In the least surprising news since...well...ever, Jerry Rice will be a member of the 2010 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There was literally zero chance Jerry Rice was not going to make it into the Hall of Fame on his first try. Jerry Rice was statistically dominant, but more importantly, he had a sense for the moment.
For a guy who came out of a small 1-AA school, I am curious what people thought about Rice at the time of the draft. I was only 5 at the time, so for some of our older readers, let's hear your thoughts. I did a search of SI.com's Vault (their Vault is one of my favorite sites on the Internet) and came across an article written as a preview just before the draft. They projected Jerry Rice to go 14th to the Green Bay Packers with this comment:
14. GREEN BAY—Jerry Rice, WR, Mississippi Valley State. Coach Forrest Gregg was all set to draft a linebacker like Bickett, but surprise, Rice may still be available. Not as much speed as Toon or Brown, but great hands. J.J. Jefferson, as everyone knows, is trade bait.
We all know how amazing Rice was. If we were to compare him to another player, it might Wayne Gretzky because of the statistical dominance. Rice's receiving numbers are so much better than anybody else's that it's just plain ridiculous. Among his top rankings:
Career Receptions: 1,549 - 347 receptions ahead of #2 (Marvin Harrison); The next closest active player is Terrell Owens with 1,006
Career Receiving Yards: 22,895 - 7,687 yards ahead of #2 (Isaac Bruce); The next closest active player is Terrell Owens with 14,951
Career Receiving TDs: 197 - 49 ahead of #2 (Randy Moss)
Sowe know Rice is the best receiver of all time (with apologies to Don Hutson who was great). If we also look at total stats compared to all positions, the dominance is equally impressive:
Career Yards from Scrimmage: 23,540 - 1,961 ahead of #2 (Emmitt Smith); The next closest active player is Ladanian Tomlinson with 16,445
Total Touchdowns: 208 - 33 ahead of #2 (Emmitt Smith); The next closest active player is Ladanian Tomlinson with 153.
The statistical lists go on and on. The man stands alone when it comes to the numbers. While this selection was an inevitability, it is still an impressive honor, and really the last necessary addition to Jerry Rice's career resume. Congratulations certainly are in order for Russ Grimm, John Randle, Emmitt Smith, Rickey Jackson, Floyd Little, and Dick LeBeau. They're all great players that definitely deserve this honor. However, as far as I'm concerned, this class is all about Jerry Rice. Congratulations to the greatest of all time!
P.S. I wonder is if this means we might see the 49ers in the 2010 Hall of Fame Game this August?
Quotations about Jerry Rice
FORMER 49ERS OWNER EDWARD J. DEBARTOLO JR.
“Jerry Rice is not only the greatest receiver to ever play the game, in my opinion he's the greatest football player. I've never seen a player more driven or willing to work harder to become the greatest of all time. His perfectionism was evident in everything he did, in the way he carried himself both on and off the field. I am truly honored to be presenting my dear friend into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.”
FORMER 49ERS HEAD COACH GEORGE SEIFERT
“I don’t think there’s an argument that he’s the best wide receiver to play the game, but he might also be one of the best overall football players to have played the game. The thing that made him most special was that he had the God-given abilities and he went beyond those abilities because of the way that he worked and his dedication to perfecting his game. There was often talk about being the best you can be. He probably carried that to the height of the statement. The way he interacted with the players and coaches – he was somebody that took to coaching and wanted to be the best. That’s one of the reasons – or, that’s the main reason – I think he’s the great player that he was.”
FORMER 49ERS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/QB COACH MIKE HOLMGREN
“Jerry was the most complete wide receiver ever to play the game. Talent, combined with an incredible work ethic, allowed him to be the best at his position.”
FORMER 49ERS QUARTERBACK JOE MONTANA
“Jerry’s the best to ever play the position. His numbers will probably never be reached. I watch the league all the time and there's no one who compares to his consistency, and the first thing is catching the football. He was just so good, and then John Taylor came along and made it hard for teams to double Jerry. And I can tell you, it's impossible to cover Jerry Rice one on one. Jerry got to the post more than anyone in history. I know if I was coaching and I was playing against the 49ers, I would tell my safety to play deep and stay there, and don't let Jerry Rice get behind you. If he does, you can just keep on running to the locker room. Somehow he always got behind the safety. I don't know how he did it, but I was happy he did.”
FORMER 49ERS QUARTERBACK STEVE YOUNG
“Jerry was a supreme route runner. The way he moved was somehow predictable and he really made it easy for me to throw the football. He was just so consistent in his motion and movement that I always knew where he was going to be. We all know that he worked hard, but it wasn't just that he worked hard. There are a lot of hard workers who just peter out. Jerry was a hard worker for 40 years. He outworked everyone. He outworked free agents and even the guys who all they had was work ethic, he outworked them. And he was a star. He rose to every occasion. The bigger the moment the better he played. The playoff games, the Super Bowls, the Monday Night games. If there was a record to break, he would do it that day with the lights shining. His specialty was precision and you can't cover precision. And people questioned his speed. There were plenty of fast guys who would slow down when they put the helmet and pads on, Jerry got faster in uniform. He carried the equipment better than anyone who has ever played. On the street he might not be the fastest, but on the field he was faster than everybody.”
FORMER 49ERS GUARD RANDY CROSS
“I happen to think that he’s one of the Top 5 players to ever play the game, regardless of the position. Besides the obvious physical attributes he was born with, he had the rare combination and ability to press his God-given talents even further than he probably knew they could be pressed. He was always in just unbelievable shape. He learned from a guy like Roger Craig what it meant to have an offseason, what it meant to put those workouts together where you ran the trails in the morning and you lifted in the mid-day, and then you ran sprints at Stanford in the afternoons. He and Roger were doing stuff like that well before most everybody else got around to it.”
FORMER 49ERS OFFENSIVE TACKLE STEVE WALLACE
“Living back in Atlanta, there are a lot of great NFL players in this area. When guys out here talk about the greatest player ever, it only lasts about a minute. Everybody says Jerry Rice, hands down. Having played with great quarterbacks in Joe Montana and Steve Young, this guy is on planet Pluto. He’s beyond the Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame. He’s the only guy that dominated a position so far beyond anyone else.”
FORMER 49ERS FULLBACK TOM RATHMAN
“He was a true pro in all senses. He was very dedicated to his craft and was a great team player. Obviously, we all know what he did as far as the numbers and everything. I think that all speaks for itself.”
FORMER 49ERS SAFETY RONNIE LOTT
“Jerry was so explosive off the line and had the ability to always finish plays like no one else before or after. One thing he had was an insatiable appetite to get an edge and be the best.”
FORMER 49ERS GUARD RAY BROWN
“Jerry was a perfectionist. He really wanted the football. I guess all receivers do. At the end of the day, he gave you the results. I think I’ve been real fortunate to play with some great players that are in this organization, like Steve Young and those guys who are in the Hall of Fame. You would just think, Steve is in there, so the guy he’s throwing a lot of balls to, he merits Hall of Fame consideration. I wish all those guys get in, especially ex-Niners.”