MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Adrian Moss-Beasley, a tight end on West Virginia’s legendary 1988 team, died late Saturday night due to complications from colon cancer. His death was confirmed by the Brevard County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Department, which employed him for 28 years.
Moss-Beasley, who played as Adrian Moss, caught 32 passes for 471 yards and a touchdown in his Mountaineers career. He signed with West Virginia from Cocoa, Fla., and lettered for three seasons from 1987-89.
Primarily a blocking tight end early in his career, Moss-Beasley had a breakout performance at East Carolina in 1988. He made five receptions for 85 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown, as WVU pulled away for a 30-10 win, the sixth of an eventual undefeated regular season.
That team’s 30th Fiesta Bowl reunion originally was scheduled for late last season, but teammates like Dale Wolfley — hearing of Moss-Beasley’s cancer prognosis — expedited the celebration to the Week 2 game against Youngstown State.
“We moved it up because we wanted to make sure ‘Big Moss’ was there to experience it,” Wolfley said. “It was amazing for us to see him come back, because the fellas all knew what was going on. I know he loved it, and we’re eternally grateful for that.”
Moss-Beasley emerged as West Virginia’s starting tight end in 1989, his senior season. He finished third on the team in receiving with 21 catches for 371 yards.
After graduation, Moss-Beasley returned to Florida and went into law enforcement. He was the Democratic nominee for Brevard County Sheriff in 2012 but was defeated in the heavily Republican-voting county.
Moss-Beasley’s opponent in that election, Sheriff Wayne Ivey, wrote his obituary.
“For those who knew Adrian, you knew he was a gentle giant with a heart of gold who was a great cop, a great friend, and above all else a great man,” Ivey wrote. “If you never had a chance to meet Adrian you missed an amazing opportunity to see how someone who stood [6-foot-6] could be so kind, friendly, and compassionate about others. You also missed the chance to meet someone who just his mere presence made you want to be a better person.”
Wolfley recalled a moment from that East Carolina victory that exemplified Moss’ personality as a guardian.
“There was a cheap shot on me — a guy hit me right in the kidneys with a punch — and I was ranting and raving in the huddle. So Big Moss was like, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.’ Lo and behold, man, if he didn’t take that guy, pick him up and put him on his back. Then Big Moss goes, ‘I told you I’d take care of it.’
“That’s why we loved him. He was gentle, chill and calm, but you didn’t want to get the big guy angry or you’d see him come alive. All of his teammates knew he was special. That’s who Big Moss was. Whether he was a tight end at West Virginia or in law enforcement for 20-plus years, he was a protector.”
— Allan Taylor contributed to this report.