During his 17 seasons in the NFL, Irving Fryar caught touchdown passes from an NFL-record 19 different quarterbacks. Despite the inconsistency of who threw Fryar the ball, the record books will forever show him to be one of the most consistent receivers in NFL history.
Hailing from Mount Holly, N.J., Fryar attended the University of Nebraska, where he was a consensus All-America choice in 1983 after catching 40 passes for 780 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior.
In 1984, the Patriots made Fryar the first receiver ever selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
"I knew it was a big deal being drafted first, but I didn't quite know the magnitude of it," he said.
Fryar came to the Patriots accustomed to a tradition of winning. At the University of Nebraska, Fryar played alongside Hesiman Trophy winning running back Mike Rozier and Heisman finalist quarterback Turner Gill. The trio led Nebraska to an Orange Bowl appearance in 1982 and an Orange Bowl victory in 1983.
Fryar would experience similar success upon arriving in the NFL. As a second-year player during the 1985 season, Fryar caught 39 passes for 670 yards and scored seven touchdowns. He also returned 37 punts for 520 yards for a 14.1 average and two touchdowns.
His performances earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl and helped lead the Patriots to Super Bowl XX that season. The team came up short in the Super Bowl, but Fryar scored New England's lone touchdown in a 46-10 loss to Chicago.
"When we went to the Super Bowl my second year, I was expecting that kind of stuff to happen all of my career," he said. "I was expecting it because I was successful as a team and as an individual at Nebraska. I didn't know that the NFL wasn't like college yet, that it was a whole different ball game. It really was a special thing that we did that particular year coming as a Wild Card team and making it to the Super Bowl."
Fryar would never make another Super Bowl, but he would go on to have one of the most prolific receiving careers in NFL history.
Fryar would leave the Patriots with 363 catches for 5,726 yards and 38 touchdowns. Those numbers now rank third in receiving yards and sixth in receptions. He also returned 206 punts for 2,055 yards and three touchdowns, numbers that now rank second to Troy Brown on the Patriots all-time leading punt returner list.
"I'm really surprised that those numbers are as high as they are because the era that I come out of, we didn't throw the ball a whole lot," Fryar said. "With the success the team has had, it's really special [to be so high on the list] because they had some really phenomenal guys come through there [since]."
These numbers are more impressive given that during his nine seasons with the Patriots, he had nine different quarterbacks throw him the ball: Tom Hodson, Tom Ramsey, Scott Zolak, Jeff Carlson, Hugh Millen, Marc Wilson, Steve Grogan, Tony Eason and Dough Flutie.
Fryar continued to put up numbers later in his career. After stints with the Dolphins, Eagles and Redskins, Fryar retired with 851 receptions, 12,785 yards and 84 touchdowns and five career Pro Bowl appearances.
Fryar also owns NFL records for consecutive seasons with at least 10 receptions (17), consecutive seasons with over 150 receiving yards (17) and consecutive seasons with two or more touchdowns (17).
"I believe that's the difference between guys that you can count on and guys that just want to come and show up and get by," Fryar said. "I was a guy that always wanted to be one of the guys that teammates felt like they could count on."
Now retired from football, Fryar serves as a pastor for the New Jerusalem House of God in his hometown of Mount Holly.
"This is a far greater challenge than going across the middle," Fryar said. "Being the pastor of a church and leading people and understanding the responsibility that comes along with that in that when I stand before God, I'm going to have to give an account not just for my own life and my wife and my children, but I'm also going to have to give an account for the lives in the church that I've preached to, that I've taught, that I've touched. It's the greatest job in the world because you see lives changed. You see people moving from one place to a better place."
Although Fryar now lives in N.J., he still feels a part of the Patriots organization and recently was named to the Patriots' 50th Anniversary Team.
"With what the team is doing now and all of the great players they have in place now and the great players that have come since I've left, to be a part of the Patriots' 50th Anniversary Team, that says something," he said. "What makes me feel like I'm a part of the team is when I come to New England, and how Mr. Kraft and the organization treat guys like me who have been gone for years and don't get around the team very much. It is really special to be able to come back and to be made to feel like you're a part of the organization."
And Fryar is still appreciative to the organization and the fans for allowing him to develop into the person he is today.
"To the true fans, I would like to truly say thank you because they allowed me to grow up while I was in New England," he said. "If they had never allowed me to grow up, I wouldn't be where I am today."