Monday, November 9, 2009

Raymond Berry Invented the Modern Wide Receiver Position

Long before Larry Fitzgerald began catching passes at their "high point" and long before Jerry Rice ran up and down his famous hill, a slow, relatively unathletic perfectionist named Raymond Berry invented the modern wide receiver position, as Mark Bowden explains in an excerpt from his 2008 book "The Best Game Ever." Berry's meticulous devotion to honing his craft brings to mind the modern studies about how achieving greatness is predicated on putting in at least 10,000 hours of "effortful study". Bowden concludes, "Like those of any pioneer, Raymond's obsessions redefined his field. It just happened that his had goalposts at either end."

Berry did his thousands of hours of lonely work without ever knowing how--or even if--it would pay off. Berry's labors of love enabled a player who had been drafted in the 20th round (!) to catch 12 passes for an NFL Championship Game record 178 yards in Baltimore's 23-17 overtime victory versus the New York Giants in 1958. That game put the NFL on the road to becoming the multibillion dollar business that it has become and is one of the highlights of a career in which Berry caught 631 regular season passes, the NFL's career record in that category until rules changes altered the game and ushered many players past that mark.

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