On February 7 2010, the world of professional football received perhaps the least surprising bit of news in the history of the game: Jerry Rice had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In what may have been the least debated and most deserving selection in Hall of Fame history, the selection committee chose Jerry Rice for enshrinement, along with contemporary and bitter rival Emmitt Smith, each in his first year of eligibility.
This was but the final, official coronation of a career journey that everyone knew would end with a bronze bust in Canton, OH.
For 20 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, and Seattle Seahawks, Jerry Rice rewrote the NFL record books and set the standard for what it means to be an NFL wide receiver.
He set records which may never be eclipsed—even if the NFL expands to an 18-game regular season—including 1,549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards, and 208 total touchdowns (197 receiving). He won three Super Bowls, making key contributions in all of them, and went to a fourth after leaving San Francisco for Oakland.
He was a true professional, a fantastic teammate, a physical freak, with a training regiment and work ethic which helped him produce unparalleled longevity and success. Legendary Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young both credit Rice with elevating their games and helping make them who they were.
Some would say he is the greatest NFL player (at any position) of all time.
Rice will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame mere days from now on August 7 2010. He will be enshrined into the 49ers Hall of Fame and have his No. 80 retired by the team during half time of a Monday Night matchup against the defending World Champion New Orleans Saints on September 20 2010.
In light of these momentous occasions, here is a look back at the top 15 moments in the incredible career of Jerry Rice: