The Best Pro Football Players in Mississippi History, Pt. Three: Wide Outs
Mississippi has produced several good quarterbacks and running backs that have moved on to become great players in the NFL. While Mississippi may not have a huge list of running backs that moved on to great things in the NFL, the state can claim one of the best.
Mississippi has produced a plethora of wide receivers from the college ranks into the NFL. Some of the best wide receivers have come from Mississippi. Including, one receiver that could be argued as the best wide out ever in NFL history.
Here is a look at some of the best ever wide outs from Mississippi. Once again in no particular order and the team they are known for best listed.
Jerome Barkum: New York Jets via Jackson State Tigers
Jerome Barkum played for Jackson State from 1968-71 and is one of the best receivers to play for the Tigers. Even now Barkum’s name is in the JSU record book for his pass catching ability.
Barkum ranks third all time in receiving yardage with 2,130 yards, fourth in passes caught with 128 and third in touchdowns with 27 in JSU history.
The New York Jets drafted Barkum in the first round with the ninth pick in the 1972 draft. Barkum would go on to play 12 seasons with the Jets. Barkum would play both wide receiver and tight end for the Jets.
Barkum is still in the Jets record book to this day. Barkum is eighth in receiving yards with 4,789, eighth in receptions with 326, and fourth in touchdown receptions with 40.
Barkum was selected to one Pro Bowl in 1972 as a wide receiver.
(Note: I selected Barkum for the best receivers and not tight ends because he made the Pro Bowl as a receiver.)
Willie Richardson: Baltimore Colts via Jackson State Tigers
Willie Richardson played for Jackson State from 1959-62. During his time with the Tigers Richardson was the best wide out in JSU history.
Richardson still ranks first in receiving yards with 3,616, and touchdown receptions with 36 in JSU history. Richardson is second all time in receptions with 171 in Tigers history.
In 1963 Richardson was drafted by the Colts in the seventh round with the 89th pick. While Richardson is no longer in the top ten of the Colts record books. He did have a very good career as a pro football player.
Richardson finished his career with 2,950 receiving yards, 195 receptions, and 25 touchdowns.
Richardson was honored in his career making two Pro Bowls (1967, 1968) and being selected 1st Team All-Pro in 1967 as well.
Louis Lipps: Pittsburgh Stealers via Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Louis Lipps played for Southern Mississippi from 1980-83. Lipps was a great punt returner for the Eagles as well. Lipps was named to the Southern Mississippi Team of the Century as a wide receiver.
The Stealers drafted Lipps in the first round with the 23rd pick in the 1984 draft. Lipps joined the Stealers as most of their great players from the 1970s were retiring. Lipps was still able to learn from Stealers great John Stallworth. Stallworth took Lipps under his wing and roomed with Lipps his rookie season.
Lipps still ranks in the Stealers record books as one of the top wide receivers in a franchise that has seen several great wide outs. Lipps still ranks third all time in receiving yards with 6,018 and in receptions with 336 in Pittsburgh history. Lipps still ranks fifth all time in touchdown receptions with 39.
Lipps was selected to two Pro Bowls (1984, 1985) and once picked All-Pro (1985). Plus Lipps was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the year (1984) in a very good pro football career.
Eric Moulds: Buffalo Bill via Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State had a stand out wide out from 1993-95 in the form of Eric Moulds. In his three seasons with the Bulldogs Moulds was able to add his name to the school’s record books.
Moulds is third all time in receiving yards with 2,022 yards, fifth in receptions with 118, and tied for first in touchdown caught with 17. In 1994 Moulds led the NCAA D I-A in kickoff return leader with a 32.8 yards per return average.
The Buffalo Bills picked Moulds in the 1995 draft with the 24th overall pick in the first round. In his NFL career Moulds went on to be one of the best wide receivers in the history of pro football.
Moulds is an all time leader in the NFL ranking 32nd in receiving yards with 9,995 yards, tied for 25th in receptions with 764 in NFL history. Moulds also scored 49 touchdowns in his career as well.
Moulds’ was selected to three Pro Bowls (1998, 2000, and 2002) in 12 years in the NFL.
Donald Driver: Green Bay Packers via Alcorn State Braves
Donald Driver was not only a great wide receiver in college for Alcorn State. Playing for the Braves from 1996-98 and amassing 88 receptions for 1,933 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Driver as also a world class track athlete for the Braves as well. Driver was an Olympic class high jumper at Alcorn State.
Jumping 7'6" six inches and could have qualified for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Because of this track and football exploits Driver was named “Athlete of the Year” five times by the South Western Athletic Conference.
In 1999 the Packers drafted Driver in the seventh round with 213th pick. In his nine year NFL career so far Driver has climbed up the NFL record book for wide receivers.
Driver already ranks 63rd in NFL history and second with Green Bay with 577 receptions and is steadily climbing the Packers record books in other categories. In his 10 years as a pro Driver is fourth in receiving yards with 7,989 and tied for sixth with 43 touchdown receptions.
Driver has been selected to three Pro Bowls (2002, 2006, and 2007) and was named All- Pro in 2006.
Harold Jackson: Los Angeles Rams/Philadelphia Eagles via Jackson State Tigers
Yet another great wide receiver from Jackson State Harold Jackson played for the Tigers from 1964-1967. Jackson is also still visible in the JSU record books over 40 years since his career ended.
Jackson ranks third in receptions with 132, fourth in touchdown catches with 22, and fifth in receiving yards with 2,058 yards.
In the 1968 draft the Los Angeles Rams drafted Jackson in the twelfth round with the 323 pick overall. After his barely playing his rookie year Jackson was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 1969 Jackson quickly became one of the best receivers in the league. With the Eagles Jackson was selected to two Pro Bowls (1969 and 1972).
After the 1972, season Jackson was traded back to the Rams where he continued to have a great career. While with the Rams the second time Jackson played in three more Pro Bowls (1973, 1975, and 1977) and was selected All Pro first team in 1973.
Jackson still ranks among the best receivers in NFL history. Jackson is 27th all time in receiving yards with 10,372, 53rd place in touchdown catches with 76, and 62nd place in receptions with 579 in pro football history.
Jimmy Smith: Jacksonville Jaguars via Jackson State Tigers
Adding to the depth of wide outs from Jackson State is Jimmy Smith. In his last two years at JSU, Smith caught 85 passes for 1,697 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Those statistics and scorching speed help Smith get drafted in the Dallas Cowboys in the second round with the 36th overall pick. Injuries forced Smith to miss his first two years in the NFL with a broken leg his rookie year and an emergency appendectomy in his second year.
After the two injury seasons Smith was released by the Cowboys. The Philadelphia Eagles signed Smith but quickly cut him before the 1994 season. Smith’s career was able to take off in 1995 when the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars signed him.
Over the next 10 years Smith would become one of the best receivers in NFL history. When he retired in 2006 Smith ranked 12th in receptions with 862, 15th in receiving yards with 12,287 yards, and 84 in touchdown catches with 67 touchdowns.
Smith was also selected to five Pro Bowls (1997-2001) and was named first team All-Pro twice (1998 and 1999).
Jerry Rice: San Francisco 49ers via Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils
After being able to lay claims to the title of best quarterback and running back to ever play pro football. A wide receiver from Mississippi could be considered the best to ever catch a football.
Jerry Rice along with Willie Totten put the Delta Devils on the map playing for Mississippi Valley from 1980 to 1984. While playing for Valley, Rice made 301 catches for 4,693 yards and 50 touchdowns while in college.
With Valley’s pass happy offence Rice received the nickname “world” because there was not a football in the world he could not catch. His senior year Rice was named to every All-American team and was voted ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Before the 1985 draft there were questions about Rice’s speed in the 40 time. Bill Wash the 49ers head coach believed in Rice and traded up in the draft to take Rice in the first round with the 16th pick. Stopping the Dallas Cowboys from picking Rice with the 17th pick which was widely thought they would do.
Rice struggled at times his rookie year dropping several passes but, was able to put it all together quickly. Rice would be named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1985 and a Hall of Fame career was started.
Rice was named to 13 Pro Bowls (1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2002) in is great career and was Pro Bowl MVP in 1996. The 49ers star was also named NFL Offensive Player of the Year twice (1985 and 1993). Rice was named Super Bowl MVP (XXIII) also in his career.
Rice played in four Super Bowls and won three (XXIII, XXIV, XXIX) with the 49ers and lost one (XXXVII) while playing for the Oakland Raiders. As Rice began to break every receiving record he was named the NFL Team of the Decade for the 1980’s and 1990s.
Rice was also named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team as well. In his NFL career there was not a trophy or an award that Rice did not win at least once.
Rice might be the all time receiving leader for a very long time when you look at the stats he produced. Rice is the all time leader with 1,549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards, 197 touchdown receptions, and 208 total touchdowns.
After leaving the 49ers to play for the Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks Rice signed a one day contract with San Francisco for $1,985,806.49. Rice received no money and the momentary value was symbolic for the year Rice was drafted (1985), his number (80), the year he retired (2006), and the 49ers (49).
Next in this series will be the best offensive linemen and tight ends from Mississippi.
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