Widely regarded as the greatest wide receiver and quite possibly the greatest football player ever, Jerry Lee Rice was born in Starkville, Mississippi, on 13 October 1962, the sixth of eight children of Joe Nathan Rice, a bricklayer, and Eddie B. Rice. Rice was raised in Crawford and attended B. L. Moor High School, where he ran track and field and played basketball and football. He accepted a scholarship to play Division I-AA football at Mississippi Valley State College in Itta Bena. In his sophomore year Rice teamed up with quarterback Willie Totten, a connection that became known as the Satellite Express. In 1984, Rice’s senior season, he recorded 112 catches for 1,845 yards and 28 touchdowns, earning all-American honors from the Associated Press. He was named Most Valuable Player of the Blue-Gray Game, beating out numerous Division I players for the honor. In his forty-two-game college career, Rice caught 310 passes for 4,856 yards and 51 touchdowns.
While Rice’s skills impressed pro scouts, he was not considered particularly fast. Still, in 1985 the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL) thought highly enough of Rice to make him the third wide receiver chosen in the first round—the sixteenth pick overall. After some early struggles, Rice was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. In 1986 he ranked second in the league in receptions and was named to the Pro Bowl, an honor he repeated every year until 1997, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opening game.
In his third year Rice’s 22 touchdown catches set an NFL record, and he led the league in scoring and was named Most Valuable Player. He received the same honor in Super Bowl XXIII, catching 11 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown and helping San Francisco beat the Cincinnati Bengals. In 1992 he broke Steve Largent’s record of 100 receiving touchdowns. In 1993 he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year after catching 98 passes for 1,503 yards and 15 touchdowns. In 1994 Rice broke running back Jim Brown’s record of 126 career touchdowns with three scores against the Oakland Raiders. The next year he surpassed Art Monk’s record for career receptions with 942 and broke James Lofton’s record for career receiving yards with 15,123.
Prior to the 2001 season, after sixteen years in San Francisco, Rice signed with the Oakland Raiders. In 2002, when he was forty years old, he was again voted to the Pro Bowl after catching 92 passes for 1,211 yards and 7 touchdowns. Rice played for Oakland in 2003 and 2004 before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks in October. He then signed with the Denver Broncos but retired at the start of the 2005 season.
Rice played in a total of thirteen Pro Bowls and four Super Bowls. Among the NFL’s all-time Top 50 players, Rice holds the league career marks for receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), receiving touchdowns (197), and total touchdowns (207). In 1999 Mississippi Valley State renamed its football stadium in honor of Totten and Rice. Rice was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame four years later.
Rice and his wife, Jackie Mitchell Rice, are longtime residents of the San Francisco area, and his 127 Foundation supports numerous charitable organizations, among them Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the March of Dimes, and the Omega Boys Club of San Francisco. In 2005–6 he appeared on television’s Dancing with the Stars, finishing second.
- Jerry Rice website, www.jerryricefootball.com
- Official 2003 NFL League Record and Fact Book (2003)
- Pro Football Reference website, www.pro-football-reference.com
- Jerry Rice and Brian Curtis, Go Long: My Journey Beyond the Game and the Fame (2007)
- Jerry Rice and Michael Silver, Rice (1996)