Jerry Rice might be the best receiver ever. And when the 47-year-old is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 7, much attention will be paid to all his records. What might not be talked about, however, is his role as mentor.
Two years ago, Rice began working out with DeSean Jackson as the soon-to-be Eagles star prepared for the NFL combine. At the time, the Hall of Famer compared his protege to Carolina’s Steve Smith.
“When I first started working with him, I noticed the confidence, and a guy that really could use his hands,” Rice said Thursday. “So many receivers have to use their bodies to catch the football, but he had the confidence that, ‘I can make any catch.’”
Rice, who holds the record for most yards from scrimmage (23,540), was best known for his YAC, or yards after catch.
“That was something that I worked on because I never really wanted to go down and catch a football,” Rice said. “I wanted to be able to utilize my hands, and it was all about the yardage after the catch.”
That’s a lesson Rice has tried to instill in Jackson, who ranked 11th in the NFC in YAC (394) last season. His eight touchdowns of more than 50 yards tied the single-season record.
“What he was able to accomplish last year was unbelievable,” Rice said. “I’m sure he’s going to come back and work even harder this year.”
Can he build on those mind-numbing stats?
“He doesn’t have Donovan McNabb, so we’ll just have to wait and see how that is going to unfold,” Rice said. “But, he’s a hard worker, he has the confidence in his feet and also his route running, and he’s a little guy with a big heart.”