The stories about Jerry Rice's unparalleled work ethic are as much a part of his legend as numbers that made him the NFL's greatest receiver.
The young boy who gained his speed by chasing horses. The dedicated son who learned about determination from his father while catching bricks during sweltering Mississippi summers.
The teenager sent to the football coach because of the speed he showed running away from a principal while playing hooky. And the frequent 2½-mile uphill sprints that kept him in tiptop shape as an NFL star.
For former teammate Steve Young, the story that best describes Rice's drive comes a few weeks after the San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl in January 1995.
Young arrived one day at the team's practice facility to clean out his locker and saw Rice out on the field running sprints and catching passes from the groundskeeper nearly seven months before the start of the next season.
"When people talk about Jerry's work ethic and say, 'Oh it's really extreme,' they do it a disservice," Young said. "There's an iron will to it. It's over his dead body. Jerry to the core was driven. You belittle that drive by saying he had just a great work ethic. Most people have an off switch and they choose when to go all out. Jerry didn't have an off switch."
"There was no way I was going to be denied," Rice said. "I kept working hard and my dream came true. I tell kids do not let any obstacles stand in your way. If you want to achieve something, go for it. I'm living proof with my background and where I came from. I didn't give up and I wanted to be the best football player I could possibly be in the NFL and I was able to accomplish that."
Rice struggled with some drops early in his career, leading some to question why he was a first-round pick. But Lott saw something right away in Rice, who beat the future Hall of Famer with a sly double move on one of the first days of practice.
Then teammate Ronnie Lott saw Rice's reaction to the drops and knew he would become a star.
"You didn't see many rookies with the ability to perform precision routes like that. It just seemed natural to Jerry," Lott said. "After he had a rough game with a couple of drops, I saw him sitting at his locker crying. For a lot of people when they lose, it's not personal. For him it was always personal. It showed how much he wanted to be great."
From an Associated Press article -- read the entire article: http://bit.ly/sZDeFR