Brenden Rice says Jerry Rice wants draft revenge: 'These guys gonna feel us'

An NFL prospect finding motivation from where he was drafted is hardly a new story.

But, for Chargers wide receiver Brenden Rice, the tale comes with a twist — a twist involving the greatest ever to play his position.

“My dad was hot,” Rice said Friday after the opening of rookie mini-camp. “First words he said were, ‘Time to go to work.’ He said, ‘I will be with you every step of the way.’ He said, ‘I’m going to be involved with all your workouts from now on, and we got a lot of people to prove wrong.’ ”

Jerry Rice remains the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches two decades since he last played and 14 years after entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A first-round pick — No. 16 overall — of San Francisco in 1985, he was not pleased late last month when his son lasted until the seventh round and pick No. 225.

Rice, in fact, said his father was more upset than he was.

“You guys get the flash and like, ‘What’s up, guys?’ ” Rice said, mimicking his father. “That humble dude, right? Me? He’s like, ‘Hell, no. We gonna take this to a different level. These guys gonna feel us.’ “

The Rices teaming up would represent something of a new development. When Rice was playing at USC, the two were not considered to be especially close, that gap apparently tightening more recently.

“It’s going to be one hell of a story,” Rice promised. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Thirty-one wide receivers were drafted before the Chargers selected Rice on the draft’s third day. On social media afterward, he expressed his disappointment, noting “we starting from the ground up.”

On Friday, in his first media session since the draft, Rice called the experience “very frustrating” but also labeled his selection “a blessing” because he joined a team that really wanted him, a team in need of receiver help.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said the Chargers had “a grade of third or fourth round” on Rice. Much of the outside pre-draft analysis projected him to be among the top 20 at his position.

Lasting as long as he did actually worked in Rice’s favor in a very meaningful way. On that Saturday, he was in Texas attending the funeral of Keith Miller III, who Rice called “my best friend.”

He took the call from the Chargers late in the afternoon while sitting in the Dallas airport waiting to fly back home.

“It was a blessing from God because He allowed me to mourn the death of my friend and then after that be happy,” Rice said. “It was a glorious day.”

Rice and Miller met in 2019 while on a recruiting visit to Colorado. They both ended up playing for the Buffalos before transferring, Rice to USC and Miller to Texas A&M-Commerce.

In mid-April, Miller was found dead in his apartment near campus. No details about his passing have been released.

Rice said the two, both wide receivers, initially clashed at Colorado before discovering how much commonality they shared.

“We used to butt heads because we would try to out-compete each other,” Rice said. “Just to see him grow in front of my eyes…I think there was a snap at a certain moment where we were able to connect.”

The Chargers parted ways with receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams in March because of salary cap issues. They drafted Ladd McConkey in the second round and signed veteran DJ Chark Jr. last week.

Rice joins a position group that also includes returnees Joshua Palmer, Quentin Johnston and Derius Davis and fellow seventh-round pick Cornelius Johnson.

“People want to say, ‘Oh, are you sad? Are you mad?’ ” Rice said. “Guys, I’m in the best position possible to make my mark and make my own legacy… Everything’s on me. So, if you guys don’t see me (on the field) come the fall, that’s on me. If you guys see me out there, I put in the necessary work…to go out there and produce.”

Over the past two seasons, Rice caught passes from Caleb Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall draft pick last month. With the Chargers, he’ll become a target for Justin Herbert, one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks.

“I’m getting really good at luck,” Rice joked. “I feel like my dad.”

Speaking of which, father and son are not alike as players. Rice is a 6-foot-2, 208-pounder known more for his physicality. Jerry Rice, listed at 6-2, 200, excelled with smoothness and fluidity.

Rice smiled and proclaimed himself to be faster than his dad after estimating the two, upon entering the league, were “neck and neck.”

“I heard his rookie season in the NFL wasn’t good,” Rice said. “I gotta go top him.”

Jerry Rice finished his first year with 49 receptions for 927 yards and three touchdowns. In 10 of the next 11 seasons, he was an All-Pro as the 49ers won three Super Bowls.

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