Monk attended and played college football at Syracuse University, where he was a four-year OrangeMen letter winner (1976–79). He led the team in receiving in 1977, 1978 and 1979 and still ranks in the top 10 on several school career record lists, including career receptions (sixth), all-time receiving yards (seventh) and receiving yards per game (ninth). While there, Monk was a graduate of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
In 1984, Monk caught a then-NFL record 106 receptions for a career-best 1,372 yards. He caught eight or more passes in six games, had five games of 100 yards or more, and in a game against the San Francisco 49ers caught ten passes for 200 yards. That season, he earned team MVP honors and his first Pro Bowl selection. Monk went over the 1,000-yard mark in each of the following two seasons, becoming the first Redskins receiver to produce three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. He also became the first Redskins player to catch 70 or more passes in three consecutive seasons. In 1989, he was part of a prolific wide receiver trio (along with Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders) nicknamed "The Posse," who became the first trio of wide receivers in NFL history to post 1,000-plus yards in the same season.
During Monk's 14 seasons with the Redskins, the team won three Super Bowls (XVII, XXII, and XXVI) and had only three losing seasons. He was an All-Pro and All-NFC choice in 1984 and 1985 and was named second-team All-NFC in 1986. He was also selected to play in the Pro Bowl following the 1984, 1985 and 1986 seasons.
Nine times during his 15-season career with the Redskins, New York Jets, and Philadelphia Eagles, Monk exceeded 50 catches in a season and five times gained more than 1,000 receiving yards. In 1992, with his 820th career catch, Monk became the NFL's then-all-time leader in receptions.
Monk finished his career with 940 receptions for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns, along with 332 rushing yards. He was the first player in NFL history to record over 102 receptions in a season and over 900 receptions in a career. His most noteworthy NFL accomplishment was his record for career receptions (940), which was broken by Jerry Rice in the final week of the 1995 during Monk's last season in the league. Monk became the league's all-time leading receiver in a Monday Night game against Denver on October 12, 1992, with his 820th reception. However, later that year Monk lost his all-time single season reception record to Sterling Sharpe, who finished with 108. He was the first to eclipse 900 receptions and retired with the most consecutive games with a catch (183). He was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. Monk also became the first player in the league to record a touchdown reception in 15 consecutive seasons as well was the first player ever to record at least 35 receptions in 15 consecutive seasons. Through the course of his 14 years with the Redskins, Monk converted nearly two-thirds of his 888 catches into first downs.
On August 2, 2008, Monk, along with fellow Washington Redskins teammate Darrell Green, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Upon his induction into the Hall of Fame, Monk received the longest standing ovation in Pro Football Hall of Fame history, lasting four minutes and four seconds when later timed by NFL Films. In 2012, Monk was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
First player to record a touchdown reception in 15 consecutive seasons.
Consecutive seasons with at least 35 receptions (15)
First player to record over 102+ receptions (106 in 1984) in a season before NFL rules changes prior to the 1990 season that ushered in the "pass happy era". Still only three players in the next nine years collected 100 passes or more and only one (Sterling Sharpe in 1992) surpassed his total.
First player to record over 100+ receptions in the Super Bowl era
First player to record back to back seasons on 1,200 yards and 90 receptions. 1984, 1985
First NFL player to reach 820 receptions in a career.
First NFL player to surpass 900 career receptions, finishing career with 940 (all-time record at the time).
First player to record at least one reception in 180 consecutive games
Monk helped found the Good Samaritan Foundation with his Washington teammates Charles Mann, Tim Johnson and Earnest Byner. The foundation provides youth with the environment needed to equip them with the skills, training and resources necessary to compete successfully in society through the Student Training Opportunity Program (STOP). The program serves more than 50 high school students, four days a week during the school year and five days a week during the summer providing after-school programs, tutoring and mentoring.
Founded in 1983, the Art Monk Football Camp has graduated over 14,000 athletes.