An open letter to Jerry Rice

More news about: Westminster (Mo.)


Jerry Rice
San Francisco 49ers
4949 Centennial Boulevard
Santa Clara, CA 95404

Mark Simon

Dear Mr. Rice,

I am a great admirer of your work and thought that I should take the time to tell you so. I recently came across an acquaintance who feels very much the same way I do.

His name is Scott Pingel.

Scott is a receiver for Westminster (Mo.) College, a fourth-year Division III football program resurrected after more than a 60-year absence from the sport. Football has been gone so long in the town of Fulton (population approx. 10,000) that none of the residents remembers why the program was discontinued. But there’s a reason that Priest Field still stands 93 years after it was built. It was for this great group of kids that make up the Blue Jays squad.

Scott isn’t very strong and he isn’t very fast. He’ll be among the first to tell you that. But Scott has something going for him. In fact it’s enabled him to break a record that I’m sure is close to your heart. He’s got the best set of hands you’ll ever see on a football player at any level. That’s why Scott was a quarterback in high school. Rumor has it that he dreamed of one day being able to play catch with his favorite player, the one he began idolizing since Super Bowl XXIII, your 49ers in Miami. That person would be you.

Two weeks ago, Scott caught his 301st pass to break the mark you set at Mississippi Valley from 1981-1984. He caught No. 302 as well just a few minutes later. He’s at 322 catches and counting with at least eight games remaining in his career. This past weekend, he broke the all-time yardage record (4,761 yards) and tied the all-time touchdown mark (55 TDs). By the time he’s done, Scott’s feat will be as impressive as those of the likes of Gretzky, McGwire and, of course, Rice. Keep in mind, Jerry, that the kid has only played in 32 career games.

Still, people tell Scott he’s just not very good, like the cornerback at Illinois College that he burned for only nine receptions, 113 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago. Scott didn’t talk back. He let the scoreboard speak for him. Scott’s not a big fan of trash-talking. Maybe that guy should talk to the scout for the Denver Broncos who came away surprised and impressed by Scott’s workouts with quarterback Justin Peery.

Scott didn’t even mention the Broncos workout when I spoke with him. He’s too busy concentrating on finishing his degree so that he can teach high school mathematics next year. I had to pry the scoop on the workouts from head coach John Welty, the type of guy who lets the quarterback call his own plays 80% of the time. I bet Joe Montana or Steve Young has never used the "Check With Me/Either-Or" playbook.

You would enjoy playing in these games. Last year’s schedule included a 62-61 barnburner against Greenville and a gut-wrenching, season-ending 52-51 loss to MacMurray. Did I mention that last year’s team was 9-1?

This group could be even better. They’re 2-0 after a 45-14 win against Central Methodist last Saturday. Coach Welty says they can run the ball a lot more, especially after seeing Larry Rice (a relative perhaps?) go for 98 yards on nine carries against Illinois College. Peery also has plenty of options, like All-America candidate Logan Stanley at tight end and wideouts John Squires and Eric Hawkins. That’s why he’s thrown for more than 10,000 yards and 105 touchdowns.

Did I mention the offensive line? As a unit, you can count the number of sacks they allow on one hand. In that MacMurray game Peery threw 77 times and only hit the turf once. Defensively the team is much improved. Yes, they allow upwards of 30 points per game, but that’s not a big deal when the offense can put up 50 on an average day.

I read a wonderful story in the Boston Globe the other day about your workouts on "The Hill" by your home. Perhaps, when you aren’t too busy with your training regimen, you could bring Scott up for a run. Maybe you could even check out a game in Fulton. I think the 1,500 locals who like to check out the action would be happy to save you a seat. They’ll squeeze you in next to the kids from the YMCA who attend clinics given by the Blue Jays team.

Please write back. I’ll be happy to tell you how to get in touch with Scott and the rest of the gang. Best of luck in 1999.

Mark Simon

Maintenance in progress.
Dec. 9: All times Eastern
Mount Union 43, at UW-Oshkosh 40
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Mount Union 12, at Mary Hardin-Baylor 0
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