An open letter to the greatest player of all time, Jerry Rice
First of all, thank you. Thank you for coming to our town and making us dream of your greatness again. Thank you for all the years that you gave us. Thank you for every single one of your 197 receiving touchdowns.
Thank you 22,895 times, or once for every yard you gained as a receiver.
You truly are the Greatest of All Time.
Your remarkable run is over, 20 seasons, so many records broken and set, it would be unreasonable to list them all here.
You could have hung up the cleats two years ago, when everyone said you were done. You didn't listen. Your fans appreciate it.
You could have walked away after the Niners said they weren't going to keep you around in 2001. You didn't. Your fans appreciated it.
You were one of those players that come along once in a generation, who is a tireless worker and lets his play do the talking instead of forcing his mouth to do it. Terrell Owens should take notes. So should a lot of other players who aren't capable of holding your receiving gloves and shouldn't ever mention your name, except to say how great you once were.
As an impressionable youth, around the age of 12, I was playing soccer. I demanded number 80, in honor of you. Thanks for loaning it to me.
A year after that, you and Joe Montana absolutely destroyed my beloved Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV in New Orleans. All I could do was shake my head. I knew then, as I know now, that I was in the presence of greatness.
It's been said in this space that old quarterbacks never die, they just keep passing away. Well you kept running, kept catching balls and being a factor and making every catch matter until you finally ran out of steam. You could have walked away from the game you loved, and you could have made people wonder after you left whether you had anything left. I admire your strength to stick it out, wonder if there was one more date with glory in Oakland, in Seattle and finally, in Denver.
We wished and hoped and dreamed right along with you, in every stop (except for maybe Oakland; we hate the Raiders in these parts), that we would get to see you running free with the ball in your right hand, held aloft with your left, as you entered the end zone.
Yesterday was a sad day, for on Labor Day, the Greatest of All Time would labor no more.
It's not like anyone can blame you for leaving; the world of the National Football League is a tough one, especially for the fragile bones of a 42 year old man.
In the end, time did what no defensive back ever could: Time caught up with Jerry Rice, and halted his entry to the end zone.
For 20 years, you were the most feared pass-catcher. For 20 years, the one player every defensive coordinator knew his team had to contain was named Rice.
In the 21st year, you decided to call it a career.
In Grosse Pointe Blank, one of my favorite movies, Martin is having a conversation about the dangers of continuing on the path he's on. Having recently realized that he can't control destiny, or time, or things gone by, Martin says, "We all gotta go sometime."
His secretary replies, "It's true, we all have to go, but we can choose when."
Cryptically, and with the hint of a smile on his lips, says Martin, "No one chooses when."
You chose to stick it out, to thumb your nose at those who said you didn't have it anymore. But, just like the rest of us, you weren't able to choose when to go.
So thanks, Jerry. Thanks for being human enough not to ignore the urge for one more try at glory. Thanks for making Denver the home of the Greatest of All Time, even if it was for too short a stay. Thanks for everything.
More than anything else thanks for the memories. You will never be forgotten.
Sam DeWitt is a columnist for BroncosUpdate.com, and his columns appear two to three times per week. As a lifetime fan of Jerry Rice, he wishes him nothing but the best in his life after football. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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