Jerry Rice

The Gold Standard: How the movies -- past and present -- changed our lives

As the all-time leading receiver in the National Football League, Rice is looked upon by both Pop Warner tykes and current NFL players as someone who fulfilled his dreams of being the best.

As he made his way up the pigskin ladder, Rice took his inspiration from Daniel Ruettiger, of course.

Who is Ruettiger, one might ask? Most know him by his nickname, Rudy — or “Rudy,” the 1993 pic about a small-bodied but bighearted Notre Dame student who, in his final game in uniform without every getting on the field, got a chance to go out and play defense against Georgia Tech.

“You’re always going to have someone on your team not as talented as the others, but they give 100% on the field each day in practice,” Rice explains. “I’ve seen so many players like that. They enjoy just being there and being part of the game.”

While “Rudy” inspired Rice, his San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh would often show films to his team, trying to find ways to get them motivated. Nothing worked better than “Gladiator,” which was screened for the players on their march toward another Super Bowl.

“The part of the film when they’re in the arena, and they all have to band together, is what I take from that,” says Rice. “If they do that, they all have a chance.”

Yeah, early variations of teamwork. Roman style.

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