He was the first do it.
After that, it was just static. When Bengals tight end Dan Ross posted 11 receptions in Super Bowl 16, it was the most that a single player had generated in a single-game in Super Bowl history. Since then, Jerry Rice, Deion Branch and Wes Welker tied the record. Yet, Ross was the first. He was the answer to a trivia question that most NFL fans needed to use a phone-a-friend (hopefully in Cincinnati) to answer.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas broke Ross' record on Sunday, hauling in 13 grabs during Seattle's 43-8 route over the Broncos, nearly eight years after Ross passed away.
"The record meant so much more after he passed away to everyone in my family, especially Joanie, because he's not around anymore," Artie Ross, Dan's brother, says via Bengals.com. "When he was alive, he was out there, his name was out there. Now that he's gone, the only thing that that keeps his name out there was that record. It really was tough to see it broken."
Geoff Hobson expands on how Ross' family reacted to the fallen record that Dan owned for 32 years.
Though he also chronicles the agonizing Bengals defeat at the hands of the 49ers, Jimmy Zanor of The Shoreline Times took an opportunity to reflect on the overall career and impact of a player like Ross. Most Bengals fans following the team today didn't have the opportunity to watch Ross' greatness--myself included. But, as Zanor writes, Ross' effect on the game of football and the Super Bowl has lasted three decades:
With Cincinnati trailing 20-7 early in the third quarter quarterback Ken Anderson found Ross in the middle of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown score to make it 20-14. Ross’ TD catch was also his eighth reception of the game, tying him with George Sauer, who hauled in eight passes from Joe Namath in the New York Jets stunnning16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Ross broke the record with less than two minutes left to play on a 16-yard pass play from Anderson. Ross added an 8-yard reception before capping his amazing day with another touchdown catch with just 16 seconds left.
Ross finished with a Super Bowl record 11 receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Ross played professional football in both the USFL and NFL for nine seasons and made the Pro Bowl after the 1982 season. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, despite attending the unheralded program out of Northeastern University. Sadly, Ross passed away in 2006 at the young age of 49. He collapsed at home after taking a jog, subsequently ending his life.
Ross remains a cult favorite among Bengals fans. There were much more notable Bengals names during Ross' generation, such as Cris Collinsworth, Ken Anderson and Isaac Curtis. Along with those names, it took a true underdog like Ross to help bring the team to the precipice of a championship with his own contributions. Ross was one of the earliest versions of the athletic tight end that was a big-play threat at any point in a game. He was one of a few from thirty years ago that have helped mold the position to its exciting status that it holds today. So when you watch the Super Bowl in the future and see the tight ends making plays to help their respective teams, remember Dan Ross, his former Super Bowl record and, more importantly, his Bengals legacy.
(Anthony Cosenza contributed to this posting)