We find out about his unbelievable training routine, Monday Night Football, and how Dancing With the Stars helped him lose almost 20 pounds.
MF: Your off-season training routine was the stuff of legend. What was the hardest thing about your workouts?
Rice: The hill sprints were about two-and-a-half miles up, and the last 800 meters were completely uphill. We ran it for time, and if you could get around that 15, 16 mark, that was excellent. A lot of guys came to train with me over the course of my career, and a lot of guys fell by the wayside.
You know your body is going to be sore, and you know there's going to be some days where you don't want to get out of bed, but still, you're obligated to do that, and that was my approach to the game. I enjoyed every second of it. A lot of guys dreaded going to training camp. I looked forward to it, because I had already prepared myself.
I was in top shape. Whenever I stepped into that stadium, I felt like I owed the people something. I wanted them to walk away with something special on that given day.
MF: How important was your weight while you played in the league?
Rice: One year I might come in weighing 189 or 190 pounds, so I really had to focus in on what I was putting in my body. Then, if I wanted to get a little bit heavier, I would start eating a little bit more protein to put me up in the 200-pound range.
A lot of my teammates thought I was crazy because during the season, if I didn't weigh 188, 189 pounds—under that 190-pound range—right before the game, I would go to the stadium early and do the stairclimber for 45 minutes or an hour or ride the bike.
I had to be at the weight that I felt comfortable at, and I think that was very important because when I stepped on the football field, I felt good. I was ready to go, I was at the weight that I wanted to be at, and then I just had to go out there and perform.
MF: Of all the receivers in this year's NFL draft, who stands out to you as a superstar in the making?
Rice: I had a chance to go to Pensacola, Fla., and train with DeSean Jackson, the receiver out of California, and everyone there was so funny. They were looking at me—I was running routes, doing everything—and they were like, "What, man? How can you still do this, catch this football and explode down the field? You look like you can still play!"
And that's the way I feel. But yeah, I went there specifically to train with him. He was very good at running routes, and I gave him some knowledge on certain things. We all know that he's fast. I expect this guy to go in the first round, somewhere around that 15th pick. At the combine, I think he had a good time in the 40s.
I think he ran a 4.31. He ran excellent routes and did not drop a ball, so I think he's going to do great things in the NFL. He reminds me a little of Steve Smith, the receiver with the Carolina Panthers. A guy that has confidence, that's going to go out there and be a competitor, and also a big playmaker.
MF: What kind of supplements do you take?
Rice: I think the thing that really helped me is that I started using Elations during the off-season, and it really took me to the next level. It's a product that's good for your joints. If I wanted to play football all over again, I think I could do that. You can check out elations.com for more info.
MF: So we have to ask about how tough it was to be on Dancing With the Stars. How hard was it to go through that grind, as opposed to the daily grind of the NFL?
Rice: Well, you use muscles that you have never used before, and I had to fight through that. You had to learn fast. I'm used to being able to comprehend on the move, because you don't really know what the defense is doing until you're halfway through your route.
I think the guys that watched really respected the commitment. During Super Bowl in Detroit a couple years ago, they brought in all the MVPs from all the previous Super Bowls, and when I walked in the room, the guys congratulated me for doing well on Dancing With the Stars [laughs]! So you know, a bunch of macho football players, and they're talking about Dancing With the Stars.
MF: Did you lose any weight on the show?
Rice: I actually lost 18 pounds. When I first started doing the competition, I would go four hours during the day that morning. As I got to the semifinals and finals, I broke that down into two sessions: four hours in the morning, four hours in the evening. It was a very hard workout, and the young lady that I was working with didn't sweat at all, but I would sweat like a pig [laughs]! It was something my body was not used to, but I was able to go a long way with it.
MF: Do you have a favorite going into this season? Jason Taylor will be the first current NFL player to do the show.
Rice: Jason asked me during the Super Bowl in Arizona about the show. He said, "Jerry, I'm thinking about doing Dancing With the Stars, do you have any tips?" And I said, "Good luck!" [Laughs.] Because, you know, once he gets into it—and I know he's been practicing—man, it's a lot of work! You've got to be able to listen to the music and also you have to go out there and sell it on a given night. Hopefully he can make that transition. I'm sure he has a good work ethic, and that's a good start.
MF: You had one of the best work ethics in the league during your career. What was one of your favorite parts of playing pro football?
Rice: Monday Night Football. Man, I used to love Monday Night Football. It was the two helmets—when they collided, it was like, "Oh my God, this is Monday Night Football!" There's only two teams playing tonight, and I wanted to go out there and give my best performance every time. I felt I was representing Mississippi Valley State University, all my family back in Mississippi, and also, the San Francisco 49ers. So I was always at my best on Monday night.
MF: What do you remember about setting the all-time TD record against the Oakland Raiders on MNF?
Rice: Yeah, you know, they threw it up, and we just went up and fought for it. You know, it's funny, Bill Walsh taught me that. He would always say, "Look, you always want to attack the football at its highest peak."
So when the ball's up in the air, everything slows down. It was unbelievable. The ball slowed down, and I started thinking about what Bill Walsh said, to go up and attack the football at its highest peak, and I was able to catch it. I came down with it, and I had guys trying to wrestle me for it, but I was able to hold onto it.
MF: As someone who's been highly motivated for his whole career, what kind of tips can you offer our readers as to how they can stay motivated?
Rice: You just have to want to do it because you know it's going to benefit you. I feel so much better when I go to the gym. Even those days where I feel like I don't want to go, I still push myself to go and I feel so much better after. It puts a very positive spin on your day. That's going to help you in the long run.