Similar to the path Walter Payton
took, Jerry Rice came out of Mississippi. Once again, the SEC schools missed out on a great talent as the Starkville native was not recruited, even by hometown Mississippi State, so he went to the only place where a recruiter actually came to meet him in person, and that was Mississippi Valley State.
Rice made the most of his time there as he was named to every All-American team and finished 9th in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1984. In the Blue Gray Classic all-star game played on Christmas Day, he earned MVP honors.
Once again, Bill Walsh was the man who saw a diamond in the rough. He watched highlights of Rice while watching the news the night before a game against Houston, and was amazed at what he saw. Despite the 49ers having him listed as no more than a fifth round selection, Walsh knew talent when he saw it.
Getting the opportunity to draft him was a different story. Walsh tried to keep Rice a secret, but the talent savvy Dallas Cowboys also had eyes on him. What’s worse was the fact the Cincinnati Bengals picked 14th then Kansas City at 15th, and finally San Francisco at 16. Walsh tried to trade with Cincinnati so he could insure getting Rice, but when Cincinnati picked Eddie Brown, they breathed a little easier. They exhaled as Kansas City, passed on Rice, so Walsh had his man.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice. Thanks to djwhelan at flickr.com for the picture.
In an interesting side note to this story, Cowboy Director of Player Personnel, Gil Brandt was quoted as saying, "We thought that we were going to be able to draft Jerry Rice because we didn't think the 49ers knew as much about him or felt as strongly as we did."
Rice is the all-time leader in most major statistical categories for wide receivers, and the all-time NFL leader in touchdowns scored with 208. Rice was selected to the Pro Bowl 13 times and named All-Pro 11 times in his 20 NFL seasons. He won three Super Bowls with the 49ers and an AFC Championship with the Oakland Raiders.
Jerry Rice Retires Jersey. Thanks to keithwills at flickr.com for the picture.
On August 24, Rice officially retired as a 49er, signing a one-day contract for $1,985,806.49. The number represented the year Rice was drafted (1985), his number (80), the year he retired (2006), and the 49ers (49). The figure was ceremonial, and Rice received no money. There was a halftime ceremony to honor him during the 49ers' matchup with the Seattle Seahawks on November 19, 2006.
Rice was selected for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2010 in his first year of eligibility. On September 20, 2010, during halftime at the 49ers-Saints game, Rice's #80 jersey number was retired.
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