At the age of 26 and into his fifth NFL season, Dez Bryant has now reached the 50 career touchdown mark, joining Rob Gronkowski in the prestigious club, although the Patriots’ tight end needed less time and games to get there. There are others who have done it faster than Bryant.
In a list that includes Jerry Rice and Randy Moss and also one player who spent most of his career in the AFL before the merger, here are the seven players to reach 50 touchdown receptions in 70 games or less.
Dez Bryant, 70 Games
Bryant needed 70 games to reach 50 career touchdown receptions, catching two touchdowns in a win over the New York Giants to achieve it. He has been in the NFL since 2010, all of them playing for the Dallas Cowboys. His two TDs against the Giants took him to 10 touchdown receptions this season, making it three consecutive years of double-digit touchdown catches. Bryant’s 50th was a game-winning touchdown, but everyone will remember about something else from that Cowboys win over the Giants.
Bob Hayes, 66 Games
The only person with a Super Bowl ring (with the Dallas Cowboys) and an Olympic Gold Medal (two, from the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo in 100 meters and the 4×100 relay), Hayes made it into the hall of fame in 2009. He played 11 seasons in the NFL, 10 of them with the Cowboys, making it to three Pro Bowls. He got to 50 in his sixth season in the NFL because they played less game per year back then. He led the league in touchdowns twice, and reached the 10 TDs mark five times during his first six seasons.
Tommy McDonald, 63 Games
An NFL champion (1960), a six-time Pro Bowler and a hall of fame inductee in both pro and college levels, McDonald played in the NFL from 1957 to 1968, making his way through the Eagles, Cowboys, LA Rams, Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns. He led the league in receiving touchdowns twice and got to 50 touchdowns in his sixth NFL season. He caught 10 or more touchdown passes in four consecutive seasons.
Jerry Rice, 61 Games
The greatest receiver in the history of the NFL, Jerry Rice is a 13-time Pro Bowler, three-time Super Bowl champion, one-time Super Bowl MVP and twice the AP offensive player of the year. He played in the NFL for 20 seasons, most of them with the 49ers, but also for the Raiders and a bit with the Seahawks. He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns six times, including 22 in 1987. He reached the 50 mark in 1989 during his fifth season on the first day of the season in a win over the Colts.
Randy Moss, 59 Games
If there’s one player people are willing to throw into the discussion about the GOAT when it comes to receivers, it’s Moss. Moss is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, future hall of famer and the 23 touchdowns he caught in 2007 are more than anyone else has been able to catch in a single season. He has led the NFL in touchdown receptions five times during his 14-season career, reaching the 50 mark during his fourth season. It happened in a loss on a chilly December night in Pittsburgh.
Rob Gronkowski, 59 Games
It’s only been five seasons into Gronk’s NFL career, which has been full of touchdowns but also injuries, which might be what stops him eventually from being named as the best ever in the position, which has changed a lot over the years, no longer just an extension of the offensive line. Gronkowski reached the 50 mark this season (2014), catching a touchdown pass in the impressive demolition of the Broncos and Peyton Manning.
Lance Alworth, 54 Games
A pro and college hall of famer, Alworth played in the NFL and the AFL during his career, spending 1962 to 1970 with the San Diego Chargers before moving on to the Dallas Cowboys for a couple of years. An AFL champion and later a Super Bowl champion as well, he caught 85 touchdowns in his career, 81 of them with the Chargers. He got to 50 during the 1966 season, his fifth in the AFL, catching two TDs in a loss to the Broncos.