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Rice stresses patience to freshmen

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - As a wide-eyed freshman stepping onto campus, Jerry Rice remembers the vast atmosphere at Mississippi Valley State.

He was confident he belonged and his talents started shaping him into the greatest receiver of all time. The future Hall of Famer, however, simply knew not to rush while he carved out his place.

Rice suggests such advice for high school seniors who are making the transition to college football. Even those who have the undeniable talent to contend for the new Jerry Rice Award, which will be bestowed on the outstanding freshman player in the Football Championship Subdivision, presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com.

The Jerry Rice Award will be bestowed on the outstanding freshman player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
"Just be the best football player you can be," Rice said. "Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Look at it as a learning process. Tiny steps first, then big steps. Set small realistic goals that are possible. Be patient."

Naturally, Rice improved with each season at MVSU. But getting himself prepared in the final months leading up to his freshman year and being committed to priorities were pivotal. He vowed not to let anybody else outwork him.

"I was confident, but I knew I had to work hard and prove myself," he said. "I was also in good shape conditioning-wise, but college is different than high school as you have new coaches, new playbook, new teammates and you have to adjust.

"Education must come first; that's why you are going to college. Football is second," added the electronics major. "Be your own person and don't be easily influenced."

His fondest memories derive from the relationships he built with teammates. They surely respected Rice's work ethic as much as his record-setting achievements.

He made receiving look effortless. A two-time first-team All-American, he graduated from MVSU with 310 career receptions for 4,851 yards and 50 touchdowns. His 27 TD receptions in 1984 set the NCAA record for all divisions.

Rice went on to become the NFL's all-time leader in many major statistical categories over a 20-year career, mostly with the San Francisco 49ers.

The greatest ever
Wide receiver Jerry Rice entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. Also in 2010, a "blue-ribbon" panel assembled by the NFL Network voted Rice as the NFL's greatest player of all time.
The Jerry Rice Award will be selected by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries after the 2011 regular season. The winner will be honored at the 25th annual FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation, to be held in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the NCAA Division I Football Championship in January (the NCAA has yet to announce the date of the championship game).

Rice has joined three other football legends whose names adorn the top individual awards in the FCS: Walter Payton (FCS outstanding player), Buck Buchanan (FCS outstanding defensive player) and Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year).

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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by Samuel G. Freedman
Samuel G. Freedman's "Breaking The Line" vividly recreates the world of black college football in the civil rights era with a gripping chronicle of the 1967 season for coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State and Alonzo S. "Jake" Gaither at Florida A&M.
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