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.
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.
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).