It’s odd to see football legend Jerry Rice behind a buffet of Super Bowl staples.
The NFL Hall of Famer was famous for his punishing off-season workouts and even at 55-years-old looks like he’s still in peak playing shape. “I’m probably pushing myself harder now, than when I was played football just to stay in shape,” he tells me, jokingly adding, “I still have about 80 catches in me.”
So, it’s hard for me to fathom him eating an extra carrot stick let alone an overstuffed slider or a Buffalo wing. But here he is promoting tailgating favorite Heluva Good! chip dip and a crazy snack-tray-fanny-pack contraption just days before the big game.
But the Hall of Famer is relaxed and happy to entertain questions about his playing days and the Super Bowl. What does he have planned for Sunday? “I am just going to be home with family and friends and probably having snacks like this and enjoy the game,” he says. Given what a great competitor he was on the field, I get the sense he’s still struggling a bit with being on the other side of the action. “It feels weird to be home,” he tells me. “I’m so used to being on that big stage and I loved it. It was scary but I loved it. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
“You hear players say ‘it’s just another game.’ No! It’s not just another game,” he says with a bit of passion. “This is the Super Bowl!”
So, it’s no surprise that he admits he’s not exactly the life of the party after the kickoff. “I really get into the game. It’s almost like I’m playing the football game,” he says. “Once the game starts I’m a little quiet and I’m locked in.”
After some prodding, he insists his guilty pleasures are chips and candy. (“We all love chips!”) But surely, he does a better job controlling his snacking impulses than most of us given that self-discipline was never a problem for him during his playing days.
In fact, before most games he didn’t eat except for perhaps a bit of fruit. “I didn’t eat anything because I wanted to be hungry,” he says. “It was a sort of anger.” And if he was even a pound over his optimal playing weight he’d hit the treadmill or the StairMaster before the game. “My teammates would come and they would look at me and they thought I was crazy,” he remembers. “‘Jerry why are you sweating like this? The game is not going to start for another hour.’ But I wanted to be down to that ideal weight. I would always challenge myself that way.”
And he credits those workouts for his long career. “My thing was all about my conditioning,” he says. “And I was able to play the game for over 20 years.”
There are still days he feels like he could be out there again. “My body knows when it’s football season after playing for so long,” he says. “If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.”