The San Francisco 49ers franchise is one of only three organizations with five or more Super Bowl championships. The legend of 49er greats span from the likes of Fred Dean, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Steve Young, and, most importantly for this piece, Jerry Rice.
Let me make it clear, this is not about Michael Crabtree being the next Jerry Rice. No. However, he could be.
Let's compare collegiate stats between Rice and Crabtree. As a freshman at Texas Tech, Crabtree posted 134 receptions for 1,963 yards and 22 touchdowns. Rice's best collegiate statistical year came his senior year as he put up 112 receptions for 1,845 yards and 27 touchdowns. If you look at the numbers, Crabtree out performed Rice in two out of three categories, as a freshman.
Furthermore, if you compare both receivers' freshman year stats, the argument gets even stronger for Crabtree. Rice as a freshman posted 66 receptions for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns, his lowest output during his four years in college. Crabtree's lowest mark came his sophomore, and final, year at Texas Tech with 97 receptions, 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns.
OK, so you can't compare collegiate stats to what Rice accomplished as a professional football player in the NFL. I absolutely agree with that. Rice is the greatest receiver to ever play the game and put on a pair of ballroom slippers. But, you can't argue against the stats, and potential, Crabtree is bringing with him to the Bay Area.
Prior to the 2009 NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns' head coach Eric Mangini declared Crabtree was a diva college brat. Shortly after snagging Crabtree with the 10th selection, I am sure Scott McCloughan and Mike Singletary sent Mangini flowers and a tub of clam chowder.
Being familiar with both the Texas Tech University sports program and 49ers' history, let me tell you Crabtree is far from a diva and, to 49er fans, be comforted that you are not getting another headcase freak show like Terrell Owens. The difference? Crabtree loves him some team.
Further evident by Crabtree's Wonderlic Test score (15 out of total 17 for wide receivers), Crabtree is a bright athlete with the desire to win and to be the best at his position.
Remind you of someone else?
Even legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight, while the head coach of Texas Tech, recruited and visited Crabtree, who was among the top 50 basketball recruits in the state of Texas. Knight, a coach respected for his eye for hard-working talent, also saw the potential greatness in the young star to be.
So, OK, maybe Crabtree won't ever match the career accolades of a 49er legend like Rice. But, at least the writing is on the wall, and based on this kid's college career and work ethic, he could be the next great 49er. At the least, he should surpass Rice's rookie season stats of 49 receptions, 927 yards and four touchdowns (one rushing).
Granted he gets someone capable and smart enough to throw him the rock. Hello Alex Smith and/or Shaun Hill!?! Meet your new best friend and, possible, career savior.
Maybe even the next Jerry Rice ... Too much? Maybe not.