As graduation guests go, it doesn't get much better in Minnesota than Randy Moss.
The Vikings legend shocked those at Pelican Rapids High School Friday night when he turned up to watch seniors graduate, but he was there for one student in particular.
He came to the stage to hand a high school diploma to Kassi Spier, the senior who had been befriended by Moss while he was with the Vikings as she battled leukemia as a toddler, the Fargo Forum reports.
And their friendship endured as Spier fought not only illness (she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2013), but also dealt with tragedy as her father was killed in a 2004 car accident.
"She’s had many struggles in her life, and he’s been there for her," Pelican Rapids public schools superintendent Deb Wanek told the newspaper. "He told her he’d be at her high school graduation."
A friendship built to last
An article from 2003 by the Associated Press reveals how Spier and Moss became friends when he was a rookie with the Vikings, and notes that the girl originally from South Dakota would "follow him to lunch just about every day" while he was at training camp.
ESPN1500 reports that the Spier family were regular attendees at the Vikings' training camps.
In 2000, the L.A. Times noted that Moss refused to conduct an interview without Spier, when she was just 4-years-old, which the newspaper suggested initially might appear to be a contrived attempt to shed his "bad boy" image, before realizing that he appeared genuinely close to the girl as she sat on his knee.
Sportswriter Sean Jensen praised Moss's love for children in a blog posting earlier this year, noting that he would take bus loads from his West Virginia hometown to amusement parks, and would always sign autographs for his younger fans.
But it was Spier who has a special place in his heart, noting that he visited her while she was in a critical condition in hospital and would meet her for lunches, buy her gifts and give her tickets to several Vikings games.