By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Sports Network, the nation's premiere real-time source and wire service for sports content, announced today that the outstanding freshman player in the Football Championship Subdivision will be honored each season with the Jerry Rice Award, presented by TSN and sponsored by Fathead.com.
This honor is named for the Hall of Fame wide receiver, acknowledged as one of the greatest players in football history. Rice is joining three other football legends whose names adorn the top individual awards in the FCS (formerly Division I-AA college football): the Walter Payton (FCS outstanding player) and Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year) Awards, which are celebrating their 25th anniversaries in 2011, and the Buck Buchanan Award (FCS outstanding defensive player).
"I am truly honored to be a part of the FCS Awards and to be in the company of Walter Payton, Buck Buchanan and Eddie Robinson," Rice said. "It truly means the world to me and it's unbelievable to be able to have my legacy live on forever.
"I love to give back and it is amazing to be able to award a deserving freshman based on his accomplishments. I think it's important to recognize people at all levels for their hard work and dedication."
"Watching Jerry Rice play," said Mickey Charles, President and CEO, The Sports Network, "was observing poetry in motion, the same as witnessing that which anyone else would be hard-pressed to replicate. He set the standard and became the benchmark for excellence at that position. Having an award that bears his name not only creates the legacy every athlete wants when his name is mentioned after he had completed his career on the gridiron, but it now becomes the sought-after prize for every freshman football player in the FCS."
"The Jerry Rice Award will definitely be one of the most prestigious honors bestowed upon a college freshman athlete anywhere," said Patrick McInnis, CEO, Fathead. "This speaks volumes of The Sports Network's commitment to recognizing student-athlete excellence and Fathead is proud to be the sponsor."
Rice made receiving look effortless during his amazing career. He was a two- time first-team All-American in the FCS at Mississippi Valley State and finished his career with 310 receptions for 4,851 yards and 50 touchdowns. His 27 TD receptions in 1984 set the NCAA record for all divisions.
The San Francisco 49ers traded up in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft to select Rice, and he rewarded them with a record-setting career while they won three of their Supers Bowls (XXIII, XXIV and XXIX). He was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection (1986-96, 1998 and 2002), two-time AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1987 and 1993) and Super Bowl MVP (XXIII, 1989).
He also played for the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, retiring after 20 seasons as the NFL's all-time leader in many major statistical categories for receivers, including receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895 yards) and receiving touchdowns (197), as well as the all-time record-holder for touchdowns scored with 208.
He 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.
Said Rice: "I believe that since I came from a small predominantly black college where our program wasn't as visible as others, it taught me that you had to work hard, be determined and dedicated. This laid the groundwork and foundation for my success on the football field."
The addition of the Jerry Rice Award is a natural progression for the FCS awards. Previous winners include: Walter Payton Award, Steve McNair (Alcorn State), Brian Westbrook (Villanova), Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois) and Armanti Edwards (Appalachian State); Buck Buchanan Award, Jared Allen (Idaho State), Rashean Mathis (Bethune-Cookman) and Dexter Coakley (Appalachian State); and Eddie Robinson Award, Paul Johnson (Georgia Southern), Houston Nutt (Murray State) and Jim Tressel (Youngstown State).