Jerry Rice (top), the NFL’s all time leading receiver, and Emmitt Smith (bottom), the NFL’s all time leading rusher, headline the Hall of Fame class of 2010. (Photos by Jeff Lewis)
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
When the NFL’s all team leading receiver and the all time leading rusher go into the Hall of Fame at the same time, it is hard to imagine a better class of players receiving the league’s top honor on the same day. Wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Emmitt Smith are two of the greatest ever to play the game.
Also entering the Hall of Fame was defensive end John Randle, running back Floyd Little, cornerback Dick LeBeau, linebacker Rickey Jackson, and guard Russ Grimm.
There will always be arguments about who was the greatest at one given position, but when it comes to Rice, he may be the only player in the history of the game that is clearly the greatest at his position.
There are heated debates over who is the best quarterback ever, or running back, defensive end, or any other position. But argument over the greatest wide receiver of all time never comes up. The only name that will be considered is Rice.
Rice lit the league on fire in the time before the NFL changed the rules to make the game more offensive friendly.
In today’s NFL many wide receivers are putting up big time numbers because defensive backs are barely allowed to touch them down field, but when rice played defensive backs were allowed to harass wide receivers all the way down field.
Rice’s numbers dwarfed any other wide receivers numbers at the time of his retirement, and even with the advantages that current day wide receivers have, none of them look like they will come close to the numbers that Rice put up.
Rice is not only the greatest wide receiver ever to play, but he is in the conversation as being the greatest NFL football player ever at any position. Many will say running back Jim Brown, but Rice may have been greater.
Smith will not go down as the greatest running back ever, but with over 18,000 rushing yards, he is considered in the top five on many lists.
Many people will discredit Smith, saying that he was great because of the offensive lines that he ran behind, but that is just not true. Smith’s vision, quickness, and low center of gravity would have made him great in any system. Saying that Smith was great because of the team he played on is like saying that Rice was great because he had Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young passing to him while playing in Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh’s system.
Smith was a dominant player regardless of who he played for, and he was one of the driving forces behind the Cowboy’s three Super Bowl victory.
It was truly a special moment to see the league’s leading receiver and rusher enter the Hall of Fame at the same time. On the biggest stages they both starred.