Over the past three months, thousands of fans voted in our "Team For the Ages" contest to construct the best imaginable 50-man roster from the NFL’s modern era, which began in 1967. The votes have been counted, and we’re unveiling one player each weekday between now and the kickoff of the 2018 NFL season.
49ers, Raiders, Seahawks WR Jerry Rice
When it comes to the NFL’s all-time greatest receivers, there’s Jerry Rice … and then there’s everyone else.
Just in Rice’s first 12 seasons, he had 16,377 receiving yards, more than anyone who ever played the game. He had 154 touchdown receptions, more than anyone except for Randy Moss, who had 156. Rice had 1,050 receptions in his first 12 seasons, more than anyone except Terrell Owens, who had 1,078.
And then Rice went on to play eight more seasons, catch 499 more passes for an additional 6,518 yards and another 43 touchdowns.
They said it
"There is a glow around him that makes everyone within 50 feet of him push themselves as hard as they can. It happened to me. It's like a virus. I caught it."
--49ers RB Ricky Watters
Rice’s 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards and 197 receiving touchdowns are so far ahead of everyone else that it seems unlikely anyone will ever match them. Owens is second on the all-time receiving yardage list, 6,961 yards behind Rice. Among active players, Larry Fitzgerald, 35, (15,545) would need seven more 1,000-plus-yard seasons. Fitzgerald, the leader among active players, needs 325 more receptions to catch Rice, who finished with 224 more catches than runner-up Tony Gonzalez. Rice has 41 more TD catches than the runner-up, Moss; and 83 more than TE Antonio Gates.
Did you know?
In 18 of his first 19 seasons, Rice played in every non-strike game, a testament to his legendary work ethic. He missed 14 games in 1997 after Bucs DT Warren Sapp wrenched him to the ground on a reverse by grabbing his facemask, which resulted in a torn MCL. He returned for the final game that season and then played in every game for the next six years.
In the 49ers’ 49-26 Super Bowl XXIX victory over the Chargers, Rice came into the game with an illness that left him dehydrated and in need of intravenous feedings in the days leading up to the game. On only the third play, he caught a 44-yard TD pass from Steve Young. But early in the second quarter, Rice left the field with a shoulder injury. He got some ice and some tape, returned and wound up with 10 receptions for 149 yards and three touchdowns.