Standout Receivers in New York Giants History
I had considered compiling a complete "All-time" team for the Giants, but the franchise has such a long, rich history with so many Hall of Famers and All-Pro performers that such a task would be extremely time-consuming.
I've therefore decided to focus on certain positions —this will allow me to list all noteworthy players at each position rather than just the 'best of the best', so to speak, and provide more in-depth player descriptions.
Let's first look at the Giants wide receivers and tight ends (or flankers and split ends, for the old-timers)—the Giants have historically been a defense-oriented team with a run-focused offense.
Because of this, very few Giants players have registered big-time receiving numbers during their careers. In fact, only Amani Toomer's career stats really stand out, and his numbers were accumulated rather quietly (he was never invited to a Pro Bowl) over a 13-year career.
Other players, such as Earnest Gray and Lionel Manuel, had one standout season in otherwise average careers.
I've included them, as well as guys like Chris Calloway and Ike Hilliard, each of whom produced steadily without making many headlines.
I chose not to include old-time players such as Red Badgro and Ray Flaherty. Yes, they are Hall of Famers, but their careers were played out before passing attacks became mainstays in the NFL.
Therefore, I've only included players from the 1950s through the present. And, although he made arguably the greatest catch in franchise history, I could not see fit to include David Tyree because he never was a starter and his career receiving numbers are rather paltry (he was a very good special teams player, in his defense).
So here they are—the geat receivers in New York Giants history! I welcome and encourage any comments.
Kyle Rote WR/HB, 1951-61
Rote was drafted in the first round out of SMU in 1951 and was listed as a halfback for his first four seasons.
It was evident that his pass-catching skill was his most valuable asset, and he was moved to wide receiver in 1955, which is where he stayed for the remainder of his career.
In his 11 seasons in New York, Rote managed 300 receptions for 4,797 yards and made four consecutive Pro Bowls (1953-56), and his 48 career TD grabs stood as a team record until surpassed by Amani Toomer in 2007.
He also logged 871 rushing yards (with four TDs), mostly during his early years playing halfback.
Frank Gifford HB/WR, 1952-60, 1962-64
Yes, he was primarily a halfback for the majority of his career, but Frank Gifford did actually line up at wide receiver on occasion, and his last three seasons were officially spent as a wideout.
One of the greatest all-purpose players in NFL history, Gifford did a little bit of everything for the Giants during his 12 seasons.
He piled up 3,609 rushing yards (4.3 average, with 34 TDs), saw some kick-return duty during his first four seasons, played in the defensive secondary during 1952 and '53, and he was a master of the halfback option pass (he threw 14 TD passes during his career).
But, like fellow halfback and Hall of Famer Lenny Moore, Gifford's most valuable skill was getting open downfield and catching the ball.
All told, he made 367 receptions for 5,434 yards and 43 TDs for the Giants. He was picked for eight Pro Bowls (including seven straight from 1953-59), was selected for four All-Pro teams, and was finally enshrined in Canton in 1977.
His best season was the 1956 campaign, during which he led the NFL with 1,422 yards from scrimmage (819 rushing, 603 receiving) and scored nine total TDs in helping the Giants to the NFL Championship.
Bob Schnelker TE, 1954-60
Somewhat of an NFL Cinderella story, Bob Schnelker played his college ball at Bowling Green and was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 29th round of the 1950 draft.
With little chance to make the team, he enlisted in the Marines and served in Korea for two years. Upon his return, he made the Philadelphia Eagles squad in 1953 but saw limited playing time.
He arrived in New York the following year where he finally earned a starting spot, which he kept for seven seasons. He made two Pro Bowls during that span (following the '58 and '59 seasons), accumulating 183 receptions for 3,232 yards and 29 scores.
The '59 season was his best as a pro—he caught 37 passes for 714 yards (19.3 average) and six TDs during that campaign.
In that season's NFL Championship, Schnelker caught nine passes for 175 yards and a TD in a 31-16 loss to the Colts.
Joe Morrison WR/HB/FB, 1959-72
Although he wasn't as athletically gifted as teammate Frank Gifford, the tough-as-nails Morrison was an invaluable role-player for 14 solid seasons with the Giants.
He mostly played halfback his first few seasons, occasionally returning kicks and even playing some defense before he eventually switched to wide receiver.
An unselfish and reliable player, Morrison often filled in at halfback and even fullback during the latter part of his career when the team was plagued by injuries.
His career totals include 2,474 yards rushing (18 TDs) and 4,993 receiving yards (47 TDs), and his 395 career receptions stood as the team record for over 30 years, eventually eclipsed by both Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber.
Del Shofner WR, 1961-67
The lanky (6'3", 186 lbs) and athletic Shofner had been a two-time All-Pro with the Rams before arriving in New York in 1961.
Not missing a beat, he reeled off three straight 1,000-yard seasons, earning Pro Bowl berths and All-Pro honors for each of those years.
Unfortunately, injuries, along with the retirement of Hall-of-Fame quarterback Y. A. Tittle following the 1964 season, hampered Shofner's production, and he never was able to duplicate the success of those three terrific seasons.
As a Giant, Shofner made 239 receptions for 4,315 yards and 35 TDs. His stats from '61 through '63: 185 catches, 3,439 yards and 32 scores.
Aaron Thomas TE, 1962-70
A smallish (6'3", 210 lbs) tight end, Thomas, like teammate Homer Jones, had the misfortune of being a very good player on some bad/mediocre Giants squads during the mid and late '60s.
He made his only Pro-Bowl appearance following the 1964 season (despite the team's abysmal 2-10-2 record), catching 43 balls for 624 yards and six TDs on the year.
His best season statistically, however, was the 1967 campaign, during which he hauled in 51 passes for 877 yards and nine TDs (all career highs).
During his nine seasons with the Giants, Thomas produced 247 receptions for 4,253 yards and 35 TDs. He remains the sort of "forgotten guy" in the Giants' pantheon of standout tight ends.
Homer Jones WR, 1964-69
Homer Jones had the size (6'2", 215 lbs) and speed to be an all-time great—he just didn't have the knees for it.
And although other Giants players have had longer careers and caught more passes for more yards, Homer Jones remains the most dangerous deep threat in team history.
As a 20th-round pick out of Texas Southern, Jones saw little action his rookie year, but had a promising sophomore campaign, catching 26 passes for 709 yards (an outstanding 27.3 average) and six TDs.
He registered his first 1,000 yard season the following year, then exploded in 1967 with 49 receptions, 1,209 yards (24.7 average) and a league-leading 13 TD grabs, earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
He topped 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl again in '68, but his production slipped the following year.
He was dealt to Cleveland prior to the 1970 season in the trade that brought running back Ron Johnson to the Giants.
New York got the better end of the deal, as Jones only lasted one year in Cleveland, mostly performing kick-return duties, before knee injuries forced him into retirement.
Johnson, on the other hand, lasted six years with the Giants, leading the team in rushing three times and making two Pro Bowls.
Despite his short career, Homer Jones is still revered by many as the most talented receiver to have ever suited up for the Giants.
His career stats with the team include 214 receptions for 4,814 yards and 35 TDs. He also ran the ball 17 times for 146 yards and a TD.
Bob Tucker TE, 1970-77
A graduate of tiny Bloomsburg college in Pennsylvania, Tucker made the Giants as a walk-on in 1970 and immediately established himself as a prominent receiving tight end, catching 40 balls for 541 yards and five scores his rookie season.
He followed that effort by catching at least 50 passes each of the next three seasons (including an NFC-leading 59 in 1971). His production dropped a bit over the next few seasons, but he remained one of the top receiving tight ends in the NFL, despite playing on Giants squads that posted a losing record six of his eight seasons with the team.
He was sent to Minnesota mid-way through the '77 season, finishing his tenure in New York with 327 catches, 4,376 yards (tops among Giants TEs) and 23 TDs (including one rushing TD).
His gallant efforts earned him not a single Pro Bowl berth or All-Pro selection during his career (although he did make several "writers" All-Pro teams in '72, he was never named "NFL All-Pro").
Earnest Gray WR, 1979-84
The fleet-footed Gray was a second-round pick out of Memphis in 1979 who showed some deep-threat potential his rookie year, grabbing 28 passes for 537 yards and four TDs.
1980 saw those numbers jump to 52 catches, 777 yards and a career-high 10 TDs. His numbers dropped due to injuries in 1981 and the strike-shortened 1982 season, but he bounced back with a stellar performance in '83, making 78 receptions for 1,139 yards and five TDs.
However, his numbers slipped in '84 and Gray, seemingly unhappy with his place on the team, held out prior to the '85 season and was eventually shipped to the Cardinals.
He saw minimal action with the Cardinals and faded away after just one season. His totals with the Giants include 243 receptions, 3,768 yards and 27 TD grabs, and the 78 receptions he posted in '83 remained the franchise single-season record until broken by Amani Toomer in 1999.
Lionel Manuel WR, 1984-90
The speedy little (5'11", 178 lbs) wideout had a decent rookie season in 1984 and became a starter the following year, leading the Giants in receptions (49) and receiving yards (859) and scoring five TDs.
Injuries ruined most of Manuel's '86 season, but he resumed his starting duties in '87 and then had an exceptional campaign in '88, catching 65 passes for 1,029 yards and four TDs.
This was his last solid year, however, as his numbers dropped each of the following two seasons, and he was unceremoniously cut by coach Bill Parcells toward the end of the 1990 season, and he was not part of the team that captured the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXV.
Manuel's seven seasons with the Giants produced 232 receptions, 3,941 yards and 23 TDs. In New York's Super Bowl XX victory over Denver, he grabbed three Phil Simms passes for 43 yards.
Mark Bavaro TE, 1985-90
The Notre Dame All-American started every game his rookie season (partially due to Zeke Mowatt's injury), catching 37 passes for 511 yards and four scores, while impressing coaches, teammates and fans with his unselfish blocking.
He reached superstar status in '86, making 66 receptions for 1,001 yards and four TDs, earning a Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro nod.
His performance during a late-season Monday night game against the 49ers made him an instant New York legend: after grabbing a short Phil Simms pass over the middle, Bavaro refused to go down as several members of the 49ers defense piled onto his back, and he literally dragged his assailants downfield for extra yardage.
The play ignited a come-from-behind victory, and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that year.
Bavaro's receiving production dropped somewhat in '87 (he was by now a targeted receiver), but he still caught 55 balls for 867 yards, and he actually doubled his TD total (eight) from '86.
His admirable blocking was still evident, and he made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro squads for the second straight year. He had a decent 1988 season, but his rugged play finally took toll, and he missed much of 1989 due to knee problems.
He started 15 games in 1990, but his battered body could no longer perform at its peak level. Bavaro's last game with the Giants was the Super Bowl XXV victory over the Bills, in which he caught five passes for 50 yards.
He was cut prior to the '91 season and sat out the year while his knees recovered. He spent the '92 season with the Browns, then finished his career with the Eagles.
During his six seasons with the Giants, Bavaro hauled in 266 passes for 3,722 yards and 28 TDs. His place in team history is secure.
Howard Cross TE, 1989-2001
Although his receiving numbers pale in comparison to those of other Giants tight ends, Howard Cross must be listed among the team's all-time greats at the position.
Much like former Redskin Don Warren, Cross was an exceptional blocking tight end who performed his duties admirably and without complaint. And at 6'5", 270 lbs, he basically was like an extra lineman on the field.
His grunt work helped clear the way for such notable Giants backs as Ottis Anderson, Rodney Hampton and Tiki Barber over his 13-season career. And though he was most renowned for his blocking, Cross could catch the ball when called upon.
He totalled 201 receptions for 2,194 yards and 17 TDs for his career, his best single-season effort coming in 1994 (31 catches, 364 yards, four TDs). Numbers aren't everything in football, and Howard Cross is living proof of that.
Chris Calloway WR, 1992-98
Calloway arrived in New York in 1992 after being under-used for two seasons in Pittsburgh. He spent his first two seasons with the Giants filling in as a third or fourth receiver, and he finally earned a starting spot in '94, responding with 43 receptions for 666 yards (both totals were second best on the team) and two TDs.
He proceeded to lead the team in receptions and receiving yards each of the next four seasons, but he was dealt to Atlanta in '99 and then finished his career with New England in 2000.
Never a flashy player, Calloway was a steady sure-handed receiver who consistently moved the chains for the run-based Giants of the '90s. Had he played during the Phil Simms era, he probably would have put up bigger numbers, but the quarterbacks during his tenure in New York were Dave Brown and then Danny Kannell.
Nonetheless, Calloway produced 334 receptions, 4,710 yards and 27 TD grabs during his seven Giants seasons.
Amani Toomer WR, 1996-2008
A second-round draft choice out of Michigan, Toomer spent much of his first three seasons as a fine punt-return specialist (he scored three PR TDs between '96 and '97), and he saw only spot duty at wide receiver.
He became a starter in '99 after Chris Calloway's departure, and turned in a command performance, catching 79 passes for 1,183 yards and six TDs. He topped 1,000 yards each of the next four seasons, becoming the only Giants player to ever record more than three such seasons (Del Shofner and Homer Jones each had three).
Despite these accolades, Toomer was never recognized for a Pro Bowl berth, and his numbers slipped dramatically following the 2003 season.
During his last five years with the Giants, he never caught more than 60 balls in a season and his peak yardage total during that span was 760.
Still, his 13 years of dedicated service cannot be denied, and his career totals of 668 receptions, 9,497 yards and 54 TD catches are all franchise records.
And although it was David Tyree's circus catch that will forever remain the lasting image of the Giants' upset victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXXII, it was Toomer who led all Giants players with six catches for 84 yards during that contest.
Ike Hilliard WR, 1998-2004
Hilliard was drafted in the first round (seventh overall pick) out of Florida in 1998, but did not see any real playing time until 1999.
He started every game that season, and he caught over 50 passes in five of his first six years as a starter with the Giants (he missed half of the 2002 season due to injury).
He accomplished these feats as the team's second receiver, as Amani Toomer firmly established himself as the Giants' best receiver during that span. Part of this may be due to Hilliard's build—though quick and sure-handed, his 5'11", 210 lb. frame was not exactly the modern prototypical stature for an NFL wideout.
The 6'3", 210 lb. Toomer had the build to out-leap defenders—Hilliard was simply better suited to find short-yardage openings in opposing defenses. His most productive season was 1999, wherein he posted career highs of 72 catches and 996 yards.
The following year he had a career-best eight TD catches.
He was eventually dealt to Tampa Bay after a disappointing 2004 season, during which he averaged less than nine yards per catch and scored zero TDs.
His career numbers with the Giants are very similar to Chris Calloway's: 368 receptions, 4,630 yards and 27 TDs.
Jeremy Shockey TE, 2002-07
The 6'5", 252 lb. Shockey was an All-American and the leading receiver on Miami's (FL) 2001 National Championship team when the Giants took him with the 14th overall pick in the 2002 draft.
He more than lived up to expectations his rookie season, catching 74 passes for 894 yards and two TDs, earning All-Pro honors and a Pro Bowl invitation and helping the Giants make the playoffs.
He was on pace to better those numbers the following season, but a knee injury forced him to miss the last seven games. He still made the Pro Bowl, and appeared to be on his way to becoming one of the NFL's elite tight ends.
He had a somewhat disappointing 2004, but he bounced back in '05 with 65 catches for 891 yards and seven TDs, earning his third Pro Bowl berth. He made the Pro Bowl again in '06 despite averaging less than 10 yards per catch, but his seven TDs did match his career high from the previous season.
He was having a decent campaign in '07 when a late-season ankle injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year.
With Kevin Boss filling in for Shockey, the Giants clawed their way into and through the playoffs and eventually won Super Bowl glory over the Patriots. The team's success in his absence, coupled with his frequent vocal bouts with both coaches and teammates, made Shockey expendable and he was traded to New Orleans prior to the 2008 season.
He was a skilled receiver whose mouth may have prevented him from reaching his full potential. His six seasons with the Giants netted 371 receptions (the career best among Giants TEs), 4,228 yards and 27 TDs.
Plaxico Burress WR, 2005-08
The tall (6'5") and extremely athletic Burress began his NFL career with five up-and-down seasons in Pittsburgh, during which he showed flashes of greatness and Randy Moss-like potential.
He wasn't happy in Pittsburgh however, and the Giants, having released Ike Hilliard and with Amani Toomer's career appearing to be on the downturn, were in need of a new wideout.
This seemingly perfect fit came together in March of 2005 when Burress signed a lucrative six-year contract with the Giants. The deal appeared to be a gem as Burress had an outstanding 2005 season, grabbing 76 passes for 1,214 yards and seven TDs. He just missed 1,000 yards in '06, but did reel in a then career-high 10 TD passes.
He was back in full form in '07, topping 1,000 yards and making 12 TD grabs on the regular season, and scoring the winning TD in the Super Bowl upset over the Patriots.
Ankle injuries limited his playing time in 2008, but it was his domestic and legal problems that ultimately spelled his downfall.
An accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in November of '08 proved to be the last straw. With this incident and other legal issues still pending, Burress was released by the Giants in April of 2009.
His four-year totals with the Giants: 244 receptions, 3,681 yards and 33 TDs.