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Experiences as youth helped develop Rice into top NFL receiver

August 4, 2010

Former B.L. Moor High School football player Jerry Rice makes one of many plays for the San Francisco 49ers during his NFL career. (AP file photo)

A series of life lessons learned by Jerry Rice as a youth helped develop him into a Hall of Fame wide receiver in the National Football League.
The opportunity to assist on his father's job and run down a wild horse named Pete are experiences that stick out in Rice's mind.
On Saturday, Rice will be officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's a status that wouldn't have been achieved he says without hard work and determination.
"I think about what I put my body through with the pain and torture," Rice said. "It prepared me to play football for a long time and also perform in a fourth quarter when everything was on the line. When I was tired, I was able to push through that, was able to run good routes and make catches to win the football game."
Rice was able to realize some of his running skills as a youth by chasing down wild horses.
He said someone couldn't just walk up, jump on these horses and ride them for the rest of the day. It took work and some time, between 45 minutes to an hour.
The particular horse named Pete was especially challenging.
"He was unbelievable," Rice said. "It took a while to chase him down, but the reward was you could ride him for the rest of the day."
Rice liked riding the horse on the weekends to baseball games.
It wasn't just a matter of out-running the horse, but Rice also had to out-think him.
"I had to think ahead," Rice said. "I would think about where the horse would end up instead of running behind. I would run to that spot."
That activity was much like running routes as a receiver and, "getting to a spot," on a football field.
As far as his hands, Rice said there's the myth he developed those by helping his father Joe Nathan with his job as a brick mason.
Rice certainly understands the extreme heat that people in Mississippi are experiencing right now because he has felt it before.
"It would be 100 degrees every day," Rice said. "I had to make sure I supplied bricks for my father. It was a very difficult job, but I took pride in that.
"I remember being up on a scaffold that was about 20 feet off the ground and my brothers would toss bricks up. I would snatch those bricks out of the air."
More than learning how to catch, Rice said working with his father taught him the meaning of hard work and dedication.
It's a principle Rice lives by today and just because he's retired from playing professional football doesn't mean he has given up working hard.
Rice still runs about 20 miles per week and goes to the gym to lift or get on the treadmill.
"This is something that has been a part of my life and something I enjoy doing," Rice said. "I am going to continue doing it. I really haven't really taken any time off. I work just as hard as I did when I played professional football."
Rice understands how he became arguably the greatest receiver to put on a football uniform.
He has spent a great deal of time sharing his experience with others.
"With all of the conditioning and what I had done throughout my career, I was preparing myself," Rice said. "Even though I wasn't playing football, I was preparing myself for it. Once that happened, I tried to take it to the next level and develop my craft. I wasn't going to settle for less, always competed and worked hard. I wanted to play in the NFL and there's no way I was going to be denied so I kept working hard and my dream came true.
"What I try to tell young people is not let obstacles stand in your way. If you want to achieve something, go for it. I'm living proof with my background and where I came from. I didn't give up and wanted to be the best football player that I could be."

(Editor's Note: This is the first story in a series previewing the induction of Jerry Rice into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On Friday, the story will deal with Rice's progression from high school through college.)

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