But make no mistake, this is a world-class athlete, and a plus index golfer, who takes his golf and his role in this event with all the intensity of tricky five foot slider.
Clearly, his game did return, his renowned work-ethic carrying over to golf, where he would often hit golf balls both before and after football practice.Since his retirement from football, Rice has played in a variety of pro-ams and celebrity tournaments -- even winning, as he puts it, "12 grand" one year in the Tahoe celebrity event. But the Nationwide tour is a far different caliber, and the anxiety level is considerably elevated. "I know I have it in me," he says. "But I'm going to have to come out here and perform. I'm not putting pressure on myself to win the tournament -- I would be crazy to do that."
And he is not without skills at the pro level, having plenty of length, a solid short-game, and a genuine ability to work the ball. Good enough to hang with the Nationwide heavies? Probably not, but remember, this is a guy who loves the limelight, with a history of rising to the occasion on the big stage. He didn't win Dancing with the Stars, however, and it still bothers him. "I got beat by a little short guy, Drew Lachey," exclaims Rice. "And that pissed me off." Lachey and his brother, Nick, are personal Rice invites joining an assortment of former 49ers, Raiders, and other celebrity buddies in the pro-am portion of the event.The Fresh Express Classic will be contested at the TPC Stonebrae, located in the Hayward Hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay.
Designed by David McLay Kidd, it is not unfamiliar turf for Rice, who has made several trips from his home across the bay for practice rounds. An avowed golf nut, who reads all the golf magazines, the books, and even cites lines from Bagger Vance, Rice says, "I want to play well, and I want to prove to the guys on this tour that this is not just for publicity, and that I have just as much passion for the game -- I love it, I dream about it."
And though he came close to winning on Dancing with the Stars, his expectations here are different. "I don't expect to win, but if I have a good showing and make the cut, and for some crazy reason I make the top ten, I'll be dancing all over this place, big-time!"
Jerry Rice photos courtesy PGA tour images.