The FCS (or I-AA) has had legendary football players coming in and out of the subdivision since its origins in 1978. Most notably at the wide receiver position, two all-time legends come to mind thanks to their accomplishments: Mississippi Valley State’s Jerry Rice and Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp.
Legendary FCS athletes. Both all-time greats. But who’s the better FCS legend between Jerry Rice and Cooper Kupp?
To answer that question, we’ll be taking a look at a side-by-side breakdown of the collegiate careers of Rice and Kupp, from the statistics to the accolades.
Keep in mind, this is a comparison of FCS careers ONLY, so NFL and professional accomplishments do not factor in.
That said, let’s get into the comparison.
|Jerry Rice||Vitals||cooper kupp|
|Mississippi Valley State||School||Eastern Washington|
|200 pounds||Weight||208 pounds|
Rice and Kupp stand almost identical in height and weight. Each played for four years in college.
Wins and Losses
|Jerry Rice||Stats||Cooper Kupp|
|41||Games Played||52 games|
Jerry Rice played in 11 fewer games than Cooper Kupp in college. Kupp advanced to the postseason in three of his years at Eastern Washington. Rice advanced to the postseason once.
Here are Jerry Rice’s career stats in college.
Here are Cooper Kupp’s career stats in college.
When evaluating career stats, it's important to remember that Jerry Rice played college football during the 1980s and Cooper Kupp played college football during the 2010s. That's two different eras with two different styles and paces of play. That said, Kupp leads Rice in overall counting stats by a wide margin. But Rice leads Kupp in yards per catch.
Jerry Rice's best season came in 1984. He helped Mississippi Valley State finish with a 9-2 record while catching 103 passes for 1,682 yards and 27 touchdowns — huge numbers that helped him finish ninth in the Heisman voting. Rice's receptions and receiving yards set FCS records, while his 27 receiving touchdowns in a season set an all-divisions record.
Rice and the Delta Devils didn't win the SWAC title that year, but they did advance to the first round of the FCS Playoffs. Despite Rice's nine catches for 155 yards, Mississippi Valley State fell to Louisiana Tech 66-19.
Cooper Kupp's best season came in 2016. This season gets the nod over his 2015 Walter Payton Award-winning season, thanks to Kupp and Eastern Washington's team success, winning the Big Sky title in his senior season. 2016 also gets the nod over Kupp's record-setting freshmen season as Kupp became a better player with more experience.
In 2016, Kupp helped Eastern Washington finish with a 12-2 record while catching 114 passes for 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. Kupp's season placed atop every major career FCS receiving record. Kupp and the Eagles won the Big Sky title in 2016, advancing to the FCS Playoffs. Kupp's collegiate career would ultimately end in the FCS semifinals.
Jerry Rice had plenty of elite games. Many might point to his 1983 performance against Southern as his best game, wen he finished with 279 yards from a DI record 24 catches. However, Mississippi Valley State lost that game 31-28.
Using a win for Rice's best game, it would be none other than 1984's outing against rival Jackson State. Rice caught 15 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-32 win.
A game from any of Cooper Kupp's four years could be picked as his best game; he caught five passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns in his first-ever college game — a 49-46 ranked FCS-over-FBS upset against then-No. 25 Oregon State — to burst onto the scene.
However, Kupp's best game is his 2015 performance in a 45-28 win over Idaho State. Kupp displayed his versatility in this game, catching 14 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns, returning a punt for a score and throwing a 24-yard touchdown.
If you want records, then Rice and Kupp are your place to look. The duo's name can be found atop almost every FCS receiving record. Here's a look at records currently held by both as Rice and Kupp have lost a few records since each moved on from the FCS.
DI football records
- 1st in Division I single-game receptions: 24 receptions
- 1st in Division I touchdowns caught in a season per game: 2.7 touchdowns
- Tied for 1st in Division I touchdowns caught in a season: 27 touchdowns
- 1st in Division I touchdown passes between the same passer and receiver: 27 touchdowns (QB Willie Totten)
- 1st in FCS receiving yards in a season per game: 168.2 yards
- 1st in FCS points scored in a season per game: 16.2 points
- 1st in FCS touchdowns scored in a season per game: 2.70 touchdowns
College football records
- 1st in college football all-division career receiving yards: 6,464 yards
- 1st in FCS career receiving touchdowns: 73 touchdowns
- 1st in FCS career receptions: 428 receptions
- 1st in FCS career receiving yards per game: 124.3 yards
- 1st in FCS average TDs per game: 1.40 touchdowns
- 1st in FCS games with at least 100 receiving yards: 31 games
- 1st in FCS career points: 395 points
- 1st in FCS consecutive games with a reception: 52 games
FCS freshman records
- 1st in FCS freshman receptions: 93 receptions
- 1st in FCS freshman receiving yards: 1,691 yards
- 1st in FCS freshman receiving touchdowns: 21 touchdowns
Here are the awards won by Jerry Rice and Cooper Kupp during their college careers. Of the many awards won, Kupp took home the Jerry Rice Award in 2013. Of course, Rice couldn't win an award that was named after himself.
Here are the awards and honors Rice won in college:
- First-Team AP All-American (1983)
- Consensus (AP, NEA, FWAA) All-American (1984)
- SWAC Player of the Year (1984)
- Mississippi Offensive Player of the Year (1984)
- 3x All-SWAC conference Wide Receiver (1982-84)
- 9th in Heisman Trophy voting (1984)
- SWAC Athletic Hall of Fame (2005)
- College Football Hall of Fame (2006)
- Black College Football Hall of Fame (2010)
- SBN Sports Network Black College Football All-Time team
Here are the awards and honors Kupp won in college:
- 2013 Jerry Rice Award (2013)
- Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year (2013)
- Phil Steel first-team freshman All-American (2013)
- WCFF first-team FCS All-American (2013, 2015-16)
- 2x Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year (2015-16)
- 4x First-team All-Big Sky Conference Wide Receiver (2013-16)
- Second-team All-Big Sky Conference Punt Returner (2016)
- Third-team All-Big Sky Conference Punt Returner (2014)
- 4x Consensus (AFCA, AP, STATS) FCS All-American (2013-16)
- 2x First-team Division I Academic All-American (2015-16)
- Second-team Division I Academic All-American (2014)
- Walter Payton Award (2015)
- FCS Athletic Director’s Association Offensive Player of the Year (2016)
Kupp won three Big Sky titles during his time at Eastern Washington, while Rice did not win a conference title.
Neither Rice nor Kupp won a national title.
Who's better: Jerry Rice or Cooper Kupp?
Now you’ve seen how all-time FCS great wide receivers Jerry Rice and Cooper Kupp stack up and compare. The stats, the facts and the data has been presented and each has a strong case for being better than the other.
So, who’s better all-time between Jerry Rice and Cooper Kupp?
That’s for you to decide.