SENIOR NIGHT: Time To Say Good-Bye To Moss

SENIOR NIGHT: Time To Say Good-Bye To Moss

Adrian Moss has been at the University of Florida so long that it only seems like he was Billy Donovan's first recruit way back in 1996. In reality it hasn't been ten years. It only seems that way. Moss has been here five years now and tonight when he says good bye as Florida's only senior playing in his final home game, he will leave a legacy that cannot be measured by numbers.

Going into tonight's game with Georgia at the O'Connell Center, Moss has scored 441 points and pulled down 315 rebounds. That's a modest 3.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. There's a double-double mixed in there, a 16-point, 11-rebound game that he got against FAMU as a sophomore when he averaged 6.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Since that big night against FAMU there has been an assortment of injuries including a lower back problem that cost him nine games in the 2004-05 season so he knows all about playing with and through the pain. Whenever he's been asked, he's answered the call and he's never backed down from anyone. The Gators march to the SEC Tournament championship last year couldn't have been made without him.

When the Gators faced a midseason gut check and a demand from Donovan to toughen up, it was Moss who led by example. He became the enforcer, the guy who wasn't afraid to retaliate and send a message loud and clear. Foul a teammate too hard or deliver a forearm when nobody's watching and Adrian Moss made sure there was hell to pay. By the time the Gators got to the SEC Tournament, nobody roughed up a Gator for fear of a well placed Adrian Moss elbow buried in the solar plexus or a nicely hidden (from the zebras) forearm to the kidneys.

He's maintained that role this year even though he's played roller coaster minutes off the bench. Some games he plays a lot, some games he's scarcely off the bench but in all games, if there's dirty work to be done, Adrian Moss hasn't backed away. He's just rolled up his sleeves and done whatever it takes to help the team.

The guy who does the dirty work. The guy who does whatever the team needs to get a win. That's what he's done and that's how he hopes Gator Nation will remember him.

"My legacy definitely is not left in numbers," said Moss. "I figure I'm just a working man's player. I came to work. I played hard … sick, hurt, injured … whatever you want to call it. I played hard to the final horn and I tried to do whatever it was needed to win."

Doing whatever is needed to win. There's a place for that kind of player on any team and in any sport. In basketball, the guys who score points by the bucket loads and hit clutch shots are the ones who find themselves in the limelight. Guys who spend their time doing the dirty work, grabbing rebounds, setting picks, playing tough defense, retaliating when and if necessary --- guys like Adrian Moss --- rarely make a headline unless one of their razor sharp elbows connects with a nose and there's spurting blood.

He's done the dirty work yet no one would dare call him a dirty player. He's done his share of retaliating yet no one has ever said he's gone over the edge. He's just played tough. And hard.

That's his legacy and there's no shame in being the tough guy.

"I'm damn proud of it," he said. "People like the Rowdy Reptiles … they see stuff like that … that's who I am. I'm not going to put up the numbers. I'm just going to do the dirty things that it takes to win and that's honorable enough for me."

He's never been one destined for stardom at Florida. He was kind of an afterthought in recruiting, a late signee out of Fork Union Military Academy five years ago. He was in a recruiting class that included Kwame Brown, David Lee and James White, all McDonald's All-Americans. Brown never suited up for the Gators. He was selected first in the NBA Draft. White lasted a year and then transferred to Cincinnati where he's finishing up his college career. Lee played four years, graduated and was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft by the New York Knicks.

When Moss got to Florida, after that year of prep school at Fork Union, it was like he had been set free. It didn't matter that he was asked to redshirt his freshman year. He was happy just to be somewhere --- anywhere --- other than Fork Union, a place he calls "boring" and certainly not the kind of place that an adventurous free thinker could have survived one more year.

"Kid in the candy store, a guy who's just been let out of jail … any analogy that you want to put to it," said Moss. "Here I can do what I want when I want and nobody is telling me what to eat. There's an abundance of girls running around, I've got the sun and I could wear normal clothes. To step on the campus here was a beautiful thing."

Four years later, he's earned his keep for the Gators. He's taken whatever role that he's been asked to take and given it his best effort. He's the first to tell you that when he jumps he is not going to bring back any memories of Dr. J. A high riser he isn't. He's developed a nice jump shot that he can hit when he's left alone and though his hands aren't the biggest or the strongest, he can still hold his own on the boards. When it comes to defense, the hard toll taken on his back doesn't allow him to be a shot blocker so he just works hard to maintain position and he uses his body to shove people out of their comfort zone.

Nothing spectacular about the way he plays. Just good enough to be a contributor on some very good teams that always won 20 games and always made it to the NCAA Tournament. And of course, he does have that SEC championship ring from last year.

But now the Florida basketball career is reaching its twilight. It's nearing time that time when it all comes to an end. The home chapter of his career will come to an end tonight when he faces Georgia one last time. The Reptiles will be on their feet letting him know how much they appreciate him and hopefully, everyone else in the O-Dome will stand and cheer, letting him know that there will always be a place for a team guy, even one who never did light up the scoreboard.

"Everything comes to an end," he said. "I've had a lot of fun. I've met a lot of great people, I've played with a lot of great players and I've met some of my best friends in the world on the University of Florida campus so all in all, these five years at the UF have been a blast."

He has plans to be a coach someday but there is still that urge to play basketball and if someone will let him suit up in the play for pay ranks --- and it really doesn't matter where it is --- he'll give it a shot.

"There's still something left in these legs," he said. "If I can go play somewhere, I'll go play."

Where he goes and where he will play --- there are no certainties or guarantees, just a desire to do it --- will be a chapter still to be determined. For the moment, he has another door that must close on the latest chapter in his ongoing saga.

"It's been a great chapter of my life that I wouldn't change for the world," he said. "The ups, the downs, the twists and the turns ... I wouldn't change anything in the world."

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