Few professional athletes have been able to accomplish what San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice was able to do during his incredible run in the NFL. Although he’s still very much connected to the game of football while sporting the franchise he helped lead to three Super Bowl titles, the Hall of Famer has dedicated himself to other ventures off the field.
Jerry Rice and his daughter, Jaqui Rice, have teamed up to create a new and healthy energy drink brilliantly and aptly named, G.O.A.T. Fuel.
Recently, the Rice family struck a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to become the official energy drink of the storied NBA franchise. The legendary wide receiver was kind enough to give Lakers Nation some time to talk about the new partnership with the Lakers as well as some of his thoughts on the G.O.A.T. debate in basketball and football, and much more.
How did the G.O.A.T. Fuel deal come together with the Lakers?
“Man, you know what, they actually reached out to us and I guess they liked the brand and they liked also that it was a healthy energy drink. This is the first time in history that they have partnered with an energy drink, so I’m on cloud nine right now being with one of the greatest franchises ever: the Los Angeles Lakers.
“And for us to be able to partner up and be on the same team is almost like a dream come true for me and G.O.A.T. Fuel.”
What inspired you to build the G.O.A.T. Fuel brand?
“My daughter came to me and she just off the top of her head — I think because they were in L.A. and at the time, they were drinking coffee and they were putting in cordyceps mushrooms into the coffee and they were doing all that. She asked me if I had ever been part of an energy drink. I said no because my main focus over the years was about being the best football player I could possibly be and also I didn’t just put my name on any endorsement or anything like that unless I really believed in it, so she said, ‘Hey look, if you had an energy drink, what would you name it?’ And just off the top of my head, I said, ‘G.O.A.T. Fuel. The greatest of all time.’ But not just for athletes. It could be an entrepreneur, it could be a frontline worker, it could be what you do.
“It’s anyone that’s daring to be great on that given day and the thing that separates us from the other energy drinks is that we put cordyceps mushrooms into the drink and you don’t have the jitters or anything like that. You just become part of the G.O.A.T. family.
“Everybody knows with me, my core values are very important. So we wanted to build an energy drink around that.”
Where does G.O.A.T. Fuel go from here? Will you try to connect with an NFL team?
“I think that’s eventually going to happen, but I think in 2022, we’re going to be everywhere where people can reach out and purchase the can. So that’s what we’re really leading toward now with distribution.
“It’s been a fun ride man, but it’s a lot of work that goes into it. It’s something that you really have to believe in, and the thing too, when I came to the San Francisco 49ers, it was all about family. It was all about that togetherness and that’s what I wanted my company to really be about. My team is a party of about 12 people. They all believe in the concept of what we’re doing here, trying to change the world.
“I’m excited about the opportunity, but I think 2022 it’s going to be all over the world. People are going to be able to reach out, grab a can. It was important for us also that the cans were really bright where you walk into a store and it stands out. That was very important and I think we’ve done a fantastic job with everything.”
Where do you stand on the G.O.A.T. discussion from a basketball perspective? LeBron? MJ? Kobe?
“All G.O.A.T.s, man. They led by example. You could build a franchise around them. They showed up and were accountable every day and you have to have that to have success in professional sports. That was something that when I went to work every day I felt I had needed to be that leader. I had to show my teammates every day that I was accountable, that I was going to work hard and practice hard. And when I did that, that brought out the best in them.
“You got leaders, you got followers. And when you’re a leader, the focus of attention is always right on you. It’s how you handle that and how you respond to it, and I think I learned from the best because when I came in I had Joe Montana, I had Dwight Clark, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott. I would sit back and watch those guys and how they practiced, but then I would watch those guys also being a professional off the football field.
“So when you talk about LeBron and when you talk about Michael Jordan, Kobe [Bryant] and all of that. Wow! Amazing G.O.A.T.s and probably some of the best basketball players to ever play the game.”
On the Raiders
“You guys have gone through a lot, brother. I’m serious. And [Henry] Ruggs was just coming into his own, man. I was talking to Fred Biletnikoff. I was in Chicago at a memorabilia show and he said, ‘Man, this kid was so raw and so talented,’ but it goes to show you just one mistake, lack of judgment. It can cost you.
“These players, they have to realize that they have to be on their toes all the time. They can’t let their guard down and it was sad to see, but they signed DeSean Jackson, so hopefully, that works out. But man, to see the Raiders start so strong and now they’re starting to flatten out a little bit. Hopefully, they can somehow gain that momentum and get back into it.”
What do you think about your 49ers’ chances in a tough NFC West division?
“If the Niners can go 10-7, they only got wiggle room to lose one or two more games at the most. If we got 10-7, I think we might have a chance of getting in the Wild Card or something like that.
“But what I liked from the win over [Jacksonville] Jaguars, is that I sort of saw an identity. I saw what Kyle Shahanan was trying to do. He was like, ‘We’re going to run this ball no matter what. Even if you guys stack the box, bring up safeties or do whatever to try to stop the run, we still going to try to pound the ball.’ And they did that. I saw Deebo Samuel in the backfield, I saw George Kittle in the backfield (laughs). But they were getting positive yards. I think that makes Jimmy G feel a little bit more comfortable and then he can take control of the game.”
What do you think of Jimmy Garoppolo? Do you think he’s the right guy or should Trey Lance be that guy?
“I think right now, the team is leaning toward Jimmy G because he has the most experience. Trey Lance is going to be the quarterback of the future for the San Francisco 49ers because that’s the way the game is going. If you are going to have a mobile quarterback, you’ve got to have one of those guys that can get out of the pocket that can run. Be that dual-threat and all that.
“But right now, I think the better chance is with Jimmy G being there.”
Is that crazy for you considering Steve Young was one of the first real mobile quarterbacks?
“It’s sort of crazy, man. I never thought I would see the revolution of the run-pass option. I’m going to be honest with you because we were a West Coast offense and the quarterback had a three-step drop slant, ball gone. Five-step drop, square out or something like that. Seven-step drop was going to be a 20-yard comeback toward the sidelines or it was that you are going to be throwing the ball over the top, and we always spreaded the field.
“You notice how everything feels congested now? How tight these formations are? That doesn’t register to me because I thought you had to always spread the field for those big-play opportunities. Everybody is trying to out trick each other. Every play there’s someone in motion. They’re really not throwing the ball downfield as far. I think the [New England] Patriots spread the field more than any other team, but you are seeing a lot of bubble screens. You’re seeing a lot of two-yard passes, three-yard passes, or something like that.
“The West Offense, man. We were like, we’re going to mono e mono. Stop us! And a lot of teams couldn’t stop us and I think that’s why we had so much success on the football field. Then Steve Young came in and Steve was more of a running quarterback and then Steve wanted to become a better pocket passer and I think for a while he had the highest passer rating as a quarterback.
“So now the game has gone in a different direction maybe because they wanted players from collegiate ball to be able to adjust faster because that’s all you see in collegiate football is the run-pass option.
“It’s a different ball game now, but I still watch it and I still support. I’m hoping that my Niners can somehow fight back and get a Wild Card and at least get into the playoffs.”
Has there been a better wide receiver duo than you and Tim Brown?
“That’s kind of hard because you are not going to see that anymore. Everybody feel like they have to be the guy and I always wanted to line up with Tim Brown because I would watch him across the bay. I never thought I would get the opportunity to play with him and I did. It’s something I’ll never forget, but we had a great time.
“The terminology for the Raiders was like so many words and sometimes I would miss a word and I would get a little frustrated because I didn’t know where to lineup. All I had to do was look at Tim and Tim would tell me (laughs). We had a great time and I wanted to help him win a Super Bowl, but we came up a little short against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where Jon Gruden had gone over to them and ending up losing that game.”
On the Super Bowl loss
“I’m going to tell you, we had a plan. Now if our center hadn’t been found in Mexico in a ditch because your center is just as important as your quarterback. It’s just as important and we had planned on running the ball with Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley. They didn’t have an answer for our run. There’s no way they would’ve stopped that.
“When you have your backup center in, that changed the entire game plan because this guy doesn’t get as many reps during the week and all of that because the reps go to the starter.
“Man, I walked downstairs that morning of the Super Bowl into the breakfast room — you know how you walk into a room and you feel like something has happened, but you don’t know exactly. You haven’t gotten the word or anything like that. Then they told me what happened. I said, ‘How did he get out? We had security and everything (laughs).
“After that game, I went back to my room and I cried like a baby because I was so used to winning Super Bowls. I was never on the end of losing one. That hurt me so hard and plus, I wanted to like I said help Tim Brown win a Super Bowl because this guy, what he stood for and how he was a leader and all of that, I just felt like he really deserved one.”
As a Pro Bowler at 40 with the Raiders, how crazy is it that Tom Brady is still doing his thing at 44?
“The game is different now. Plus, as a quarterback, you don’t have to be as mobile as a receiver and I think the game fits him right now because he is so much smarter. He’s not going to hold onto the ball that long. He’s going to frustrate defensive linemen and stuff like that. He’s going to make the right decisions, so you are looking at a quarterback that pretty much keeps himself in great shape. His I.Q. is just crazy right now and he’s one of those guys that is still competitive and he wants to win.”
Can he play until 50 like he said he will try to do?
“I think in today’s football you can do that because you can’t drive into the ground anymore. You can’t hit the quarterback below, you can’t hit the quarterback around the head or anything like that. So yeah, I think he probably could play until he’s 50 if he wants to.”
Can you rank the Top 5 receivers in the game?
“It’s crazy! The top five now? If you had asked me like this like a couple years ago, it’s so much easier. But I would probably say, DeAndre Hopkins. He would be No. 1. I still think Julio Jones still got some juice in him. Who would my third be? Who would your third be?
Tyreek Hill was the first player that came to mind when I thought third.
“I think they have sort of figured out the [Kansas City] Chiefs and what they want to do, but still, when it comes to threats and stuff like that, you got to throw him out there. I would put him as the third.”
On Ja’Marr Chase
“It’s crazy what he’s doing. I had the opportunity to talk to him when he got drafted and stuff like that. But man, this guy he’s balling. He’s having a good time. The guy with Minnesota [Vikings].
“Yeah. A lot of these young receivers are coming on strong. Cooper Kupp, what he’s doing. When you let a player like DeSean Jackson go because I think DeSean he can take that layer off the top. He can stretch downfield and stuff like that, but I think with the run-pass option, it’s tailored for these smaller receivers now.
“[DK] Metcalf. Receivers used to look like him. They had to be big, they had to be tall and they had to be fast. T.O. and stuff like that. Now you’re looking at receivers that are much smaller and it’s just how they’re utilized in that offense now. These guys are making a lot of catches. They’re getting more opportunities than what we had back in the day. The ball is in the air the majority of the time.
“I think it’s tailored to the smaller guys now. I’m not sure what Odell Beckham Jr. is going to do with the [Los Angeles] Rams yet. For a while, Odell was a freak of nature. He was killing people and stuff like that, but then he fell off. I’m still waiting to see him get that back.”
Is there any player in the NFL today that reminds you of yourself?
“I think probably I would say, DeAndre Hopkins. I think he does a great job of route running, but he’s also that guy that can go up like Terrell Owens or Randy Moss and make those difficult catches. I think with him and Kyler Murray right now they’re just starting, man. They’re really going to take it to a whole different level.”
Are you the G.O.A.T?
“You the G.O.A.T, man. It’s just not for athletes. It can be an entrepreneur, it can be a frontline worker. It’s anyone that’s dared to be great on that given day. There’s a lot of G.O.A.T.s out there professionally and stuff like that. Great leaders. But for me to say I’m the G.O.A.T., nah. I would never say that.”