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Puka Nacua breaks NFL rookie records for receptions and receiving yards

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Puka Nacua's record-setting rookie season has authored its biggest historic chapter.

With his 7-yard catch in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the 49ers at Levi's Stadium, the Rams wide receiver broke Bill Groman's NFL rookie record of 1,473 receiving yards which had stood since 1960.

Additionally, Nacua's 6-yard catch on the same drive in the third quarter broke Jaylen Waddle's 2021 NFL rookie record for receptions. Nacua now has 105, surpassing Waddle's 104 from that year.

"As much as (the records) will say 'Puka Nacua', I wish it could say all 11 guys out there," Nacua said postgame. ""t really takes all 11. They should all feel that award just as much as I am."

That 6-yard catch brought Nacua to 1,486 receiving yards on the season. Nacua finished with four catches for 41 yards and one touchdown overall before being pulled after getting the receptions record.

It took some patience, but the records finally fell in the third quarter with back-to-back catches. 

"Really happy for Puka Nacua," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "God, that was frustrating to try to figure that out."

Quarterback Carson Wentz this week said the Rams would "do their best" to get Nacua those records. 

"Don't do anything dumb," Wentz said with a chuckle, when asked postgame what was going through his mind as they tried to do so during Sunday's game. "We just kind of thought it should come naturally. It was pretty sweet to get that first touchdown for him. I think he needed one more yard at that point though, so. But no, it was fun. I have never gotten a chance to play with him, too, so to see him in person, the plays he made – obviously we missed a couple, him and I, definitely on me – but it was fun to see that. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, I knew that was a big responsibility of me to help him get that record. Pretty impressive kid, impressive record, obviously you guys have probably seen it for awhile it's been standing. Happy for him."

Making the moment even more special for Nacua was the chance to share it with his family – including mother, Penina, who was in attendance at Levi's Stadium and was brought near the Rams sideline to share a moment with Nacua after he set the records.

After the game, Puka handed Penina his record-breaking ball.

His mom kept his record-breaking touchdown balls from in high school when he broke a pair of those records, and Puka noted there's a room downstairs in the family's home that has "a bunch of old peewee football trophies" as well as some of his other brothers' gear.

"So I don't know where it will go in the ranking," Nacua said with a smile. "I think my brother Kai's got some gear that will be sweet. I know he's ranked up there because he's the first one, but hopefully I'll make the wall somewhere."

This historic occasion also seemed to be when he realized the gravity of his season, because of where it took him at the end of his press conference when asked about it:

The memory of his late father, Lionel, and late grandmother, Fa'aTamali'i S. Tafua.

"Today, actually, for the first time, I'm looking at just some some pictures of my family," Nacua said. "My dad started coaching my little brothers on a Green Bay Packers team in Las Vegas, so that's also a part of reason I was a Packers fan. But just looking at family pictures and just wishing that my dad could be here to watch this moment in this game, because knowing that my family was gonna be out here. But just feeling like a calmness and a peace(ful)ness over (me), because he was watching, him and my grandmother, I know were up there. I hope they to 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."

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