Jerry Rice didn't become the greatest wide receiver in NFL history by accident.
The same can be said for Antonio Brown, who like Rice, possesses a peerless inner drive and work ethic that is setting him apart from his peers.
Three decades ago, Jerry Rice was a little-known receiver out of tiny Mississippi Valley State. Drafted late in the first round, Rice overcame doubts about his speed and some drop issues his rookie season before developing into the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. He scored 22 touchdowns in 12 games in his third season, and following that up by winning Super Bowl MVP the next year. He scored three touchdowns in the Super Bowl the next year, and by his tenth season, Rice had won three Super Bowls while becoming the NFL's all-time leader in touchdowns.
Rice often said that his inner desire to succeed and the work ethic that was the product of that desire is what made him great. Rice was driven to prove his early critics wrong, and, once he achieved success, to work even harder to ensure that he stayed on top of his game. Rice, who would trail run for five miles a day in the offseason, was so obsessed with his training that his doctors once ordered him to eat ice cream after his body fat had fallen to two percent.
It appears that the Steelers' Antonio Brown is cut from the same cloth as Rice, who retired as the NFL's all time leader in catches, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and total touchdowns.
A sixth round draft pick in 2010, Brown had to fight through a deep wide receiver unit in Pittsburgh to find playing time. He did just that in 2011, earning his first Pro Bowl nod. He has made two more Pro Bowls since while blossoming into arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. Surely, Brown's inner drive and work ethic is what has helped him develop into the player that he is now, and that work ethic was on display during the Steelers first week of OTA.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers' brass has consistently said that Brown is the last player off the practice field, whether its OTA, training camp or a regular season practice. This week, Fowler said that Brown could be spotted doing extra work with fellow Miami resident and Steelers linebacker Sean Spence. The story is that Brown told Spence that the two would complete 200 abdominal reps and 50-push ups after each practice.
So much for resting on your laurels.
"He's goes the extra mile," Spence said to ESPN. "Working out with him, you really get to see why he is the way he is on the field. He's always doing extra. He's always doing more. He always goes hard."
While regarded by Rice as the best current receiver in the NFL, Brown knows the other marquee receivers- Dallas' Dez Bryant and the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. to name a few- are working to make their case as the best in the same. That's something that drives Brown every day.
"I have guys across the league trying to be better than me," Brown said to ESPN. "I have to stay hungry … You always want to set the tempo and be better than you were."
Brown sounds just like that receiver from San Francisco that turned out to be pretty good.