A New Generation of Greatness?
~ Amy Lignor
Yes, there are many families in many different sports where the grandfather, father and son, or mother and daughter, etc., have played the sport, won the accolades, and proven to everyone out there that abilities and talents most definitely are a part of the ‘family tree’. And many deserve a shout-out; but none, perhaps, so much as the Rice family.
A young man named Jerry Rice…Jr. began his progression – his long trek to rise up into the NFL echelon of superstars that his father commanded for a very long time. In fact, there never seemed to be a Sunday, Monday night game, or even an ESPN program that did not have some fact, cheer, or the words: “He. Could. Go. All. The Way!” when it came to Jerry Rice. And now, his son has tried out at the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie mini camp, drawing almost all the attention away from the actual draft picks.
Not a surprise, really; Jerry Rice, Jr. is looking at a monumental career if that ‘family tree’ theory holds up. He is, after all, the son of the best wide receiver ever (and, no, this is not really an arguable statement).
Jerry Lee Rice, good old dad, gave his stunning work to the NFL for twenty seasons, rising up to earn the title of ‘greatest wide receiver in NFL history’, not to mention one of the all-time greatest players in the NFL, period. The statistics speak volumes, with Rice being the leader in most major categories when it comes to the position; including, being the all-time NFL leader in receptions, touchdowns and yards. A Pro Bowl selection 13 times, and named an All-Pro 12 times.
But perhaps the most memorable gift he gave to the NFL, is something that is blatantly missing in this day and age. Jerry Rice helped win three Super Bowl rings for San Francisco, but the team now seems to only make headlines for the ‘darker’ things in life. Rice has shown all through his lifetime a high moral character; being a man who simply wanted to play football, and then blew everyone out of the water while he was playing it. No controversies, no arrests, no nothing.
Can Jerry Rice, Jr. follow Dad’s incredibly large and gifted footsteps, or will the comparisons drive him absolutely mad? Well, what he did show, was the calmness that his father had when responding to reporters: “You can take (the comparisons) one of two ways: You can burn yourself about it or take it as a challenge. So, I definitely take it as a challenge. Why not try to be the greatest? You have one chance to do this, why not try to be your best?” ‘Nuff said.
If the comparisons are beginning already, let us all give an A+ to the kid for his first of many speeches to come regarding the fact that he, just like Dad before him, wants to play the game and play it well.
Rice did make one truly memorable catch during practice, but, yes, there were twenty-two other players who worked to show how much they could do, as well. And they obviously knew to step-it-up just in case Rice, Sr. was somehow supernaturally sending his own skill into the atmosphere for his son to use.
Rice, Jr. is smaller in stature and weight than Dad, but when it came to running routes smooth and unhindered, and having the immense knowledge of the game and the playbook – the Ravens were more than impressed…but probably not surprised, considering.
“He sure got Dad’s run and athleticism,” coach Harbaugh remarked. “You watch him run, he runs in a real similar way. The other thing is he’s got that West Coast offense down. He’s probably had that playbook since he was in the cradle.” Much better reading than some of the books out there, right?
A while back, as some will remember, coach Bill Walsh sought out Rice, Sr. for his talent and skill. And on draft day in 1985, the 49ers traded and swapped in order to select Rice before, supposedly, the Cowboys got to him. With that one move, Walsh made sure the Cowboys would have a rough time and truly remember the day they had lost the absolute best that would have, perhaps, helped bring them three extra Super Bowl rings, instead of bringing those gems to their enemies.
In the end, Jr. was a nice young man who stated: “Regardless of how everything goes…I enjoyed it and I think I did well.”
What 49ers fans are hoping is that Walsh’s smarts return and Jr. one day heads to San Francisco. God knows, that is one team that needs to ditch the controversies and regain their NFL throne. And what better person to help them do that, then another ‘Rice’!