(John Taylor photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers)
(Steve Smith photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Baltimore’s Steve Smith isn’t the biggest wide receiver in today’s game. In fact, at 5-feet-9, he’s not even close. But he’s one of the best, and that’s at the age of 36 – when most wideouts are descending or retiring.
Smith has said this will be his last season in the NFL, and he’s pretty adamant about it. So when we caught up to him on this week’s Talk of Fame Network broadcast we asked which three wide receivers – from any era – he would put on his all-time team.
We didn't expect the response we got.
“The number-one guy, which is surprising,” he said, “I would say is (former San Francisco star) John Taylor. He taught Jerry Rice a lot. I’m a big fan of Steve Largent. And, obviously, Jerry Rice.”
While Taylor’s inclusion is stunning, the guy was anything but ordinary. He was a two-time All-Pro, a three-time Super Bowl champion and a member of the 1980s’ all-decade team. Of course, he’s also the guy who caught the winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXIII with 34 seconds left to climax an 11-play, 92-yard drive and punctuate one of the most memorable finishes in Super Bowl history.
The perfect complement to Rice, Taylor was neither flashy nor one-dimensional. When he retired, he had the second most punt-return yards in 49ers’ history and set a Super Bowl record when he returned a punt 45 yards in Super Bowl XXIII. In fact, his combined total of 95 punt-return yards in three Super Bowls are the most in the game’s history, as is his 15.7 yards-per-return average.
Largent is a bit of a surprise, too, though the former Seattle wide receiver is in the Hall of Fame. Like Taylor, he’s a member of the 1980s' all-decade team, but he’s also a four-time All-Pro choice and seven-time Pro Bowler. Unlike Taylor, he never made it to a Super Bowl.
Then, of course, there’s Rice … and next question.
Naturally, we asked Smith to name three guys outside of himself. But he couldn’t do it … and I’m not talking about including himself in the conversation. I’m talking about keeping it to three. Because he couldn’t wait to add someone from today’s game, and, no, it wasn’t Odell Beckham Jr. or Julio Jones.
“If you go in the new era right now,” he said, “I would say the guy who can out jump four guys at the same time … Calvin Johnson.”