Sometimes you get a chance to do something so awesome that you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s really happening. Yesterday was one of those experiences for me.
Thanks to the wonderful folks at P&G and their season-long Take It To The House promotion with the NFL, I got the opportunity hang out with NFL legend Jerry Rice yesterday at the NFL Experience in Dallas. We don’t often get the best player ever in his sport here at our little corner of the sports blogosphere, so needless to say I was soaking up every minute of it.
In addition to getting to hang out backstage and talk with Jerry (and his incredibly nice manager Sasha) while Jerry recorded a variety of segments for the NFL Network, he took a few minutes to answer some questions on-camera for me. Thanks to everyone who submitted question ideas. I tried to incorporate as many of them as I had time to ask.
Let me just say this about Jerry Rice: he could not have been more professional, gregarious, and fan-oriented. He was being whisked from appearance to appearance, but stopped on two occasions all on his own to sign autographs for the throngs of fans that congregated near him. He only stopped when his manager told him he had to be somewhere.
It was 5:00 pm by the time I did my interview with him, and by that time he had been going non-stop since an appearance on Mike & Mike in the Morning before the sun had even risen. Yet he was energetic and gracious with everyone he came into contact with, as if he was just getting going for the day.
I think as sports fans we always wonder what our favorite athletes will be like when we get a chance to “peek behind the curtain” so to speak. Based on my experience with Jerry Rice, he’s about as good as it could get.
In short, Jerry Rice was exactly what you’d hope a superstar athlete would be like.
As awesome as my day yesterday sounds, I haven’t even gotten to the best part: I was able to bring along my little brother Bryce. You remember Bryce “The Beast” Garner, right? The best 7th grade running back in Dallas? I’ve written about him here before (here and here). I wanted him to get a few pointers on hard work and dedication from the most hard working and dedicated football player in the history of the game, and Jerry did not disappoint.
When we first met Jerry, after he went one-on-one with Deion Sanders during an NFL Network segment, he came over and talked with just Bryce and me for a good 10-15 minutes. I asked him to explain to Bryce how hard he used to work, both in-season and during the off-season, and how important his dedication was to becoming such a good football player. I can obviously explain this to Bryce until I’m blue in the face, but it just doesn’t have quite the same effect as when it comes from the best football player ever.
In addition to meeting and talking with Jerry, Bryce also got a chance to wear his jacket while he was doing the NFL Network segment. Random, but It’s not every day you get to wear a Hall of Famer’s jacket.
And here is another picture of Bryce in Jerry’s jacke–whoa Bryce…whatcha looking at there little buddy?
Clearly even being in the presence of football royalty does not change a young man’s priorities.
Oh, and yes that is The Situation from Jersey Shore on the right in the picture above (I bet you didn’t look to the right, did you?). And yes, we got a picture of Bryce with him.
Funny story (Mrs. Garner, please don’t hate me for telling this…) – Bryce texted his mom and told her that The Situation was in attendance. Apparently Bryce’s sisters are fans of Jersey Shore, so she wanted to be sure that I got a picture of Bryce with The Situation. I sent her this picture and the picture of Bryce with Jerry.
Here is the text response I received after sending the picture of Bryce with Jerry: “Who is this with Bryce?” Bless her heart, she knew The Situation but didn’t recognize Jerry Rice. In her defense, Jerry has been retired since 2004 and his last Pro Bowl season was 2002. The Situation, on the other hand, is still riding his inexplicable comet of fame as we speak. Needless to say, I’m sure Bryce gave her an in-depth history lesson about Jerry once he got home.
As for the NFL Experience, which is being held at the Dallas Convention Center, it really is terrific. There are a variety of activities and exhibits that young kids (like Bryce) and big kids (like me) can enjoy. One cool exhibit has a bunch of NFL stars’ lockers, which provide neat backgrounds for pictures. Unfortunately, Adrian Peterson’s was not among those featured, but I was able to get a picture of Bryce in front of a couple of his other favorite players’ lockers:
And in keeping with the theme of everything being bigger and better and Texas, here is Bryce standing in front of the gargantuan Super Bowl XLV sign that sits in front of the Convention Center:
Actually, that picture doesn’t really do the sign justice – although it does, quote humorously and unintentionally, look like Bryce is holding the sign up with his arms, back,and shoulders. Check out this picture for perspective:
What a day. I definitely encourage you to head out to the NFL Experience if the Super Bowl is ever in your city, and obviously you should go meet Jerry Rice if you ever get the opportunity. It was definitely a thrill that Bryce and I will not soon forget.