There were two San Francisco 49ers Hall of Famers at training camp, wide receiver Jerry Rice and quarterback Steve Young. Both players spoke at the team meeting but Rice took it a step further and suited up to run routes with the team during individual drills.
What might have been most valuable for rookie wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was being able to speak one on one to Rice during practice. Bourne is a native of Portland, Oregon who attended Eastern Washington University whose enrollment numbers (13,000) rival the population numbers of the town its resides in (12,237). Rice attended Mississippi Valley State University has an undergraduate enrollment of 1,948 located in Itta Bena whose population is 1,931. Bourne ran a 4.68 40yard dash and Rice ran a 4.71. Bourne hopes that they similarities don’t stop there, although he did ask about moving on from his 40 time. Bourne retold their their conversation:
I ran slow at my combine and I kind of asked him, ‘I heard you ran slow too. How did you manage it coming into the league.’ and he said ‘Man, I was just more quick in my route running and more crisp.’
Bourne, who was overshadowed in the draft by teammate Cooper Kupp, would have been the stand out at any other school with the stats he accumulated in 2017. He was able to tally 79 receptions for 1201 yards while Kupp, who broke Rice’s FCS records, finished 2016 with 117 catches for 1700 yards. Bourne and Kupp were the top receiving duo in FCS history. Bourne received three-time All-Big Sky Conference honors.
Bourne reports that the 54 year old Rice still runs great routes, noting that he only had trouble the wide stutter step out where having tight hips could be a hindrance. The Hall Of Famer was inspiring to the rookie who says that Rice is proof that your body can do things that you may not believe is possible.
Bourne who shared that he had a small case of the nerves in his first NFL showing, revealed that it was Katie Sowers who calmed the rookie down and helped him turn around his game.
I dropped my first NFL pass so that was a bummer, I dropped my second NFL pass and that was a bummer too, and then Katie kinda got in my ear and told me, man, I could really be good. She compared me to some top players and she said you just have to take the moment in. And then after that, I don't know what got into me, I just got into a rhythm and got going.
Bourne finished the night with four catches for 88 yards. He says Sowers is just as knowledgeable any other coach he’s worked with. She studies just like the players and has a thorough understanding of the offense. When commenting on Sowers being the first woman with a full time coaching job in the NFL, he retorted, “It’s amazing, congrats to her. I’m looking for a full time job!”