NEW ORLEANS Colin Kaepernick may be a recent phenomenon for the national media, but Randy Moss said the young 49ers quarterback caught his eye as far back as May.
Moss on Tuesday said he watched Kaepernick work out one day in the spring and decided he was someone worth taking under his wing.
"I saw something in him," Moss said. "I pulled him to the side and shared a few words with him. I'm not going to share what we were talking about. I had just seen something in him."
Eight months later, it's Kaepernick not Tom Brady or Randall Cunningham or any of the famous quarterbacks Moss has played alongside who is in position to give the wide receiver something he has yet to achieve in 14 seasons: a Super Bowl ring.
Moss, who had formally addressed the media only six times this season before Tuesday, spoke for more than 60 minutes on Super Bowl media day, covering topics from Kaepernick to his year away from football to his desire to play another season to whether he's ever had an imaginary, online girlfriend. (Answer: no.)
He made the biggest wave when he said more than once that he considered himself the greatest receiver of all time.
"I don't really live on numbers," Moss said. "I live on impact and what you're able to do out on that field. So I really believe that I'm the greatest receiver to ever play this game."
Jerry Rice, of course, hasn't even begun to relax his vise grip on that best-ever title both in impact and in statistics.
In his 14th season, Rice caught 82 passes for 1,157 yards and nine touchdowns for the 49ers. He played another six seasons and grabbed 33 more scoring passes. Moss' regular-season tally for 2012: 28 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
Moss acknowledged his "down year" and admitted he was frustrated at being a decoy, his role most of the time.
"I don't really like that, but it's something that I'm used to," he said. "I have to grow to understand and grow to like it. I've always been a team player. I've never been about self. Anything that is going to push our team to victory and hopefully win a Super Bowl, I'm willing to do."
Moss may not be the best ever, but his teammates especially the youngest ones revere him like no one else on the team.
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree even noted that Moss' surname has been turned into a verb among NFL players.
"It's funny when you're at practice and you catch a ball over somebody and they say, 'You got Moss'd,' " Crabtree said. "You talk to the (defensive back) and you say, 'You got Moss'd,' and Moss is sitting right there next to you."
Kaepernick, meanwhile, remembered the spring encounter with Moss.
"Basically, he told me, 'Just take a deep breath and play like yourself,' " Kaepernick said. "Coming from someone who's been in the league and is a future Hall of Famer, you've got to take his advice to heart, and since then, I've felt I've done that."
Kaepernick also recalled another instance in which the veteran receiver helped him out of a funk. The 49ers had just fallen 42-13 to the Seattle Seahawks, their most lopsided loss of the Jim Harbaugh era, and Moss found Kaepernick in the shower with his forehead pressed against the shower wall.
"I said, 'Man, get your head up. That was a team loss,' " Moss said. "He really beat himself up. I could see it on his face that he was really down that we didn't win the game. I think he probably put it on his shoulders."
But that's also one reason Moss called Kaepernick "the next-generation quarterback we're all looking for."
Kaepernick can run, throw, has a powerful arm, is precise and intelligent and has a burning desire to win, Moss said. In fact, there's only one thing he wishes were different with Kaepernick.
"I wish he would take some of the heat of those balls sometimes," he said with a smile.