Did LaVell Edwards recruit Jerry Rice to be part of the Brigham Young Cougars? That is the big question I came away with this weekend. I know that fall camp was opening up, and the Jake Heaps/Riley Nelson face off resumed, but after I listened to Jerry Rice's speech at the induction ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night, I couldn't get this thought out of my head.
We all know that Rice ended his pro career as the best wide receiver ever, and arguably the best player ever. In his speech Saturday night, he explained that USC and other big name schools were recruiting him in high school, but he chose the much smaller Mississippi Valley State for two reasons.
1. Mississippi Valley State threw the ball a lot.
2. Mississippi Valley State was the only school that came to watch him play.
BYU clearly matched the first reason. Rice's senior year of high school, Jim McMahon set NCAA records for touchdown passes and passing yards, just to name a few. The year before (1979) Marc Wilson set the NCAA record for passing yards in a season and BYU was the first team to ever pass for 4,000 yards in a season. If BYU had sent someone to watch Rice play a few times, would Rice have found a scholarship offer from D-1A BYU more attractive than a local D-1AA school?
Jerry Rice played college ball from 1981-1984. We all witnessed what Steve Young and Rice achieved on the field in the NFL, what if that had started in college? Would BYU have beaten Georgia in 1982? Would BYU have beaten Baylor to open the 1983 season and finish a perfect 12-0? How scarily lethal would the BYU passing attack have been with Jerry Rice on one side and Glen Kozlowski on the other, and recent College Hall of Fame inductee Gordon Hudson in the middle?
I can't find any stories about Rice from his college days that indicate he would not have been able to follow the honor code while at BYU. He appears to have always been a model citizen. Alas, history cannot be rewritten, and I should not get too caught up over this. The years in question (1981-1984) were some of the best ever for BYU, so I will choose to be grateful for the great players and the great success we had, rather than worry about the one who, possibly, got away.
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