While many fans debate who the greatest quarterback or running back in NFL history is, there is little dispute about the title of best wide receiver. Jerry Rice has pretty much guaranteed that. Emerging from Mississippi Valley State University in 1985, Rice went on to have one of the most prolific careers in the history of sport.
A 10-time First-Team All-Pro, Rice led the NFL in receiving yards and touchdowns six times apiece and won three Super Bowls, in one winning the MVP award as only the third receiver to ever do so (three more have since accomplished the feat). Rice is the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, and in 2010 was chosen by NFL Films as the greatest player in NFL history.
Today, on Rice’s 54th birthday, we take a look back at five of the greatest moments in the G.O.A.T’s historic and illustrious career.
274 game receiving streak
On December 1, 1985, Jerry Rice was held without a catch for the second time during his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers. The next week against the Rams, Rice had 10 receptions for 241 yards and a touchdown. For the next 18 seasons of his career he would catch at least one ball in every single game he played. His 274 game streak is practically untouchable, with Marvin Harrison finishing in a distant second at 190 consecutive games.
1987 season, catching 22 TDs
In 1987 Rice had only 1,078 receiving yards, his lowest total for the next decade. However, he caught a whopping 22 touchdown passes that year, a number which has never been touched since. Rice’s rare ability to both rack up massive amounts of yardage and be a red zone threat is an unparalleled combination in NFL history.
Super Bowl XXIII MVP
Super Bowl XXIII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals turned out to be a slugfest, with neither team scoring a touchdown until a 93-yard kickoff return by the Bengals late in the third quarter. San Francisco scored two touchdowns in the final frame to win it, with Rice catching the touchdown pass for the first and moving the chains twice during the second drive. Rice finished with 11 receptions for 215 yards and a touchdown, earning him the MVP honors.
October 14, 1990, 225 yards, 5 TDs
On this day in 1990, the 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons 45-35 on the back of Joe Montana’s six touchdown passes. While that is an impressive feat, perhaps more so is the fact that five of them were caught by Jerry Rice. Rice joined Bob Shaw and Kellen Winslow in a share of the record for most touchdown receptions in a single game.
December 18, 1995, 289 yards, 3 TDs
While Jerry Rice had four different games in his career with 200 receiving yards, this one was his most prolific. On Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, Rice caught 14 passes for 289 yards and 3 TDs. His touchdowns helped pave a 27-10 lead that the 49ers would fight to hold onto against a ferocious Vikings’ comeback. His 289 yards were more than half of San Francisco’s total yardage (467) and Rice had arguably as large of a role in his team’s victory as any receiver ever has.