In high school Math in the early '90s, I didn’t pay attention in class. The professor would drone on about statistical analysis, while I would sit there, calculating San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice’s season, and come up with projections for how many touchdowns the talented wideout would end up for that season—and ultimately for his career.
The highly-productive receiver had me ignoring my math professor to do what else: but do statistics on my own. I could’ve taught the class, but made it interesting. Above all else, unlike my teacher, Rice was inspiring. He inspired many.
Deemed the greatest receiver in the history of the NFL, 2010 Hall of Famer Jerry Rice will be honored Monday night at halftime when the 49ers square off against reigning Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.
This may be the evening’s only highlight for 49er fans. Rice’s No. 80 will be retired and placed upon the rafters next to other San Francisco 49er legends—12 total.
Rice, who played for 20 NFL seasons, holds multiple records, including most touchdown receptions, 169, and yards, 18,442. After the five-year waiting period, Rice was inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio this season. With Rice’s records, I honestly don’t think I was too far off from his totals. I need to find my old notes. I would go on about his records, but they’re a mile long.
The 6’2" wideout, who attended Mississippi Valley State, was an unknown, drafted by genius coach Bill Walsh in the first round. After a rough start, dropping passes several times, the Southern talent dusted off the cobwebs and ended the season strong, being named Rookie of the Year. In the 1989 Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals, Rice was named Most Valuable Player, with 11 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown.
As a scrappy high school kid, I wanted to be like Flash80. The effort he put forth at football proved that if you have the ability you can be the best of all time. It also proves if you look good on the field, you can play. Rice was an immaculate and consummate professional spending an insurmountable time to intense detail. He strove for perfection, which is nearly impossible, but many believe the best achieved just that.
The best day in practice I had was when I was running a simple post pattern, burned the corner, and made an amazing catch splitting the defense. My coach yelled out, “Young, you looked just like Jerry Rice!” It was the best compliment that could ever be uttered to me at the time.
After being vastly inspired by him—after being cut by my junior college football team, I decided to go into sports broadcasting, announcing football games, which subsequently led to my sports-writing career. One bored day, as a 19-year old freshman in college in 1994, I wrote this poem based on the greatest of all time. Enjoy:
The Forty Niners are trailing with seconds to go
They need to make the perfect throw.
Let me give them some good advice.
To throw the ball to Jerry Rice.
He runs his routes with exact precision.
Sensing the defenders with his keen vision;
Rice catches the ball in his big hands with ease.
And progresses forward in order to seize.
He moves toward the end zone at a frantic pace.
He passes the defender. Watch out! It’s Jerry Rice, and it’s a foot race!
He’s at the forty…the thirty…the twenty…the ten.
And he’s going to score once again.
As he crosses the goal line, Rice thrusts his arms into the air.
A great 49er moment, that is not at all rare.
As Rice’s teammates carry him off the field…
It would seem like an absolute crime not to call Jerry Rice…
The greatest receiver of all time-