Nine players caught 100 or more passes last season, but prior to 1961, no pro player had eclipsed the triple-digit reception totals.
That changed in the 1961 season when Broncos receiver Lionel Taylor hauled in exactly 100 catches for 1,176 yards and four touchdowns in only 14 games. In just his third season, Taylor became the first professional player to break the barrier.
In a feature published on Monday, the Denver Gazette caught up with Taylor to reshare his story and reflect on his historic career.
"It will always say in the record book that I was the first," Taylor said in the feature. "They can't take that away."
Taylor's career took off right as the Broncos joined the AFL in 1960. After making the Chicago Bears' roster in the 1959 season, Taylor moved west and immediately shined with Denver, catching 92 passes for 1,235 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first season. His average of 102.9 receiving yards per game remains the franchise's single-season record.
That was the first of four 1,000-yard seasons for the West Virginia native. Taylor finished his time in Denver with 543 receptions, 6,872 yards and 44 touchdowns across seven seasons. In 1984, he was one of four inaugural inductees into the Broncos' Ring of Fame.
"He was my No. 1 receiver and he was my only receiver," Hall of Fame coach and former teammate Tom Flores said. "It was ridiculous. He was the only one who knew how to run a route and get anywhere open. He could catch it all, one hand, two hands, no hands."
After his playing career, Taylor shifted to the sidelines and continued to make an impact. He won two Super Bowl rings as the Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receivers coach in 1974 and 1975 and returned to the Super Bowl again with the Los Angeles Rams in the 1979 season, becoming their offensive coordinator the following year.
Taylor resides in New Mexico with his wife, Lorencita, and has kept up his diligent work ethic at 87 years, waking up early and starting daily workouts at 5 a.m. Though he still ranks as one of the Broncos' most prolific receivers, his humility still shines.
"That's what they paid me to do," Taylor said. "Sunday was my day to perform and I didn't want to leave the stadium with anybody saying that I loafed."
For more on Taylor's story, read the full feature here.