I met Jerry Rice for the first time ever today at the Cow Palace in Daly City. GT Sports Marketing held their annual sports card/autograph convention there, and it was about dang time I met the G.O.A.T in person with a red XXL #80 jersey in tow.
So it was a decent size crowd there and mostly 49ers fans. LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Kendall Hunter, and Navorro Bowman were also on hand for signings & autographs. As for my brief encounter with the legend...it was amazing. I took my family and the first event was the autograph session. He was all smiles and gladly engaged the fans. The event staff ushered us behind the curtains where the photographer and Jerry Rice were.
Keep in mind he's a fairly tall, lean, guy and in great shape for a 50-year old. Seriously, he doesn't look a day over 40, maybe even younger. He was like, "Hey, how you doing?" and shook my hand all smiles. He gave my mother a hug and she blurted out, "Oh you were great on Dancing with the Stars!" And Jerry teased back with, "Oh you liked the cha-cha?" And they both laughed. So he puts his arms around us and and we take our picture with him. I didn't know what else to do but shake his hand and say 'thank you'. I walked out of that booth all smiles.
Later we got in the autograph line and when he came out, the whole crowd just roared. He signed my authentic Wilson Pro Line NFL Jersey (excellent condition) and was like, "Hey, I remember you guys!" He let me take another picture with him again and we shook hands again. It was just cool to see him there excited and engaging all the fans.
When we were standing in line for autographs, this older guy was having him sign all this stuff but didn't seem to think his kid (probably 8 years old) wanted to meet Jerry, kind of a d-bag movie IMHO. But as the father and kid were leaving, Jerry yelled out to the kid, "Hey what's your name?" And the kid said his name and Jerry reached out his hand to shake the kid's hand. The kid rushed over and shook his hand and was all smiles.
Now some folks might be like, "so what? he's just doing it for the money and publicity?" But I disagree. I've been to several of these conventions and most athletes just go through the motions without engaging the fans. Either they feel uncomfortable around them or they just don't care to engage them, but that's not Jerry.
A good friend of mine ran into him in Napa 12 years ago when he was with the Raiders and the team swung by the restaurant she was working at, and he ended up signing a bunch of autographs for the staff there.
Anyways, I've got to get this picture and this signed jersey framed ASAP!