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Rice, Jerry

Jerry Rice

1962–

Professional football player

In 1992 Jerry Rice, then the star wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, grabbed the record for most touchdown receptions in a professional football career, with 101. That milestone—coming as it did during the prime of his career—assured Rice a future berth in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. San Francisco Chronicle correspondent Ron Thomas described Rice as "a ballet dancer in cleats" whose "dazzling runs leave defenders grasping at air and gasping for breath. Even when Rice doesn't have the ball, he can dominate a game." In 2005, after brief stops at the Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, and Denver Broncos, Rice finally retired from football at the end of a remarkable 20-year career. Rice held NFL regular-season records for touchdowns scored, receiving touchdowns, receptions, receiving yards, total yards, and 1,000-yard receiving seasons, among others, and had earned three Super Bowl rings.

Rice is best-remembered for his play with the San Francisco 49ers, who dominated professional football in the late 1980s and advanced to the playoffs each year throughout the early 1990s. Rice—tall, fast, and obsessively determined to catch passes and score—was a big part of the reason for that success. Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell praised Rice for "the range of creative expression" in his performance, which is almost always carried out under double-team pressure. Boswell continued: "The way Rice moves while a ball is in the air, gliding like a hawk on an air current, and what he does after he grabs that ball, changing direction as suddenly as a snake in water, takes the breath from those who watch him and steals the heart from those who try to defend him." Sports Illustrated correspondent Ralph Wiley claimed that Rice "[is] running his name into the record books with a smooth and impeccable stride." Wiley also offered a tongue-in-cheek warning to Rice's opponents: "You're dealing with a cold executioner. You must study Jerry Rice—what he does, when he does it, how he thinks, what he doesn't like. You must find the flaw in his character. You must know him as well as you know yourself. Why? So you won't embarrass yourselves or the cities and the institutions you represent when Rice comes to terrorize you and tread on your painted end-zone grass."

Forced into Football

Wiley noted that Jerry Rice "grew up simon-pure. No street lights, or sidewalks, or traffic signs, or stadium concerts. No drugs, or crime, or sirens. No distractions." The reporter is referring to life in tiny Crawford, Mississippi, an all-black rural community where Rice was born on October 13, 1962. As a youngster the athlete saw few paved roads and even fewer of the luxuries that later became part of his life. His father was a bricklayer who built a home for the large family on the edge of a pasture. Rice and his five brothers amused themselves by playing sports, including a favorite pastime of chasing the horses in the pasture until one could be caught and ridden. When work was plentiful, Rice helped his father by carrying bricks and mixing mortar. "I always did have good work habits," he told Newsday. "I guess it's from my parents. I take a lot of pride in everything and try to be the best in what I'm doing. Every time I step on the football field, it's not like a job to me; I really enjoy it. Working with my father taught me the necessity of hard work. On my mother's side, I'm a caring person. I guess that's why I've been successful."

His work ethic notwithstanding, Rice was not above some pranks in high school. In fact, he says, he owes his football career to an attempt to play hooky from school one warm afternoon. As he tells the story, he was sneaking out of the school building when the vice principal saw him and told him to stop. Rice didn't stop, he ran, with the vice principal in hot pursuit. He was caught, whipped, and sent to the gym for football practice. Remembering the incident in the Los Angeles Times, Rice said that the principal "made me go out for the [football] team, and that's how I started playing this game. Until the day I played hooky, I had no intention of playing football."

In high school Rice played just about every position, from quarterback to tackle. He showed promise, but only one college coach made a recruiting trip to Crawford—Archie Cooley, then with tiny Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena. According to Wiley, coach Cooley "took one look at Rice and began devising all manner of bizarre formations designed to spring Rice loose." A graceful, speedy, and nearly unstoppable wide receiver was born. Wiley wrote: "Rice helped put Mississippi Valley State … on the map…. [He] caught more than 100 passes in each of his last two seasons. As a senior he had 28 [touchdown] receptions. He has faced constant double-teaming since he was an 18-year-old freshman." With Rice's help the Delta Devils ran up a 24-6-1 record in their conference, a feat that drew the attention of 49ers coach Bill Walsh.

Joined 49ers

Walsh came to the 1985 pro football draft determined to win Rice's services for the 49ers. So sold was the coach on Rice that he traded up in order to select the young man sixteenth pick in the first round. Immediately Walsh took some heat for the decision, because Rice had not proven himself in the high-stakes arena of Big-Ten or Pac-Ten football. Walsh explained his reasoning in a Los Angeles Times feature. "Jerry's movements were spectacular for a pass receiver, no matter the level," the coach said. "Even a casual fan looking at him on that [Mississippi] team would have asked, 'Who is that?' We also knew about the long exposure he'd had as a receiver. He'd been catching 100 passes year after year. We felt that if they'd throw to him that much, and if he'd catch that many, he must have the basic instincts for the job."

Rice's rookie season had a rocky start. He dropped a record fifteen passes, a feat not lost on the press or the fans. In retrospect, Rice blamed his early failures on the complex offense that Walsh ran. He simply had to learn the moves, he said, to the point where he could run a play without thinking about it. It is not at all uncommon for rookie professional players to stumble a bit, especially those who have not seen much top-level competition in college. Rice recovered quickly. Even before his first season ended he had set a team record with 241 receiving yards in one game. He was a unanimous choice for the 1985–86 all-rookie team and a new favorite—despite his shyness—in the San Francisco area.

At a Glance …

Born October 13, 1962, in Crawford, MS; son of Joe Nathan (a bricklayer) and Eddie B. Rice; married, wife's name Jackie; children: Jacqui Bonet, Jada Symone, and Jerry Jr. Education: Attended Mississippi Valley State University.

Career: San Francisco 49ers, professional football player, 1985–2000; Oakland Raiders, professional football player, 2001–04; Seattle Seahawks, professional football player, 2004–05; Denver Broncos, professional football player, 2005.

Awards: Numerous pro football awards, including NFL Most Valuable Player, 1987, and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, 1989; hold NFL records for career receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), receiving touchdowns (197), and total touchdowns (208); named to NFL All-Time Team, 2000.

Addresses: Home—Crawford, Mississippi.

Rice turned in two stellar seasons in 1986 and 1987. In 1986 he scored an impressive fifteen touchdowns and averaged 18.3 yards per catch. The following year was one of his best. Eyebrows everywhere were raised as he set NFL records for receiving touchdowns (22) and touchdown catches in consecutive games (13). His regular season scoring total of 138 points led the league and set a team record as well. At season's end Rice garnered Most Valuable Player honors from the Pro Football Writers of America, the Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, and the Maxwell Club. The recognition was unsatisfying, however. In 1987 the 49ers took a playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings that deprived Rice of a trip to the Super Bowl. Asked how he felt at the end of that season, Rice told the San Jose Mercury News: "I don't think about how many touchdowns I scored. I don't think about the yardage. I guess a lot of people sit down and look at stats. But not me. I just want to go to the Super Bowl."

Became Super Bowl MVP

Rice finally got his Super Bowl wish in 1989, when the 49ers met the Cincinnati Bengals and won a dramatic 20-16 last-minute victory. Just prior to the game, Rice sprained his ankle so badly that he was listed as "questionable" for the contest. He played, and he was voted Super Bowl Most Valuable Player after a series of stunning catches and slippery runs that saved his team from defeat. Boswell described the action: "Rice shagged posts in traffic, like a 27-yarder in the final minute to set up the winning score … like his touchdown that tied the game, 13-13. He shook deep up the sideline for 30 yards with a defender in his lap. He caught hitches when cornerbacks laid off him in fear … when linebackers couldn't spin their heads fast enough to find him…. What Rice did this windy evening … warps the imagination and redefines what is possible."

Until that Super Bowl moment, Rice had been relatively unknown outside the San Francisco area. The 49ers had many other stars, from the white-haired coach to the riveting quarterback Joe Montana, and the team had won two Super Bowls in the 1980s without Rice. Super Bowl XXIII changed the determined receiver's status. Suddenly he was able to renegotiate his contract from a position of power, and his performances were chronicled in glowing sports features in print and on television. Nevertheless, within days of his first Super Bowl win, the Most Valuable Player was complaining that he had been ignored by the press and passed over for commercial endorsements. "I really don't want all the recognition, but I feel like I deserve to get some of it," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Right now you read the newspapers, there's nothing about Jerry Rice being MVP. If it was Joe Montana, Dwight Clark there would be headlines all over. I'm really just speaking from my heart. I think everybody in the Bay Area feels that way."

The matter might seem insignificant, but it isn't. Professional sports superstars can quadruple their multimillion dollar salaries with contracts for product endorsements. Montana, for instance, has earned vast sums with television commercials for Hanes underwear. When Rice did not receive the attention he felt he deserved, he suggested that race was the reason. In recent years he has been featured in some national advertising, but his endorsements still lag behind any number of NFL quarterbacks, most of them white.

Rice tried to diffuse his remarks on his celebrity by telling the Washington Post: "You won't hear that from me again. I guess I matured a little." Indeed, as the 1980s ended, Rice matured on the field as well as off. Still dogged by ankle problems, he turned in another outstanding season in 1989 and went with the 49ers to yet another Super Bowl—a 55-10 rout of the Denver Broncos—in 1990. Rice did not play as decisive a role in that Super Bowl win as he did in the one prior to it. However, his very presence on the field helped to confound the Bronco defense and assured a lopsided 49er victory. As early as the next season, the countdown began for Rice's record-breaking touchdown reception.

Set Multiple NFL Records

The record stood at 100, an impressive number compiled by Steve Largent, a former Seattle Seahawks receiver who had played more than ten professional seasons. Observers were amazed that Rice was closing in on the record after only six years in the league—and while still in his early thirties. The pressure mounted as Rice became a premier superstar on the 49ers with the injury-related benching of Montana and the retirement of Walsh. Meanwhile, the talented receiver had to contend with injuries of his own.

Notoriety in the NFL can be quite hard on a receiver, as defenders exert themselves doubly to catch and hit. It is remarkable that Rice has never been sidelined for long. He tends to play through injuries and nurse himself back to health in the off-season. He has a number of weapons in his arsenal with which to confound defensive backs. First, he is fast even when hobbled by leg injuries. He is also agile, at times seeming to move in two directions at once to slip by a lunging opponent. He has a good head for the game and a well-rehearsed list of proven moves. At six-foot-two he can make towering leaps for lofted passes, and he is strong enough to hold up under a hit and force his way for extra yardage. Rice's most distinguishing feature, though, is his determination. He has a passion for football and plays for the sheer joy of it. He simply craves the end zone. "You see a lot of receivers … they're satisfied once they catch the ball and they fall to the ground," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm not satisfied until I get into the end zone."

That bald obsession with scoring brought Rice to the brink of the receptions-for-touchdowns record in 1992. During the fourth quarter of a rain-soaked game against the Miami Dolphins on December 6, 1992, Rice ran a z-slant into the end zone and caught a twelve-yard reception. The catch was his 101st for a touchdown, breaking Largent's record. The sodden 49ers fans and players erupted in an ovation that lasted several minutes, and Rice ran to the stands to embrace his wife, Jackie. After the game, which San Francisco won, 27-3, Rice told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was relieved. "I've tried to downplay the record and focus in on football, but it's something I've been chasing for a long, long time," he said. "There is a lot of pressure off me now."

San Jose Mercury News reporter Bud Geracie was present when Rice scored his 101st touchdown. "Rice couldn't say what The Record meant to him, just that it meant 'a whole lot,'" Geracie recalled. "He credited his teammates, his coaches, his luck. He praised Largent. In his greatest moment, Rice was humble, classy and just happy to win the game." Rice collected his third super bowl ring with San Francisco in 1995. During the 1996 season, for the second time in his career he led the league in receptions—with 108—but succumbed to a knee injury early in the 1997 season, which limited his play to only two games. He returned to full strength in 1998 and logged 1,157 yards receiving. By 2000 his career receptions surpassed 19,000 yards, topping the next closest contender by more than 4,000 yards. By the end of that season, his sixteenth with the 49ers, Rice had accumulated 19,247 yards receiving. While many in San Francisco thought that Rice's best years were behind him and that it was time for him to retire, Rice had different ideas.

Not Quite Ready to Hang Up His Spikes

In 2000 Rice was listed on the 75-year NFL roster and was voted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters to the NFL All-Time Team. He had broken broke 14 NFL records and 10 Super Bowl records. "I love to score touchdowns," the receiver once told the Los Angeles Times. "There's nothing like the feeling you get in the end zone. When you score a touchdown, it feels like winning $6 million in the lottery." In June of 2000, at age 38, Rice refused a $1-million retirement bonus offered by the San Francisco management and opted instead to continue to play football, signing with the Oakland Raiders for four years and $5 million. In his first two seasons with the Raiders Rice showed that he could still play with the best, averaging 87 catches for 1175 yards. In 2003 his playing time diminished as the Raiders turned to younger, faster receivers. Rice was openly dissatisfied with his lack of playing time, and after just a six games of the 2004 season he won a trade to the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks had a young, inconsistent receiving corps and Rice brought needed stability to a team that was on the verge of joining the NFL's elite. The highlight of the 2004 season came when he made eight catches for 145 yards against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Though Rice caught a total of 25 passes for 362 yards for the Seahawks, they were not ready to grant Rice a starting role. Rice, who could not tolerate being a backup, signed with the Denver Broncos and fought during their training camp and preseason to gain a starting position. When Denver coach Mike Shanahan offered Rice a spot as a reserve, Rice recognized that it was finally time for him to retire. In a tearful press conference held in September of 2005, Rice announced that "I never played for a legacy. I played because I love football." Rice retired with statistics that may not soon be surpassed: he caught 1549 passes for 22,895 yards, for a career average of 14.8 yards per catch; along the way he caught 197 touchdown passes.

In retirement, Rice returned with his wife to his hometown of Crawford, Mississippi, though he was back on television in 2006 as a contestant in the popular ABC reality TV show Dancing with the Stars.

Sources

Books

Evans, J. Edward, Jerry Rice: Touchdown Talent, Lerner, 1993.

Periodicals

Fresno Bee, January 28, 1990.

Jet, January 8, 2001; June 25, 2001; September 26, 2005.

Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1987.

Newsday (New York), January 28, 1990.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 26, 1989; January 28, 1989; November 7, 1989; January 25, 1990; December 7, 1992.

San Jose Mercury News, September 2, 1988; December 7, 1992.

Sporting News, August 6, 2001; September 23, 2005.

Sports Illustrated, September 28, 1987; September 12, 2005.

Time, September 19, 2005.

Washington Post, September 1, 1989; January 22, 1989; January 23, 1989.

On-line

"NFL Players: Jerry Rice," NFL, www.nfl.com/players/playerpage/1291 (January 4, 2006).

"Player: Jerry Rice, Wide Receiver," Denver Broncos, http://www.denverbroncos.com/page.php?id=498&contentID=4377 (January 4, 2006).

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Rice, Jerry 1962–

Jerry Rice 1962

Professional football player

At a Glance

Fitting into a Game Plan

On Top and Staying There

Going for the Record

Sources

In 1992 Jerry Rice, the star wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, grabbed the record for most touchdown receptions in a professional football career, with 101. That milestonecoming as it has during the prime of his careerassured Rice a future berth in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. San Francisco Chronicle correspondent Ron Thomas described Rice as a ballet dancer in cleats whose dazzling runs leave defenders grasping at air and gasping for breath. Even when Rice doesnt have the ball, he can dominate a game.

Rice has been a mainstay on a football team that is never far from Super Bowl contention. The San Francisco 49ers dominated professional football in the late 1980s and advanced to the playoffs each year throughout the early 1990s. Rice is part of the reason for that success. He is tall, fast, and obsessively determined to catch passes and score. Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell praised Rice for the range of creative expression in his performance, which is almost always carried out under double-team pressure. Boswell continued: The way Rice moves while a ball is in the air, gliding like a hawk on an air current, and what he does after he grabs that ball, changing direction as suddenly as a snake in water, takes the breath from those who watch him and steals the heart from those who try to defend him.

Sports Illustrated correspondent Ralph Wiley claimed that Rice is running his name into the record books with a smooth and impeccable stride. Wiley also offered a tongue-in-cheek warning to Rices opponents: Youre dealing with a cold executioner. You must study Jerry Ricewhat he does, when he does it, how he thinks, what he doesnt like. You must find the flaw in his character. You must know him as well as you know yourself. Why? So you wont embarrass yourselves or the cities and the institutions you represent when Rice comes to terrorize you and tread on your painted end-zone grass.

Wiley noted that Jerry Rice grew up simon-pure. No street lights, or sidewalks, or traffic signs, or stadium concerts. No drugs, or crime, or sirens. No distractions. The reporter is referring to life in tiny Crawford, Mississippi, an all-black rural community where Rice was born in 1962. As a youngster the athlete saw few paved roads and even fewer of the luxuries that are now part of his life. His father was a bricklayer who built a home for the large family on the edge of a pasture. Rice and his five brothers amused themselves by playing sports, including a favorite pastime of chasing the horses in the

At a Glance

Born October 13, 1962, in Crawford, MS; son of Joe Nathan (a bricklayer) and Eddie B. Rice; married, wifes name Jackie; children: Jacqui (daughter). Education: Attended Mississippi Valley State University.

Selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Wide receiver for the 49ers, 1985.

Awards: Numerous, including NFL Most Valuable Player, 1987, and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, 1989. As of early 1993, held record for most touchdown receptions in a professional career.

Addresses: c/o San Francisco 49ers, 4949 Centennial Blvd., Santa Clara, CA 95054.

pasture until one could be caught and ridden. When work was plentiful, Rice helped his father by carrying bricks and mixing mortar. I always did have good work habits, he told Newsday. I guess its from my parents. I take a lot of pride in everything and try to be the best in what Im doing. Every time I step on the football field, its not like a job to me; I really enjoy it. Working with my father taught me the necessity of hard work. On my mothers side, Im a caring person. I guess thats why Ive been successful.

His work ethic notwithstanding, Rice was not above some pranks in high school. In fact, he says, he owes his whole career to an attempt to play hooky from school one warm afternoon. As he tells the story, he was sneaking out of the school building when the vice principal saw him and told him to stop. Rice didnt stophe ran, with the vice principal in hot pursuit. He was caught, whipped, and sent to the gym for football practice. Remembering the incident in the Los Angeles Times, Rice said that the principal made me go out for the [football] team, and thats how I started playing this game. Until the day I played hooky, I had no intention of playing football.

In high school Rice played just about every position, from quarterback to tackle. He showed promise, but only one college coach made a recruiting trip to CrawfordArchie Cooley, then with tiny Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena. According to Wiley, coach Cooley took one look at Rice and began devising all manner of bizarre formations designed to spring Rice loose. A graceful, speedy, and nearly unstoppable wide receiver was born. Wiley wrote: Rice helped put Mississippi Valley State... on the map. [He] caught more than 100 passes in each of his last two seasons. As a senior he had 28 [touchdown] receptions. He has faced constant double-teaming since he was an 18-year-old freshman. With Rices help the Delta Devils ran up a 24-6-1 record in their conference, a feat that drew the attention of 49ers coach Bill Walsh.

Fitting into a Game Plan

Walsh came to the 1985 pro football draft determined to win Rices services for the 49ers. So sold was the coach on Rice that he traded up in order to select the young man sixteenth pick in the first round. Immediately Walsh took some heat for the decision, because Rice had not proven himself in the high-stakes arena of Big-Ten or Pac-Ten football. Walsh explained his reasoning in a Los Angeles Times feature. Jerrys movements were spectacular for a pass receiver, no matter the level, the coach said. Even a casual fan looking at him on that [Mississippi] team would have asked, Who is that? We also knew about the long exposure hed had as a receiver. Hed been catching 100 passes year after year. We felt that if theyd throw to him that much, and if hed catch that many, he must have the basic instincts for the job.

Rices rookie season had a rocky start. He dropped a record fifteen passes, a feat not lost on the press or the fans. In retrospect, Rice blamed his early failures on the complex offense that Walsh ran. He simply had to learn the moves, he said, to the point where he could run a play without thinking about it. It is not at all uncommon for rookie professional players to stumble a bit, especially those who have not seen much top-level competition in college. Rice recovered quickly. Even before his first season ended he had set a team record with 241 receiving yards in one game. He was a unanimous choice for the 1985-86 all-rookie team and a new favoritedespite his shyness in the San Francisco area.

Rice turned in two stellar seasons in 1986 and 1987. In 1986 he scored an impressive fifteen touchdowns and averaged 18.3 yards per carry. The following year was one of his best. Eyebrows everywhere were raised as he set NFL records for receiving touchdowns (22) and touchdown catches in consecutive games (13). His regular season scoring total of 138 points led the league and set a team record as well. At seasons end Rice garnered Most Valuable Player honors from the Pro Football Writers of America, the Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, and the Maxwell Club. The recognition was unsatisfying, however. In 1987 the 49ers took a playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings that deprived Rice of a trip to the Super Bowl. Asked how he felt at the end of that season, Rice told the San Jose Mercury News: I dont think about how many touchdowns I scored. I dont think about the yardage. I guess a lot of people sit down and look at stats. But not me. I just want to go to the Super Bowl.

On Top and Staying There

Rice finally got his Super Bowl wish in 1989, when the 49ers met the Cincinnati Bengals and won a dramatic 20-16 last-minute victory. Just prior to the game, Rice sprained his ankle so badly that he was listed as questionable for the contest. He played, and he was voted Super Bowl Most Valuable Player after a series of stunning catches and slippery runs that saved his team from defeat. Boswell described the action: Rice shagged posts in traffic, like a 27-yarder in the final minute to set up the winning score... like his touchdown that tied the game, 13-13. He shook deep up the sideline for 30 yards with a defender in his lap. He caught hitches when cornerbacks laid off him in fear... when linebackers couldnt spin their heads fast enough to find him.... What Rice did this windy evening... warps the imagination and redefines what is possible.

Until that Super Bowl moment, Rice had been relatively unknown outside the San Francisco area. The 49ers had many other stars, from the white-haired coach to the riveting quarterback Joe Montana, and the team had won two Super Bowls in the 1980s without Rice. Super Bowl XXIII changed the determined receivers status. Suddenly he was able to renegotiate his contract from a position of power, and his performances were chronicled in glowing sports features in print and on television. Nevertheless, within days of his first Super Bowl win, the Most Valuable Player was complaining that he had been ignored by the press and passed over for commercial endorsements. I really dont want all the recognition, but I feel like I deserve to get some of it, he told the San Francisco Chronicle. Right now you read the newspapers, theres nothing about Jerry Rice being MVP. If it was Joe Montana, Dwight Clark there would be headlines all over. Im really just speaking from my heart. I think everybody in the Bay Area feels that way.

The matter might seem insignificant, but it isnt. Professional sports superstars can quadruple their multi-million dollar salaries with contracts for product endorsements. Montana, for instance, has earned vast sums with television commercials for Hanes underwear. When Rice did not receive the attention he felt he deserved, he suggested that race was the reason. In recent years he has been featured in some national advertising, but his endorsements still lag behind any number of NFL quarterbacks, most of them white.

Rice tried to diffuse his remarks on his celebrity by telling the Washington Post: You wont hear that from me again. I guess I matured a little. Indeed, as the 1980s ended, Rice matured on the field as well as off. Still dogged by ankle problems, he turned in another outstanding season in 1989 and went with the 49ers to yet another Super Bowla 55-10 rout of the Denver Broncosin 1990. Rice did not play as decisive a role in that Super Bowl win as he did in the one prior to it. However, his very presence on the field helped to confound the Bronco defense and assured a lopsided 49er victory. As early as the next season, the countdown began for Rices record-breaking touchdown reception.

Going for the Record

The record stood at 100, an impressive number compiled by Steve Largent, a former Seattle Seahawks receiver who had played more than ten professional seasons. Observers were amazed that Rice was closing in on the record after only six years in the leagueand while still in his early thirties. The pressure mounted as Rice became a premier superstar on the 49ers with the injury-related benching of Montana and the retirement of Walsh. Meanwhile, the talented receiver had to contend with injuries of his own.

Notoriety in the NFL can be quite hard on a receiver, as defenders exert themselves doubly to catch and hit. It is remarkable that Rice has never been sidelined for long. He tends to play through injuries and nurse himself back to health in the off-season. He has a number of weapons in his arsenal with which to confound defensive backs. First, he is fast even when hobbled by leg injuries. He is also agile, at times seeming to move in two directions at once to slip by a lunging opponent. He has a good head for the game and a well-rehearsed list of proven moves. At six-foot-two he can make towering leaps for lofted passes, and he is strong enough to hold up under a hit and force his way for extra yardage. Rices most distinguishing feature, though, is his determination. He has a passion for football and plays for the sheer joy of it. He simply craves the end zone. You see a lot of receivers... theyre satisfied once they catch the ball and they fall to the ground, he told the San Francisco Chronicle. Im not satisfied until I get into the end zone.

That bald obsession with scoring brought Rice to the brink of the receptions-for-touchdowns record in 1992. During the fourth quarter of a rain-soaked game against the Miami Dolphins on December 6, 1992, Rice ran a z-slant into the end zone and caught a twelve-yard reception. The catch was his 101st for a touchdown, breaking Largents record. The sodden 49ers fans and players erupted in an ovation that lasted several minutes, and Rice ran to the stands to embrace his wife, Jackie. After the game, which San Francisco won, 27-3, Rice told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was relieved. Ive tried to downplay the record and focus in on football, but its something Ive been chasing for a long, long time, he said. There is a lot of pressure off me now.

San Jose Mercury News reporter Bud Geracie was present when Rice scored his 101st touchdown. Rice couldnt say what The Record meant to him, just that it meant a whole lot, Geracie recalled. He credited his teammates, his coaches, his luck. He praised Largent. In his greatest moment, Rice was humble, classy and just happy to win the game.

Rice may have several more prime seasons ahead of him. The 49ers continue to look strong under coach George Seifert, and Rice is still considered a pivotal part of the offense. I love to score touchdowns, the receiver told the Los Angeles Times. Theres nothing like the feeling you get in the end zone. When you score a touchdown, it feels like winning $6 million in the lottery.

During the off-season, Rice, his wife, and daughter Jacqui live in Crawford, Mississippi. Having broken one of footballs toughest recordsand played his entire career with a championship teamRice is not likely to be passed over for those product endorsements anymore. The player once commented in the Los Angeles Times: My goal is to be the best receiver to ever play pro ball. Today he can bask in the glory of his accomplishments and look forward to future seasons. Im a modest guy, Rice said in 1992. Im not going to say Im the greatest ever to play the game.

Sources

Fresno Bee, January 28, 1990.

Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1987.

Newsday (New York), January 28, 1990.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 26, 1989; January 28, 1989; November 7, 1989; January 25, 1990; December 7, 1992.

San Jose Mercury News, September 2, 1988; December 7, 1992.

Sports Illustrated, September 28, 1987.

Washington Post, September 1, 1989; January 22, 1989; January 23, 1989.

Mark Kram

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Kram, Mark. "Rice, Jerry 1962–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1994. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Kram, Mark. "Rice, Jerry 1962–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1994. Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870700064.html

Kram, Mark. "Rice, Jerry 1962–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1994. Retrieved June 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870700064.html

Rice, Jerry

Jerry Rice

1962-

American football player

When you mention "the greatest football player ever," you will find many different ideas about who that might be. Jerry Rice, however, will always be near the top of the list. Playing the bulk of his years with the San Francisco 49ers, a powerhouse of a team that won a record five Super Bowls over the past twenty years, Jerry Rice is still a force to be reckoned with.

A man who has dominated the record books, his accomplishments could fill up an encyclopedia. The most prolific pass receiver in professional football, Rice forces teams to change their defense and double-team him, because he's not only a threat to catch the ball, but he's liable to tack on major yards once he pulls the ball in.

Growing Up

Jerry Rice was born on October 13, 1962, in Crawford, Mississippi, to Joe Nathan and Eddie B. Rice. His father was a mason, and as a kid, Jerry Rice helped haul bricks and mortar when his father had too much work. He grew up with five brothers, with whom he began playing sports, and learned early on the value of playing and having fun, but also about hard work, thanks to his father's insistence that he give it his all.

Like many kids, when Rice got bored, he wasn't immune to getting into trouble. This penchant for trouble is what eventually led him to a career in professional football. Were it not for his attempt to skip school one day, we might never know Jerry Rice's potential. He told the Los Angeles Times that he had "never had any intention of playing football" until the vice principal caught him sneaking out of the school and then, after catching Jerry in a footrace, hauled him back to the gym. As punishment for his attempted truancy, Rice was ordered to go to participate in football practice. "He made me go out for the team," Rice told the Los Angeles Times, "and that's how I started playing the game."

As a high school student, Rice he was a versatile player, moving around on the field and trying out most every position. Not many colleges showed interest in him as he entered his senior year, however. Except for Archie Cooley,

with Mississippi Valley State (MVS), a small NAIA school in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He thought he saw something in Rice, and he wouldn't be disappointed.

Rice attended MVS and majored in auto-technology. During his college career he caught an amazing fifty-one touchdown passes, and over the course of his junior and senior seasons would average two touchdown receptions per game. In his best and final season, 1984, Rice put up statistics that he'd rival in the pros. That senior season, he pulled down 112 passes, netting 1845 yards, with an unbelievable 28 of those catches for touchdowns. He accomplished this in only eleven games (Rice's team averaged over fifty-nine points a game that year).

Superstar in the Making

Some say Rice wasn't fast enough to be a star receiver in the National Football League (NFL), but San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh selected Rice as the 16th pick of the first round. "Jerry's movements were spectacular for a pass receiver," Walsh told the Los Angeles Times. "He'd been catching 100 passes year after year. We felt that if they'd throw to him that much. he must have the basic instincts for the job."

Yet in his first few games, people wondered about Walsh's decision. In Rice's rookie season, he dropped fifteen passes, but this was due to the complicated 49ers offense, and soon, after he got over the learning curve, he started hanging onto the passes. By the end of the season, Rice had caught passes for 927 yards and three touchdowns, on the way breaking the 49ers single game receiving record with a 241-yard game. He earned a spot on the NFL's All-Rookie Team.

Rice continued his dominance in the NFL, teaming up with Joe Montana to become one of the most successful quarterback/receiver duos in the history of the game. The 49ers had won the Super Bowl the season before Rice joined the team, and Rice wanted to be a part of that. He wanted a ring of his own.

He wouldn't have to wait long. His team, with two Super Bowls in the past six seasons, would become "the team of the '80s," as the 49ers returned to the Super Bowl after the 1988 season, beating the Bengals 20-16 in Super Bowl XXIII. Rice was voted the game's Most Valuable Player.

That was the third Super Bowl for the 49ers in the 1980s, but it wouldn't be their last. In the next season, Rice led all NFL receivers with seventeen touchdowns, and helped his 49ers, which had amassed a 14-2 regular season record, return to Super Bowl XXIIV, which they won. Scoring the most points ever in the most lopsided victory in Super Bowl History, Rice and his teammates blew away the Denver Broncos 55-10. Jerry Rice caught seven passes for 148 yards in the game.

Rice and his team would fall one victory short of making it to the next Super Bowl, but that season he led the NFL in catches (100) and receiving yards (1,502) as well as receiving touchdowns (13). After Joe Montana hurt his back, the 49ers continued to pile up winning records, but for several years they seemed to fall just short of the Super Bowl.

Then, Rice and the 49ers returned to Super Bowl XXIX in 1995, facing off against the San Diego Chargers. Though Rice had been sick the night before the game, and although still weak before game time, he played, and went on to catch ten passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns as his team won a record fifth Super Bowl, 49-26. This put Rice in the record books as the man with the most Super Bowl touchdowns (7) in the history of the NFL.

Chronology

1962 Born October 13 in Crawford, Mississippi, to Joe Nathan and Eddie B. Rice
1981 Enters Mississippi Valley State University
1985 Selected in 1st round of NFL draft by San Francisco 49ers; sets rookie team record with 927 yards
1986 Sets then-49er record with 1,570 yards receiving; begins string of eleven straight pro-bowls
1987 Sets NFL record for receiving touchdowns (22) and touchdown catches in consecutive games (13)
1987 Daughter Jaqui Bonet born to Jerry and wife Jackie on June 7
1988 Catches longest pass of his career, 96-yarder from Joe Montana for a touchdown
1989 Key member of 49ers Super Bowl Victory over Cincinnati Bengals
1990 Gets his second Super Bowl Ring in 49er victory over the Denver Broncos
1991 Son Jerry Jr. born on July 27
1994 Breaks Jim Brown's record for career touchdowns in first game of the season
1994 Gets his third Super Bowl ring as 49ers win record fifth Super Bowl victory over the San Diego Chargers
1995 Considers retiring from football, then decides to keep playing
1995 Breaks two all-time receiving records, for total yards in a single season (1,848) and he becomes the NFL's most prolific pass receiver with 942 receptions and 14,040 yards
1995 Sets single game career high with 289 yards receiving in a game against the Minnesota Vikings
1996 Daughter Jada Symone born on May 16
1996 Catches the 1,000th pass of his career
1997 Suffers a serious injury to left knee in first game of the season. Misses a game for the first time in nineteen seasons
1997 Makes remarkable recovery and returns December 15th. Reinjures knee on a touchdown reception, breaking bone in kneecap. Out for rest of season
1998 Overcomes two surgeries on left knee and injury on right to complete the season and make it to his 12th Pro Bowl
2001 Released by San Francisco 49ers and acquired by the Oakland Raiders
2002 Voted to Pro Bowl at age 40 (13th appearance)

Related Biography: Coach William Earnest "Bill" Walsh

From 1979 until his retirement in 1989, Bill Walsh led his team, the San Francisco 49ers, to three Super Bowl victories. He created an NFL team that came to be known as "team of the eighties," adding, in the middle of the decade, Jerry Rice to an already successful formula. With one Super Bowl victory secure, the addition of Rice to the mix netted the 49ers two more championships before the Walsh decade expired.

Walsh, a native of Los Angeles, California, was born on November 30, 1931. Though he has been in sports his entire life, he wasn't a standout athlete by any measure but played football at San Jose State University in the early 1950s. After service in the military, he returned to complete a graduate degree in Education while working as an assistant coach for the football team.

Bill Walsh began his pro football coaching career as an offensive backfield coach for the Oakland Raiders in 1966. From 1968-75, he would spend eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals as their quarterbacks and receivers coach. Then, after a few seasons at the college level, as Stanford's head coach, he took on the position as head coach with the 49ers, in 1979, giving rise to an era of dominance that has been matched by few teams in the history of the league.

With license to build the team the way he saw fit, Walsh invented an incredible team. He led his 49ers to the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship in only his second season as head coach. Then, following the 1984 season, piloted the franchise to its first championship with a victory in Super Bowl XIX over the Miami Dolphins. His team that season went 18-1, the second best in NFL history, setting Super Bowl records in several categories.

Jerry Rice, coming out of Mississippi Valley State University, wasn't heavily favored in the 1985 NFL draft. But Walsh saw something in the receiver and drafted him. Walsh has been labeled a football genius by many (though he denies it) and told the Los Angeles Times that, "Jerry's movements were spectacular for a pass receiver, no matter the level."

When Walsh retired from the NFL after the 49ers' third Super Bowl victory in 1989, he returned to Stanford for several seasons. In 1999 he made his way back to the 49ers, this time as their General Manager. After the 2001 season, he stepped down as GM and now serves as a consultant for the organization.

Rice considered retiring after that third Super Bowl ring, but thought better of it and came back in '95. He continued to put up great stats, and soon became the all-time NFL reception leader with 942 catches. In 1996 he caught his 1,000th pass, still at the top in a sport where he should have been entering the twilight of his career. In 1997 it seemed his luck had run out when he injured his left knee in the first game of the season. Rice needed surgery, and it looked like he would be out for the season. But he hated the injury, and the cast bothered him so much that at one point, wrote Gary Swan of the San Francisco Chronicle, he "went into his garage at 3 am. took a saw and cut the cast off."

Still Going Strong

Rice returned to the field at the end of that 1996 season in a December game against the Denver Broncos. It had been a remarkable recovery, and even more remarkable when Rice caught a touchdown pass, putting him over 1,000 points for his career. But the tackle in the end zone cracked his kneecap, and he was out of commission once more. He would return full-strength in 1998.

After the 2000 season, Rice left the 49ers, much to the chagrin of fans who'd spent fifteen years watching his every move on the field. Rice moved across the Bay and began the final years of his career with the Oakland Raiders. But neither the move nor age has seemed to slow down Jerry Rice, who, in 2002, was selected for his 13th Pro Bowl Appearance.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: Jerry Rice, c/o The Oakland Raiders, 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, Alameda, CA 94502.

Career Statistics

Receiving Rushing Fumbles
Yr Team Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Fum Lst
OAK: Oakland Raiders; SF: San Francisco 49ers.
1985 SF 49 927 18.9 3 6 26 4.3 1 1 0
1986 SF 86 1570 18.3 15 10 72 7.2 1 2 0
1987 SF 65 1078 16.6 22 8 51 6.4 1 2 0
1988 SF 64 1306 20.4 9 13 107 8.2 1 2 0
1989 SF 82 1483 18.1 17 5 33 6.6 0 0 0
1990 SF 100 1502 15.0 13 2 0 0.0 0 1 0
1991 SF 80 1206 15.1 14 1 2 2.0 0 1 0
1992 SF 84 1201 14.3 10 9 58 6.4 1 2 0
1993 SF 98 1503 15.3 15 3 69 23.0 1 3 0
1994 SF 112 1499 13.4 13 7 93 13.3 2 1 1
1995 SF 122 1848 15.1 15 5 36 7.2 1 3 3
1996 SF 108 1254 11.6 8 11 77 7.0 1 0 0
1997 SF 7 78 11.1 1 1 -10 -10.0 0 0 0
1998 SF 82 1157 14.1 9 0 0 0.0 0 2 2
1999 SF 67 830 12.4 5 2 13 6.5 0 0 0
2000 SF 75 805 10.7 7 1 -2 -2.0 0 3 2
2001 OAK 83 1139 13.7 9 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
2002 OAK 92 1211 13.2 7 3 20 6.7 0 0 1
TOTAL 1456 21597 14.8 192 87 645 7.4 10 25 9

SELECTED WRITINGS BY RICE:

(With Michael Silver) Rice, St. Martin's Press, 1996.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Dickey, Glenn. Sports Great Jerry Rice. Hillside, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1993.

Evans, J. Edward. Jerry Rice: Touchdown Talent. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1993.

"Jerry Rice." Sports Stars. Series 1-4.UXL, 1994-98.

Rice, Jerry, and Michael Silver. Rice. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

Periodicals

Chi, Samuel. "Rice comes of age (40) with Pro Bowl No. 13.#x201D; Denver Post (December 20, 2002).

Fresno Bee (January 28, 1990).

Los Angeles Times (December 13, 1987).

Los Angeles Times (November 4, 1996).

Los Angeles Times (December 15, 1997).

King, P. "Rice suits Raiders fine: a star is reborn." Sports Illustrated (August 20, 2001): 68.

Sports Illustrated (September 28, 1987).

Sports Illustrated (December 15, 1997).

Sports Illustrated (November 29, 1999).

Swan, Gary. "Rice Wants to Cast Off Doubts." San Francisco Chronicle (September 20, 1997).

USA Today (November 4, 1996).

Washington Post (January 22, 1989).

Washington Post (January 23, 1989).

Washington Post (September 1, 1989).

Other

"Farewell Jerry Rice." List of accomplishments as a 49er. http://www.49erswebzone.com/rice/ (December 29, 2002).

"Jerry Rice." NFL.com. http://www.nfl.com/players.1291_bios.htm (December 20, 2002).

"Jerry Rice." http://pro-football-reference.com (December 20, 2002).

Sketch by Eric Lagergren

Awards and Accomplishments

1985 Unanimous choice for NFL All-Rookie team
1985 NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year and NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year
1986 Voted Sports Illustrated Player of the Year
1986-96, 1998, 2002 Selected to Pro Bowl
1987 Voted NFL's Most Valuable Player; wins Len Eshmont Award
1987 Sporting News and NFL Player of the Year
1989 Superbowl XXIII MVP
1990 Named once again as the Sports Illustrated Player of the Year
1990 NFL Player of the Year
1993 Named AP, NFL and Sports Illustrated Offensive Player of the Year
1994 Voted to NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team

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Lagergren, Eric. "Rice, Jerry." Notable Sports Figures. 2004. Retrieved June 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3407900453.html

Rice, Jerry Lee

Jerry Lee Rice, 1962–, American football player, b. Crawford, Miss. Winning national attention while at the otherwise obscure Mississippi Valley State College, Itta Bena, Miss., Rice subsequently played professionally with the San Francisco 49ers (1985–2001), the Oakland Raiders (2001–4), and the Seattle Seahawks (2004). One of the game's most durable players, he became the NFL's oldest ever wide receiver and one of its greatest players. At his retirement, he held career records for receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), touchdowns (208), and receiving touchdowns (197) during the regular season and the season record for receiving yards (1,848). Rice was rookie of the year for the 1985 season, most valuable player for 1987, Super Bowl most valuable player in 1989, and NFL player of the year for 1990 and 1997, and helped the 49ers win three Super Bowls (1989–90, 1995). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

See his Rice (with M. Silver, 1996).

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