A real catch


Jerry Rice joined the San Francisco 49ers as the team's first round draft pick in 1985 out of little-known Mississippi Valley State. Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh spotted something in the scouting films on Rice that made him feel it was absolutely necessary to move up in the draft to take the wideout. Walsh packaged three draft picks and sent them to the New England Patriots to move up to the 16th spot that year to pick Rice.

While Walsh had visions that Rice would develop into a fine receiver in the NFL, he couldn't possibly have predicted what Rice would accomplish over the next 20 seasons. Rice not only broke every significant receiving record, he shattered them.

Ranking among the most coveted of his many records is his ranking as the NFL's all-time receptions leader. A scan of the previous record holders reveals, not surprisingly, a who's who of Hall of Fame receivers.

The NFL didn't keep official statistics until the early 1930s. But, that matters little when tracing the lineage of the career receptions mark. The stature of that record didn't evolve much until the legendary Don Hutson started putting up staggeringly high numbers during his 11-season career with the Green Bay Packers from 1935 to 1945. The great end left the game with an unimaginable (at the time) 488 catches. That mark, like so many of his, stood for decades.

Rice became the career leader on Christmas Eve 1995 and spent the next nine seasons adding to his career total. His ownership of the record appears to be something that will remain unchallenged for some time.

Here's a look at the select group of wide receivers who have held the title of "all-time leading receiver" since Hutson. Their final total is listed along with a recap of when they first claimed the record.

1,059 Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers

Date: Dec. 24, 1995
Game: Atlanta Falcons 28, San Francisco 49ers 27
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Description: Rice put the finishing touches on a record-setting season in which he racked up a record 1,848 receiving yards. He became the game’s all-time receptions leader in the final week of the regular season. In Chicago, Monk who came out of retirement to play with the Philadelphia Eagles made his final career catch on a 36-yard play from QB Rodney Peete on the last play of the third quarter. So, technically speaking, Rice broke Monk’s career mark on an 8-yard pass from Steve Young on a 3-and-10 play in the 49ers final possession that day. For good measure, Rice hauled in a 10-yard pass from Young on the next play to convert a fourth-down play to end the game with 942 career catches.
Game Stats: 12 receptions, 153 yards, 0 TD

940 Art Monk, Washington Redskins

Date: Oct. 12, 1992
Game: Washington Redskin, 34, Denver Broncos 3
Location: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Description: Monk became the game’s all-time leading receiver in Washington’s win in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football in Week 6. He broke the record when he caught his third pass in a row, a 10-yarder to the right sideline from quarterback Mark Rypien with 3:12 remaining in the game. He finished the game with 820 catches and counting.
Game Stats: 7 receptions, 69 yards, 0 TD

819 Steve Largent, Seattle Seahawks

Date: Dec. 27, 1987
Opponent, Score: Kansas City Chiefs 41, Seattle Seahawks 20
Location: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
Description: Largent set the record in the season finale when he hauled in a three-yard pass from quarterback from David Krieg midway through the second quarter. His career total by game’s end was 752 catches.
Game Stats: 6 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD

750 Charlie Joiner, San Diego Chargers

Date: Nov. 25, 1984
Opponent, Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 52, San Diego Chargers 24
Location: Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh
Description: Joiner became the NFL’s all-time leader in Week 13 of the 1984 season. He had tied Taylor with a 25-yard catch in the fourth quarter. He then added his name to the record book with a 3-yard reception from quarterback Ed Luther, who has replaced the injured Dan Fouts, with 4:51 to play in regulation.
Game Stats: 6 receptions, 70 yards, 1 TD (25)

649 Charley Taylor, Washington Redskins

Date: Dec. 21, 1975
Opponent, Score: Philadelphia Eagles 26, Washington Redskins 3
Location: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Description: Taylor moved to the top of the career receptions chart during the final week of the 1975 season. He broke the mark in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 635 career catches
Game Stats: 2 receptions, 16 yard

633 Don Maynard, New York Jets

Date: Dec. 11, 1972
Opponent, Score: Oakland Raiders 24, New York Jets 16
Location: Oakland-Alameda County Stadium
Description: Don Maynard broke the career record held by the legendary Berry in Week 13. He caught the record pass from quarterback Joe Namath and finished the day one catch ahead of Berry’s career total.
Game Stats: 7 receptions, 131 yards

631 Raymond Berry, Baltimore Colts

Date: Dec. 13, 1964
Opponent, Score: Baltimore Colts 45, Washington Redskins 17
Location: Memorial Stadium, Baltimore
Description: Berry’s 14-yard sideline catch on a pass from Johnny Unitas with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter of the regular season finale gave Berry the all-time receptions record. He finished the game with 506 career catches and ran his total to 631 before retiring from the game.
Game Stats: 5 receptions, 87 yards, 1 TD (30)

503 Billy Howton, Dallas Cowboys

Date: Oct. 27, 1963
Opponent, Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Dallas Cowboys 21
Location: Forbes Field, Pittsburgh
Description: Howton tied the long-standing record set by Hutson with a 13-yard TD pass from QB Don Meredith in the 3rd quarter. His record-breaking catch came on his next reception, an 11-yarder. The veteran wideout ended the season, and his career, with 503 catches. He had 303 of the receptions as a member of the Green Bay Packers, added 39 in one year with the Cleveland Browns, and had the last 161 in his four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
Game Stats: 7 receptions, 103 yards, 1 TD (13)


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