Hall of Famer Jerry Rice Prepares To Take on the Nationwide Tour

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IApril 15, 2010

LUTZ, FL - APRIL 17:  Former NFL star Jerry Rice lines up his putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am at TPC Tampa Bay on April 17, 2009  in Lutz, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

He is arguably the best player to ever play the wide receiver position—or the game for that matter. His name was, and is, synonymous with greatness in the game of football, and his work ethic is legendary.

Long time San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice has done it all in the game of football and in the NFL. The little known receiver out of Mississippi Valley State has broken records and won Super Bowl championships with two different quarterbacks (Joe Montana, Steve Young). He's done and accomplished all he wanted to accomplish in the game.

This year he will add one more accomplishment to his illustrious career. He'll be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH and will be added to the greatest names this game has ever known.

The game of Football was good to him, and although leaving the 49ers was the hardest thing for him to do, his time in San Fran had come to an end and the team went in a different direction.

Rice ended up across the bay with the Oakland Raiders after the end of the 2000 season, and he played with the Silver and Black until he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks almost mid-way through the 2004 season.

He finished out the 2004 season with the Seahawks and attempted to go to training camp with the Denver Broncos but retired from the game before the season began.

For Rice, it was the end of the line for a wide receiver that was arguably the most respected player in the game. He would retire as a 49er and ride off into the sunset, showing up a few times at benefits and other appearances.

What most didn't know about Rice was that he had an addiction. Not the bad kind of addiction, but one that Rice uses to bring about a new challenge.

You see Rice would get up early every morning, but it wasn't to workout before anyone else got to the training facility, it was to hit balls at the local driving range.

Rice had become addicted to golf and has even played in a few Pro-Ams along the way. He's not the only athlete to take up golf in their spare time. Guys like John Elway, Trent Dilfer, and Tony Romo have done the same thing. Elway and Dilfer would even be considered two of the best of the former NFL athletes.

Though Rice is no Tiger Woods he's doing something that even Elway and Dilfer have never done. Jerry Rice is turning pro.

That's right, the soon-to-be Hall of Famer is teeing off today in the Nationwide Tour at the Fresh Express Classic under a sponsor's exemption.

What's more impressive about the challenge the great Jerry Rice is about to embark on is the fact that he didn't pick up a golf club until he was into his 30's. From then until now Rice has become a scratch golfer but knows that he can't expect to win his first time around. His goal is to just make the cut.

This brings up a question in my mind. We all know the last athlete to dominate his sport and then try to dominate another ended in an epic fail and an eventual return to his original sport. Of course I speak of Michael Jordan.

His attempt at baseball seemed more like a publicity stunt than anything else. I don't doubt his love of the game of baseball but Jordan tried to play a game that was far and away better than he was.

Will this be another Michael Jordan epic fail?

While baseball is not golf and Jerry Rice won't have to face a pitcher throwing 90 MPH fastballs at him, it's certainly not the easiest of sports either. Golf takes the same kind of patience that baseball does, both a batter and a golfer wait for the perfect timing and perfect swing for the best results.

What makes me believe that Rice could very well succeed at this endeavor is his famous work ethic. This is a guy that works harder than any receiver in history and a guy that will work as hard as he possibly can to be the best at what he does.

For that reason alone, it makes me wonder just how good Rice can become. When he tees off just after five o'clock local time, a lot of eyes will be following him to see how he does.

I'm not expecting him to win, or perhaps even make the cut. But if he does and makes it to the weekend, this could become a very interesting ride.

Jerry Rice is one of the best the NFL has ever seen. Can he be the next Bo Jackson and not the next Michael Jordan?

That question may not be answered right away, but his very first round on the Nationwide Tour today could tell a lot about his potential.