Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua set the new record for most catches and receiving yards by a rookie during a historic performance against the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 7.
Breaking records: Nacua etched his name into the NFL record books as he concluded his inaugural NFL regular season with 105 catches and 1,486 receiving yards, reported the Associated Press. The 22-year-old Utah native, who is of Samoan, Hawaiian and Portuguese descent, surpassed the previous catching record held by Jaylen Waddle and receiving yard record held by Bill Groman.
Nacua’s consistency: Nacua, who secured a touchdown catch on the opening drive against the 49ers on Sunday, broke the rookie receiving yards record in the third quarter with a seven-yard reception, surpassing Groman’s 63-year-old mark. He would then secure the catching record with a subsequent six-yard catch soon after.
“For him to be able to break both of those records, it’s such a credit to this team and also his consistency and his body of work over a 17-game season,” coach Sean McVay was quoted as saying. “I’m really happy for him.”
Moment with mom: Nacua was pulled from the game after getting four catches for 41 yards in the first 34 minutes. Soon after, he was also able to celebrate with his mother Penina, who was there to witness the record-breaking feats.
“That was super sweet,” he said. “I saw my mom at the beginning of the game and we were able to have a moment. It was cool for her to be here in this environment.”
He added, “It was kind of a moment that hit me earlier in the game and it was a full circle moment of experiencing it all and I’m glad my family was able to be here to experience it with me.”
Football influence: Raised in a family with deep football ties, Nacua said he felt the presence of his late father and grandmother during the game, according to Deseret News. His father’s life was cut short by diabetes complications during his childhood, while his grandmother died from ovarian cancer in 2021.
“Him and my grandma, I know were up there. I hope they get to watch every game but they were out there enjoying this one with me because there was a peace and calmness throughout the game that I was able to feel that was different from other ones and I know they were out there with me, so it was sweet.”
Other accolades: Nacua, a fifth-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, now stands as one of the league’s most productive rookies. With Nacua’s help in beating the 49ers 21-20, the Rams have secured a playoff berth as the No. 6 seed in the NFC. Nacua’s feats have also now made him an even stronger contender for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.