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‘We’ll just pick Jerry Rice’

Posted by Taylor Price on April 7, 2010 – 1:39 PM

Speaking on a conference call with national football writers on Wednesday, NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi answered a number of questions on the different draft scenarios for  NFL teams. Lombardi was a great source of information as he has spent over 22 years in the league working in various personnel departments. Of the five clubs he’s worked for, Lombardi spent time with the 49ers in the 80s working under legendary Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh.

Twenty minutes into the call, Lombardi shared this fascinating story in how Jerry Rice became the No. 16 overall selection in the 1985 NFL Draft:

“I was fortunate enough to be in the draft room when we selected (Jerry). Coach Walsh called me in his office about three months before the draft. Actually, back in November, we were playing the Houston Oilers in Houston and he called me to his hotel suite on the Saturday night before the game and I thought I was in trouble which wouldn’t be out of the norm. He called me in his room and said, ‘Who is this kid on the TV-set I’m watching? He’s incredible! Can you get me every tape on this guy? And I said, ‘Sure coach, that’s Jerry Rice. I’ll see what I can do.’

“And at this time, we were on 16-milimeter tape which was expensive and hard to find, especially for the smaller schools, they held on to those tapes like gold. So I went back to San Francisco, got three tapes and gave them to Coach Walsh. He watched them and I had to send them back out. It took a lot of nerve for me to ask him questions, my hands still sweat when I think of him. I said, ‘Coach, I have to send those tapes back out, would you mind if I get them off your desk? And he said, ‘Sure, go up and get them, you can send them out.’ So I went up there and he had a little note attached to them, and in his left-handed handwriting he had, ‘John Jefferson… with speed.’ That’s how he described Jerry Rice.

“When we got into the draft, we had plans to possibly select Eddie Brown. We thought he’d be the guy who would come to us. With Jerry, we moved up from 28 to 16. We traded our first, second and third-round picks to the New England Patriots and we ended up getting their first and third-round picks for that trade. When we got to 16 we thought we’d get at least one of the receivers and maybe we’d get Brown. Then, we were on the phone with the Cincinnati Bengals trying to work out a trade with them, and they decided to take Brown. Coach handed me the phone and said, ‘Don’t worry about it; we’ll just pick Jerry Rice.’

“What we had to do was sweat out the Kansas City Chiefs who were picking at 15, and they ended up picking Ethan Horton, the running back from North Carolina. Then we picked Jerry. We went out to practice that following week for our first minicamp and Dwight Clark came off the field and said, ‘Smooth and rich.’ Those were his comments and I think he’s been proven correct.”

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Posted in Uncategorized | 38 Comments »

38 Responses to “‘We’ll just pick Jerry Rice’”

  1. By Lamont R. Hall on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    I absolutely love this story, it describes a head coach who had his hand and foot in the draft selection, also he watched college football and scouted as far back as november. OLD SCHOOL RULES!!!

  2. By Lamont R. Hall on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    GO NINERS!!!

  3. By J.Bailey on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    R.i.P Mr.Walsh

  4. By Len R. on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    ‘John Jefferson… with speed.’ – Coach Walsh
    ‘Smooth and rich.’ – Wide Receiver Dwight Clark

    I couldn’t have said it any better.

  5. By Francisco Violich on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    That is a beautiful story! Makes me wish that Coach Sin will say, “don’t worry about it; we’ll just pick C. J. Spiller”…..if he’s available… Go 49ers!

  6. By Matt on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    Love it! BW was simply amazing with his eye for talent. Without Jerry we would only have 2 Superbowls. Thanks BW and Thank you Jerry Rice!

  7. By J.Bailey on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    I hope singletary did his homework. Picking the right guys in the draft is the difference between being a good coach are a great one.

  8. By BIG Mike on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply


  9. By FaithfulManSince'88 on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    I had no idea that michael Lombardi was working close with BW. His story was very detailed and took me back to that 85′ draft. The names mentioned, that were taken before Rice, I never heard of. I guess we owe New England a lot more than those picks we gave them.


  10. By GC on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    Jerry Rice = G.O.A.T. ….’Nuff Said!!!

  11. By NinerDude on Apr 7, 2010 | Reply

    We haven’t had a coach with the determination of BW. Until now. In Sing We Trust.

  12. By Glen Buckley on Apr 8, 2010 | Reply

    Jerry Rice was the man back then (80′s). He wasn’t the only receiver the 9ers had during their super bowl runs (Dwight Clark and John Taylor were also contributors). If I’m not mistake Coach Walsh was the creator or the west coast offense when he was at Stanford in the mid 70′s. Coach W was labled a genious by his peers and history proves them right. I wonder what would happen today if the 9ers returned to that style of offense? I do think Coach Sing picked Coach Walsh’s brains during his playing days in Chicago I hope he uses some of that wisdom when drafting players (not bad so far) and putting offense together. He’s a defense minded coach (played LB). I do believe the 9ers will return to greatness their still a couple of players away. A Bryant Young/Dana Stubblefield (defensive line type), a Ronnie Lott type (safety) and a Jerry Rice type (WR) to go with Crabtree and maybe a Randy Cross/Jesse Sapolua (offensive line type. But irregardless go 9ers!!!

  13. By Robert Storment on Apr 8, 2010 | Reply

    Exemplifies the genius of Bill Walsh…recognizing the greatness that was to belong to Jerry Rice.

  14. By NorCal Dave on Apr 8, 2010 | Reply

    We got Crabtree last year and we’ll get Dez Bryant this year. Think about it… you are the defensive Coord for the 9ers next opponent.
    Your defense will need to stop:
    WR’s Crabtree & Bryant
    TE Davis
    RB Gore
    QB Smith, with a revamped Oline featuring OT Iupati
    What a nightmare… I don’t want that job, no thanks!!!! Who do you double in coverage and who gets left in single coverage or do you attack with a Dime or Quarter defense and leave giant holes for Gore to run through?????

    GO NINERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. By JQUI on Apr 8, 2010 | Reply

    Great story! It gets me ready for another great draft by the 9ers!

  16. By Typhoeus on Apr 8, 2010 | Reply

    Gore, Davis, Crabtree, and Dez Bryant…

    All the opponents defensive coordinator would have to do is rush 5 defenders and the play would die in the backfield because our offensive line has been one of the league’s worst for the past decade or so.

    We don’t need Dez Bryant. Crabtree is our guy. The 49ers need to build as nasty an offensive line as they had during their Super Bowl runs. Iupati would be a good start, but Bryant is not the answer… neither is CJ Spiller.

  17. By PrinceAli on Apr 8, 2010 | Reply

    HE is the best there is, the best there was and the best (I think ) there ever will be. No one this day and age goes the extra MILES that Jerry did. He is just that kind of person, and it shows in different areas in his life.

  18. By DMan on Apr 9, 2010 | Reply

    Great, great story about the two single most important people in Niner history, along with Eddie D. of course…have to agree that we need to get some J. Newberry types in the draft that are going to maul people coming off the ball…along with a bigtime playmaker at the safety position.

  19. By Bob on Apr 9, 2010 | Reply

    I agree, simply the best ever.

  20. By CaseyB on Apr 9, 2010 | Reply

    Thank you NFL network showing the classic Niners games and given my sons and nephews a peek into the future. But we should draft a top safety and Tackle to keep the dream alive. Great story about Coach Walsh and Rice. I will now find M. Lombardi’s suggested picks a little more intersting now.

  21. By Diana D on Apr 9, 2010 | Reply

    Just reading this story bought tears 2 my eye!!! R.I.P. Coach Walsh!! We had a many greats on our teams. Go NINERS!!!!

  22. By BIGGCHUGG on Apr 10, 2010 | Reply


  23. By BIGGCHUGG on Apr 10, 2010 | Reply


  24. By native49ers on Apr 10, 2010 | Reply

    I have always thought that Jerry Rice was such an outstanding player. His playing was just so awesome the way he would move and how he would catch the football with just one hand. I was so sad when he wasn’t playing for the niners any more. Wish they would get him back. But i guess we just have to keep praying that our boys will do a come back SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO XL9ERS :)

  25. By J.Merrill on Apr 10, 2010 | Reply

    R.I.P Coach. Thanks for all the great years you gave us.

  26. By AlexM32 on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    CJ Spiller and then Earl Thomas…Speed. Special teams will be covered by Spiller and also 3RD AND LONG! Thomas will be nice for deep coverage and covering distance in a short amount of time (4.4). A second scenario is Earl Thomas and then Kareem Jackson and hopefully in the 2nd round pick up a Jahvid Best (wishful thinking) or another fast RB such as McCluster (undersized but can be a Sproles). 9ers need speed on both sides of the ball, they have the playmakers on O (Smith, Gore, Crabtree, Morgan, Davis, and Walker) and on D (Willis, Brooks, Franklin, Smith, Clements, and Goldson) so all we need is the speedsters who are also playmakers.

  27. By Rich on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    Heck YEA!! Rice was smooth and rich…best reciever EVER!

  28. By JasonXFlash on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    JR is D greatest. He is the WR god. All wr should worship Jr. And Bill Walsh is D coach god.

  29. By JasonXFlash on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    Joe Cool is D qb god.

  30. By JasonXFlash on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    Niners 4life…..

  31. By kenny h on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    we need to protect smith thats what it all comes done to for years hes been the product of scrutiny but people dont realize even manning wouldnt look as good with out his oline so we need to start there smith has big play ability and if he gets a chance to show it then gore will be back to 1500 yard seasons. our defense in my opinion is where it needs to be we have the talent clements needs to become ball hungry like we all know he was like in buffalo and willis and justin smith need to stay on the same page and we will have no problem pullin out 12 or more wins

  32. By kenny h on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    this is probably the closest team weve had to the old days they have the determination and the fight in them they just need to learn eachother and work together lets not forget they are all fairly new to eachother including sing. thier trust for eachother is building we witnessed it last year. niner pride is back and here to stay we will reclaim the most super bowl wins and as others forget were the only team with 5 or more superbowl wins and no zero nada losses so id rather not have them go till they are ready to win it all.

  33. By Lauren Bernally on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    JR is awesome. Not only is he a competitor but he also a very humble and talented man. Where would San Francisco be without Jerry Rice……He lite up the city and put the gold back into this franchise. We need to clone this man!!! GO NINERS!!!!!

  34. By AlexMcD32 on Apr 12, 2010 | Reply

    I would like to re-evaluate my draft for the niners. I believe our offense is going to do exceptional and we shouldnt aim for cj spiller and i’ll explain furthermore throughout this. I think we need the defense because we were horrible in the category of pass defense which could’ve helped us a lot throughout the year. We should use our 13th pick for Joe Haden and our 17th pick for Earl Thomas if he is available. If Joe Haden is gone then we can pick up CJ Spiller but the 49ers NEED TO AT LEAST pick up Thomas or Haden if they are there. Our O-line is said to need a lot of work but i think we are fine because you don’t need all big name o-line men you just need chemistry which i think they got. Staley and heitmann are the heart of the O-line and rachal needs to improve with his tenacity but remember he’s going to improve with experience and i believe we will have a top 10 rushing attack next year and a top 15 passing attack because throughout the year we found out we have a pretty sick passing game and we already knew we had a nasty backfield with Gore and coffee can only get better. So to sum things up we should go Defense in the 1st round and o-line in 2nd, 4th, and 5th round for depth because this draft is expected to be one of the best with the d-line and o-line depth. Also we should think about picking up a “Darren Sproles” with our 3rd round pick in Deter McCluster because we need a much better kick/punt returner (i wish we would’ve kept korey sheets lol). PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS BC IM JUST A DIE HARD LIKE ALL OF YOU HERE WHO IS READY FOR THE GLORY DAYS TO COME BACK SO DON’T BE TOO HARSH BUT PLEASE DO STATE YOUR OPINION.

  35. By Scott Holthouser on Apr 13, 2010 | Reply

    I agree with Typhoeus 100%. I’ve said for years that the most needed improvement is the O-line. It’s very difficult to throw accurately while you’re on your butt or running in the opposite direction as your receivers.
    We have all the pass catchers we need, we have all the rushers we need, we have a solid defense, and our QB’s? Well, imagine how good Alex (or ANY QB)would have looked since his draft if he were behind the Patriots O-line of 4-5 years ago. It BEGINS there. If you protect your QB and give him the chance to execute, you open so many doors of possibilities for yourselves while closing doors of defensive solutions for them.
    Of course it’s not as black and white as that, but it’s a basic truth in football that if your O-line is full of holes, your QB’s and RB’s are in for a hurt (with the exception of Barry Sanders, who would look AMAZING behind any line. Imagine him behind Emmit Smith’s O-line. Holy Moley!!)
    But I degress. All the right planets and stars aligned to create the genius of Coach Walsh, and then HE made all the right planets and stars align in order to draft the greates player to put on shoulder pads, Jerry Rice.

  36. By michael on Apr 13, 2010 | Reply


  37. By Gordy Mothersole on Apr 13, 2010 | Reply

    I also agree that the ‘o’ line is our biggest need. Smith played so much better out of the shotgun because he had more time, and could see things develop in front of him. So with a better line we could see the best of Alex so far, not to mention what it could do for Frank Gore!! Our division is really there for the taking, we are as good if not better than the others. I live in Scotland but even from over here I get the feeling that these guys genuinely seem to believe they are on the verge of something special, the season cant come quick enough. For me, Jerry Rice isn’t only the greatest football player of all time, I think you’d be hard pushed to find a better athlete in any sport – the guy was simply amazing. I remeber him catching a slant from Grbac, and streaking through the entire Cowboys secondary during the 93 regular season, sprinting across the lone star in the process-none of them got any where near him! Could be his best TD ever??

  38. By Gordy Mothersole on Apr 13, 2010 | Reply

    Sorry, think Ive got my years mixed up, couldve been the 95 season

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