Detroit Lions: Will WR Calvin Johnson Eclipse NFL Legend Jerry Rice?

By Jason Bailey
Calvin Johnson
Jason Miller-Getty Images

What comes to mind when the likes of NFL illusionists such as Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Peyton Manning and Darrell Green are cited? Legendary? Elite? Premier. The complete package. In a league or class of their own.

It’s really indisputable. Each is, or was the An Ha Lim of their respective position on the turf and Hall of Fame class, with the most decorated WR of all time annually plaguing the league’s foremost secondaries, fueled by the crack shot of a seasoned signal caller in Steve Young. Rice’s career is without question the envy of Pop Warner when-I-grow-up’s and All-American collegiate flanker wanna-be’s, who would kill just to secure a place on a professional roster’s practice squad, let alone field the coveted nod by a prominent gridiron skipper to scale the depth chart and break the huddle with the first-team offense in September.

The chronic All-Pro wideout is the benchmark for legions of prospective wide receivers. The legendary flanker garnered nearly 23,000 receiving yards in his career while logging an unprecedented 1,550 receptions and 200 touchdowns. He was selected to 13 Pro Bowls, 10 First Team All-Pro teams, won three Super Bowl championship rings and was inevitably inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. An invitation he decided not to turn down.

With all of that having been said, are there any receivers in the house that are on par to best the legend’s receiving records? Please stand up. It doesn’t take a trained eye long to scope the playing field before a prospective wideout surfaces. Detroit Lions commanding aerial force Megatron. Can Megatron eclipse the insurmountable records of NFL legend Rice? That remains to be seen. His skeptics will smirk at the probability of such a gridiron hurdle, but don’t impulsively disregard the odds. Stranger things have happened.

Johnson comes fully equipped with a rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 239 pounds), squid-like hands, a dazzling 4.35 second 40-yard dash, eyebrow-raising vertical, ballerina-caliber balance and striking hand-eye coordination.

He is a freak of nature in a football uniform and has already shattered Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964, set the margin for consecutive 100-yard games with eight, a record five 200-yard games and consecutive games with 10 or more receptions (four). He has also tied Hall of Fame flanker Michael Irvin’s record for most 100-yard games in a season with 11.

Given the numerical figures, is it remotely conceivable that the distantly suspended benchmarks of the 49ers legend could one day be superseded? Ask Cowboys decorated legend-on-wheels (Emmitt) Smith. In 2002 the elusive back splintered the league gauge for most all-time rushing yards previously held by Chicago Bears Walter “Sweetness” Peyton of 16,726. Smith capped his career with 18,355 yards.

Is the jury still undecided? No problem. Consider the league aeronautic records presently held by Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison for most completions between receiver and quarterback with 953, passing touchdowns (112), passing yards (12,756) and completions in a season (143). All of these mind-blowing figures exceed the aviation attack previously generated by Hall of Fame offensive duo (Steve) Young and (Jerry) Rice.

Nearly everybody in the league looks up to Megatron…in one way or another. And they have quite a view. Given time, anything is possible — even extracting a legend from the NFL record books.

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