There are very few people that would make an argument for anyone but Jerry Rice as the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Rice performed at a high level for more than 20 seasons, which is unheard of in football. He holds NFL records for career receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895) and receiving touchdowns (197). Could Calvin Johnson eventually dethrone the San Francisco 49ers legend?
Johnson is in his seventh NFL season and is roughly one-third of the way to Rice’s records in most categories. That means he is technically on pace to challenge those marks, but playing 20-plus seasons is an amazing feat — let alone doing it at an effective level. Rice recently alluded to that.
“I think it’s great that they’re still talking about me after my career’s over. (Johnson) still has a ways to go,” Rice told USA Today Sports on Tuesday. “We’re just going to let this guy continue to develop, and if he should break the majority of my records or break all my records, I’ll be the first one to congratulate him. But I know the sacrifice that you have to put into it. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work.”
It takes a little luck, too. Johnson has missed only four games in his career, so he has been able to remain relatively healthy. That being said, he has dealt with some injuries that result in stretches of ineffective play. Staying on the field when he’s in his mid-30s will be a challenge. However, Rice said he believes Megatron has become more than just a physical force.
“I think (Johnson) has gotten so much better route running, and he doesn’t just rely on his jumping ability anymore,” Rice said. “That’s why he’s called Megatron. He’s a hell of a lot (to handle) on that football field. Right now he’s had about (63) touchdowns and he’s going strong. I wish him the best. I know what type of work ethic he has. He’s a complete player.
“When you’re so dominant in college and you’re such a big body, you’re so physical and so unstoppable, you don’t focus on just the little things. Now, I think (Johnson) wants to be the complete player.”
Could Johnson be the most physically dominant receiver to ever play? I’d argue that he is, though I’d still be surprised to see him topple Rice’s records. Sustaining success for that long just doesn’t happen.
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