Jerry Rice is the most accomplished wide receiver in NFL history. Statistically, nobody else is even close.
He earned his nickname “Flash 80” from the fact that all he ever did during games and practices was make big plays, and of course, he wore the number 80. Rice was a human highlight reel. Some may make the case that Terrell Owens or Randy Moss were more talented, but a lot of that is probably decency bias. Their numbers are not even in the same category as Rice.
He went to college at Mississippi Valley State University and was named to the All-American team twice, due to the record-setting numbers he was putting up. In his final year of college, Rice had 112 catches for 1,845 yards, and 27 touchdowns! This led to him being selected with the 16th overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. The 49ers traded their top 2 picks to move up and draft him, and it definitely paid off.
Rice played the majority of his career for the San Francisco 49ers, winning 3 championships and leading them to the playoffs in 13 different seasons. He spent 16 of his 20 NFL seasons on the 49ers, putting up the majority of his stats during this span. After his time in San Francisco, he went on to play for the Oakland Raiders and would make the playoffs twice with them, coming up just short in another Super Bowl appearance. He wound up playing his final season for the Seattle Seahawks in 2004, but they failed to reach the playoffs.
Rice announced he was retiring before the 2005 NFL season began, and would later sign a contract with the 49ers in 2006 in order to retire as a member of their organization.
Rice made his mark professionally the very first season he was drafted, putting up 927 receiving yards on only 49 catches, averaging a total of 18.9 yards per reception. He caught 3 touchdowns and even rushed for 1, and was named NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In 303 career games, Rice finished with 1,549 catches, 22,895 yards, and 197 touchdowns, ranking 1st all-time in NFL history for each category. The 2nd closest career catch total to Rice is Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals with 1,392 and the next closest for touchdowns is Randy Moss with 156. Yardage is simply another story though, as nobody is even in the same vicinity as Rice. The next closest is Fitzgerald once again, 5,724 yards behind Rice with a total of 17,171. Rice is the only receiver to have over 20,000 yards all-time, which is incredible considering thousands have played, and that teams throw the ball more often these days.
He is without a doubt one of the greatest offensive players the NFL has ever seen, and his accolades reflect just this. Rice made the Pro Bowl 13 times and was selected to 11-straight First-Team All Pro squads. In the 3 Super Bowls he won with the 49ers, he even won a Super Bowl MVP, which is very rare for non-quarterbacks. He was also selected as the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award twice.
Rice spent many seasons leading the league in a variety of different stats; he was a 6-time NFL receiving yard leader, a 2-time NFL receptions leader, and a 6-time NFL receiving touchdowns leader.
Due to his accomplishments collegiately and professionally, he was inducted into both Hall of Fames. Rice was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on August 12th, 2006 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 7th, 2010. The 49ers also honored his legacy by retiring his number, as no 49er will ever wear his iconic #80 again.