on a team bus, and in 2002 bumped a traffic control officer with his car.
In 2004, Moss was fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay crowd during Minnesota's playoff win and also drew criticism for leaving the field with 2 seconds left in a regular-season loss against Washington.
But over the years, Moss has held less publicized annual autograph sessions for children in Charleston and has taken several busloads of kids to an Ohio amusement park.
"I think it takes time," said Moss' lawyer, Tim DiPiero. "Actions speak louder than words. We've never had so much positive feedback than we've had from this. You can tell by the turnout that the people are excited.
"I don't think there's any doubt that the healing's been going on for some time and the repair is pretty much finished. I think we're in good shape now. It's all positive."
Moss got into the smoothies when he and his Vikings teammates visited an Inta Juice franchise in Eden Prairie, Minn., near the team's headquarters.
His favorite was the Caribbean Blend, made with lime sherbet, raspberry juice, strawberries and bananas.
"It's really the first one that I ever tasted," Moss said. "I fell in love with it. By being so healthy and being able to taste the product, I was overwhelmed. Whenever I figured out that I could have something like this of my own, that's why I did it."
A year ago, Moss directed DiPiero to call Inta Juice about bringing a franchise to West Virginia. DiPiero was skeptical at first. So was Fuller.
"My first reaction was a little bit of surprise," Fuller said. "Why is Randy contacting us? What's he interested in?"
Moss went to Colorado to talk with company officials and won them over. Not only did Moss start the process of opening a franchise, he made an undisclosed investment in Inta Juice, earned a seat on the board of directors and became involved in marketing the company.
"I just think it's a good fit," Moss said of opening his store. "We really didn't have anything here in town for the people that tasted like this and being as healthy as it is. So I just thought about investing and bringing it back home."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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