MIKE O'HARA

Herman Moore on Calvin Johnson: "I’d love to see him be the first receiver to get to 2,000"

Posted Dec 19, 2012

Herman Moore holds almost all of the Detroit Lions' franchise receiving records, but at least one of them won't last long. Calvin Johnson has 1,667 yards and needs only 20 to surpass Moore's franchise record of 1,686.

Herman Moore knows what it's like to walk, jump and run pass patterns in Calvin Johnson's football cleats.

Moore has chased records and set records – and gone head to head with Jerry Rice for supremacy among NFL receivers.

Moore's personal accomplishments and Pro Bowl status he achieved during the 11 years he spent with the Lions make it easy for him to stand back and enjoy watching Johnson pursue Rice's record of 1,848 receiving yards, set in 1995.

With two home games left - Saturday night against Atlanta and the season-ender against Chicago - Johnson has 1,667 yards. He needs 182 yards for the record.

In terms of statistical battles with Rice, Moore has been there, done that - and won that.

The 1995 season was a special one for receivers. Considering it was before the NFL became an all-out passing league, it might have been the best season ever for receivers as a group.

Moore ranked at the top in one category. He won the receiving title with 123 catches. Rice and Cris Carter tied for second with 122.

The 123 catches were the most in NFL history and have been surpassed only once. Marvin Harrison had 143 for the Colts in 2002. Wes Welker had 122 catches for the Patriots in 2009.

Three of the six highest yardage totals also came in that season. Rice ranks No. 1 - for now. Isaac Bruce of the Rams is second with 1,781. Moore is No. 6, with 1,686.

In terms of national attention, 1995 was a breakout season for Moore. It put him solidly in the group of elite receivers.

"It kind of placed me in that circle," Moore said. "People started paying more attention to some of the stats I was getting - and playing on a team with Barry Sanders."

Moore holds almost all of the Lions' franchise receiving records, but at least one of them won't last long. Johnson has 1,667 yards and needs only 20 to surpass Moore's franchise record of 1,686, also set in 1995.

He'll probably do that on his first catch," Moore said.

Moore laughed as he talked about the certainty of being eclipsed by Johnson. He has a high regard for the professionalism Johnson plays with.

"I really like his character," Moore said.

Moore likes the total package that Johnson takes onto the field - the size (6-5, 240), speed, body control and competitive temperament.

He's so good and so versatile that Moore thinks it can present a problem - but a good one.

"He's not the type of player you get on your team all the time," Moore said. "I think there's a learning curve if you're a coordinator. You're not used to having a player like that."

No matter how many of his records Johnson breaks - probably all of them - Moore's place in franchise history is secure. At the peak of his career, he ranked with the NFL's best at his position - Rice included.

Moore came to the Lions in 1991 as a first-round draft pick out of Virginia. The mid 1990s was a golden period for wide receivers, with such stars as Rice, Carter, Isaac Bruce, Michael Irvin and Moore. His last season as a Lion was 2001. He spent part of 2002 with the Giants and played briefly before asking for his release during the season.

Moore's performance had as much luster as anyone's when he was at his peak. He produced at a rate that was unprecedented at the time.

He was the first receiver with three straight seasons of at least 100 catches - 123 in '95, 104 in '96 and 106 in '97. He won the receiving title in '95, finished second to Rice by two catches in '09 and tied with Tim Brown of the Raiders for first in '97.

Moore made the Pro Bowl four straight seasons - 1994-‘97 and was a starter on the NFC team the last three years.

He noticed a difference in how he was regarded when he got to Hawaii after the '95 season.

"It was even better going out to the Pro Bowl (as a starter), looking at those guys you admired," he said.
 
Calvin Johnson has one advantage over Moore. This has been a down season for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he is an elite talent, and there is no question about Stafford's leadership ability.

Moore's quarterback in his Pro Bowl seasons was Scott Mitchell. His only above-average season was 1995, when he threw 32 TD passes.

Moore had the advantage of playing on winning teams, and with a roster stocked with young players who reached their peak at the same time.

Johnson has played on only one playoff team in his first six seasons.

From Moore's rookie year of 1991 through ‘97, the Lions made the playoffs five times, won two division titles and won 10 or more games three times.

The 1995 roster had 12 players who were drafted by the Lions and made at least one Pro Bowl. The talent was spread evenly throughout the roster - five on offense, six on defense and kicker Jason Hanson on special teams.

For Moore, the standard was set in his rookie year of 1991. He started only one game on a team that went 12-4, won the old NFC Central and beat the Cowboys in the divisional playoff round. The Lions were outmuscled and outclassed in losing to Washington in the NFC Championship.

In that period, the expectation was higher than having a winning season.

"After the '91 season, we were expected to be in contention for the division championship," Moore said. "There wasn't any discussion of being .500. The discussion was, ‘you guys didn't make it to the playoffs.' People got upset because we didn't win playoff games.

"I remember taking a picture of me, Lomas Brown, Kevin Glover and Barry and going ‘wow,'" Moore said, referring to other Pro Bowlers on offense. "And forgetting, there were other players on defense."
 
At 6-4 and close to 220 pounds, Herman Moore was a big, physical target with exceptional hands and leaping ability.

He was a two-time All-American in the high jump and still holds the school indoor record with a jump of 7-3 in 1990.

With his size and strength and ability to position his body, Moore played wide receiver like Karl Malone played basketball - a power forward on the football field. He worked underneath the defense on routes that chew up yards and moved the chains.

Johnson expands the field more - to the point where Moore sees no limit for what he can accomplish.

Moore was a teammate of Barry Sanders when he rushed for 2,053 yards in 1997. He can see Johnson doing something similar.

"I've always believed that a receiver could get to 2,000 yards," he said. "I envision greater things for Calvin in this era - in this day and age and being on a team that looks pass-happy.

"I'd love to see him be the first receiver to get to 2,000."