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Jerry Rice

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."

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