Best of the Firsts, No. 18: Art Monk
Art Monk had to wait a while to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his credentials are more than worthy. (AP)
As part of our offseason coverage, we're taking a look back at some of the best first-round draft picks since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. We'll work our way up the draft board, starting with the best selection made with the No. 32 pick and ending with the top No. 1 pick. Track all the choices here.
The No. 18 Pick: Art Monk, 1980, Redskins
His Credentials: Inducted into NFL Hall of Fame in 2008, three-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time All-Pro, caught a pass in 183 consecutive games, set then-NFL record with 106 catches in 1984 season, named to NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1980s, three-time Super Bowl winner
The novelty of a 100-reception season has more or less worn off over the past few years in the NFL. Just three seasons ago, seven different players hit triple digits, including tight end Dallas Clark.
Before Art Monk reached the century club with a 106-catch showing in 1984, though, it was nearly uncharted waters. Only Denver's Lionel Taylor (100 catches in 1961) and Houston's Charley Hennigan (104 in 1964) had reached that mark prior to Monk rewriting the record books.
Three times during his run in Washington, Monk's Redskins captured the Super Bowl (1982, '87 and '91). Monk did his part all three times too, averaging 119.5 yards receiving in the Redskins' last two trips and hauling in two touchdowns against the Rams to kick off that 1982 potseason run.
"Art led by example," ex-Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "At the end of the games, Art wanted the ball and he wanted to try to win the game for you."
Gibbs also said of Monk: "He's big, he's strong, he's intelligent, he has everything."
There's little evidence to the contrary. Monk topped 1,000 yards receiving in five separate seasons and also averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 62 career rushes. He also set the NFL's career receptions record in 1992 when he made 820th catch -- Monk went on to add 120 more, though he was passed for the mark before he retired by Jerry Rice. Monk currently holds 12th place on the all-time receiving list.
And yet, it took Monk eight tries before he heard his name called for the NFL's Hall of Fame. When he finally did, in 2008, he entered alongside former teammate Darrell Green, who was a part of the last two of Monk's three titles.
"It's been hard to sit back and think about the significance of what all this really means," Monk said at his induction. "By now, I realize that it's more than a bust and wearing a gold jacket. It's about history and the game and those who made the game what it is today, and it's a privilege to be included in that group."