- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

Lots of athletes break records. But how many athletes have ever doubled a record? That's what Jerry Rice is in the process of doing and not just one record either. To a bunch of them. To all the significant career receiving records there are.

Not that Rice is wanting for testimonials, but this is one of his more overlooked achievements. There was much fanfare the other night when he scored his 200th NFL touchdown and it is, admittedly, quite a feat but it doesn't knock me over the way some of his other accomplishments (and soon-to-be accomplishments) do.

When Rice came into the league in 1985, I'll just remind you, these were the all-time receiving records:

Receptions: 657, Charlie Joiner.

Yards: 11,834, Don Maynard.

TDs: 99, Don Hutson.

And these are Rice's statistics to date:

Receptions: 1,424 (more than twice Joiner's total through '85).

Yards: 21,167 (almost twice Maynard's figure).

TDs: 190 (nearly twice as many as Hutson).

(Note: Jerry has scored 10 touchdowns rushing and another on a fumble recovery.)

A year from now, given continued good health, I expect him to lap Hutson. And if he can squeeze two more productive seasons out of that now 40-year-old body of his which figures to be a little more of a challenge he'll probably double up Maynard, too.

Amazing, truly amazing.

I'm sure some of you are thinking: Hey, wait a minute. Rice broke Art Monk's record for receptions, not Joiner's and Art caught 940 passes, not 657. Those other two marks that Jerry appropriated, moreover, belonged to Steve Largent (13,089 yards, 100 TDs), not Maynard and Hutson.

To which I reply: Are you gonna let me get on with this column or not? Look, there are many ways to measure greatness. One of the ways I measure it is to say, "OK, what was the best anyone did before Joe Blow came along? And how far did Joe surpass him?" The numbers Rice was looking at when he turned pro were 657; 11,834; and 99, not 940; 13,089 and 100.

Anyway, to get back on message here, only a handful of athletes in any sport have doubled a record that stood when they were rookies. Here are a half-dozen members of the club:

•Babe Ruth The record for home runs was 138, by Roger Connor, when Ruth joined the Red Sox in 1914. Babe's career total: 714.

•Wilt Chamberlain Dolph Schayes held the NBA's career scoring record 14,107 points when Chamberlain came on the scene in 1959. By the time he was through, Wilt had 31,149.

•Bill Russell Schayes was also the career rebounding leader, with 5,421, the year Russell broke in ('56). Russ, the Babe Ruth of the boards, ended up with 21,721.

•Gordie Howe In 1946-47, Howe's first season with the Red Wings, Nels Stewart (aka "Old Poison") owned the NHL's career record for goals 324. Gordie's final figure: 801 (not counting the 174 he scored in the rival World Hockey Association).

•Jim Brown Pre-Brown, no NFL back had rushed for more than 5,860 yards in his career (Steve Van Buren). Jim racked up a mere 12,312 before going off to make movies.

•George Blanda The NFL's all-time leading scorer when Blanda was a rook was Hutson with 823 points. George finished with 2,002.

Consider all the athletic icons who didn't do what these men did. Cy Young, for instance. Young won 511 games, which has been the major league record for 91 years (and will likely be the record for another 91. But he didn't double Pud Galvin's victory total of 337, which was the mark when Cy did his first twirling for Cleveland in 1890.

Or how about Jack Nicklaus? Nicklaus captured 20 major championships, a record that has become Tiger Woods' Holy Grail. Still, it wasn't twice as many as Bobby Jones had (13).

And while we're on the subject, does anyone seriously think Tiger is going to double up Jack and win 40 majors? (He has eight so far.)

Pete Sampras is a tennis player for the ages, but his 14 Slams are "only" two more than Roy Emerson accumulated. And while Dan Marino threw for a ton of yards (61,361) and touchdowns (420), he didn't dust Fran Tarkenton (47,003 and 342) the way Rice dusted Joiner (and is trying to dust Maynard and Hutson).

"We sure could use him," 49ers consultant Bill Walsh said of Rice in the San Jose Mercury News recently. "Going to the Raiders was in his best interest. But it was not in our best interest. I'm really pleased he's doing what he's doing. I can't say that I could project it happening. He has exceeded even my expectations of him."

This is why Jerry's a giant, why he stands taller, even, than Marino. Like Chamberlain, Howe and the others, he's redefined, to a mind-boggling extent, the limits of possibility. He's taken a molehill and turned it into a mountain or taken a mountain and turned it into Everest.

But then, you already knew that, right?


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