49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk keeps climbing up rookie ranks in franchise lore

Brandon Aiyuk did more than just mimic Terrell Owens’ 2000 touchdown celebration in Dallas.
Aiyuk has two games left to continue his ascent into 49ers’ rookie lore.
Aiyuk had nine receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers’ 41-33 loss Sunday at Dallas, moving him up in the franchise record book.
His 59 receptions this year are the most ever by a 49ers rookie wide receiver, and only running back Earl Cooper’s 83 receptions in 1980 rank higher in rookie history.
Aiyuk’s 733 yards rank third among the 49ers’ all-time rookies, and he is on pace to surpass Jerry Rice (927 yards, 1985) and Deebo Samuel (802 yards, 2019). Aiyuk on Sunday leapt past Gene Washington (711; ’69) and Dave Parks (703; ’64).
Aiyuk has scored seven touchdowns in his 11 games, and the only 49ers rookies with more in their careers are Roger Craig (12, 1983) and Cooper (nine, 1980).
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 20: Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers runs for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)San Francisco 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk (11) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys’ Anthony Brown (30) after catching a pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsSan Francisco 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk (11) celebrates his touchdown catch with Kendrick Bourne (84) in the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) catches a pass in front of Dallas Cowboys’ Chidobe Awuzie (24) and Sean Lee (50) in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)ARLINGTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 20: Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) is unable to catch a pass as Dallas Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (24) defends during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 41-33. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)Dallas Cowboys’ Sean Lee (50) moves to help Chidobe Awuzie (24) make a stop against San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk after Aiyuk caught a pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)ARLINGTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 20: Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers runs against cornerback Anthony Brown #30 of the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)San Francisco 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk (11) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys’ Anthony Brown (30) after catching a pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, right rear, looks on at the play. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) after a catch in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (30) stops San Francisco 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk (11) from gaining extra yardage after catching a pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)ARLINGTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 20: Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers is tackled by cornerback Anthony Brown #30 of the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)ARLINGTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 20: Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers runs for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) high steps into the end zone after catching a pass for a touchdown in front of Dallas Cowboys’ Trevon Diggs (27) and Darian Thompson (23) in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)Show Caption of Expand
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His touchdown catch Sunday was on a jet toss from Nick Mullens on fourth-and-goal from the 2, with 5 minutes until halftime. After that score, Aiyuk celebrated in the end zone by stretching his arms and gazing skyward, a la Owens’ controversial celebration in Dallas in 2000, when T.O. twice raced to midfield and sparked a scrum.

Brandon Aiyuk with the nod to TO? pic.twitter.com/UMXOOCv3vN
— KNBR (@KNBR) December 20, 2020

Owens, by the way, had just 35 catches for 520 yards and four touchdowns in 1995 to start his Hall of Fame career.
Aiyuk hasn’t had a mult-touchdown game. All five of his receiving touchdowns have come in the past seven games, with his two rushing touchdowns coming in Weeks 3 and 4.
Aiyuk drew 13 targets on Sunday, including a fourth-quarter throw that resulted in one of Nick Mullens’ two interceptions that fateful quarter.
Asked how the offense tried to uplift Mullens, Aiyuk said: “All 11 guys on offense are worried about their own job. He’s a professional and knows what he has to do. If he misses a throw, he’ll be the first one to note he missed the throw.”
The 49ers deployed Aiyuk as their third punt returner Sunday, and he made a fair catch in the fourth quarter when they trailed just 27-24. It was the third straight game he’s made a cameo in that role, this time following Richie James (first-quarter fumble) and Trent Taylor.
Said Aiyuk: “They ask me if I want to go in at certain times, and today they asked so I went back there. I go back when they need me to.”
The 49ers (5-9) close out their season against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday and Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 3, with both games at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
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