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Jerry Rice: The Wideout GOAT Gets Back in the Game

The all-time great WR reflects on what’s changed in football since his playing days, how the 49ers will fare this season, why Randy Moss can still suit up, and more.

Jerry Rice has no plans to resurrect his glory days of playing in the league. But thanks to PepsiCo, through its Frito-Lay and beverages brands, the three-time Super Bowl champion got to relive that moment of putting on a San Francisco 49ers uniform again.

Ahead of the 2023-24 season, PepsiCo unveiled “Unretirement,” a campaign featuring Rice alongside other NFL legends Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Dan Marino, Randy Moss, Emmitt Smith, and the brand’s newest athlete, Josh Allen.

In the minute-long promotion, the aforementioned names (except for Allen, of course) ponder how life would look if they put on their helmet and pads again. It’s a fun hypothetical dive into the players who shaped the first 100 years of the league while paying homage to the next generation of athletes who will eventually lead the GOAT discourse.

Ahead of the commercial’s regular-season debut on Sept. 10, Boardroom caught up with the now 60-year-old Rice to talk about his ongoing partnership with PepsiCo, who on the San Francisco 49ers he’s watching closely this season, and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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VINCIANE NGOMSI: It’s been nearly 20 years since you played pro football. How did it feel to put the uniform back on, even if just for the spot?

JERRY RICE: It felt really good. The only thing that disappointed me — and I know it is really small — but I like my jerseys to be tapered. I really work hard on trying to be in the best shape that I can be in. But it brought back so many memories because I always had to have my pants fit a certain way, my socks had to be brand new, and my shoes had to be new. The jersey had to be nice and tapered. Even Emmett Smith was like, “Man, my God. I feel pretty good in my uniform again. I feel like I can still do it.” But it was really nice putting that uniform back on again.

VN: Comparing when you played to the game now, what do you think has changed so much across the NFL?

JR: I think players are just more protected now. When I played back in the day — and that was really back in the day — if I was on the left side and the ball was being thrown to the right side, I was still getting hit on the backside. If I was going across the middle, you had linebackers basically trying to take your head off. So it was more of a gladiator sport when we played it back in the day. And I just think players are more protected now, but still, it’s the game of football. I still love it. I go and support my team, and hopefully, we can win the whole thing this year.

VN: Out of all the retired greats in the ad, yourself included, who do you think could actually suit back up and play professional football again?

JR: I would say Randy Moss. But to have Josh Allen in there, too, and wanting to take a shot of a picture of Dan Marino on the ground was funny. But I think overall, PepsiCo did a fantastic job. I’m excited. I’m ready to go. And I wish all the teams that are out there, I wish ’em the best of luck. But I’m thinking Niners all the way, and I’ll be right there supporting them.

VN: Who do you think the Niners will play opposite in the Super Bowl this year?

JR: I don’t care who they’re playing on the AFC side — we got to get to the Super Bowl because I am tired of getting to the championship game and losing. That’s the worst thing ever because you’re one game away from getting to the Super Bowl. So you’ve still got to respect your opponents. You got to take it game by game. Then, you get into the playoffs. First of all, you want to take care of home-field advantage; that way, you only have to play two games to get to the Super Bowl.

I feel like we have the team to do that. And we have the quarterback with Brock. With Nick Bosa coming back on defense, I think he’s going to be ready to go before that Pittsburgh Steelers game. But let’s take it one game at a time, get to the playoffs, get to that championship game, kick that door in, and win the whole thing.

Jane Tyska / Digital First Media / East Bay Times via Getty Images

VN: Who are some players that you look forward to seeing perform this season?

JR: The standout players for me are all on the Niners. Brock Purdy, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, Nick Bosa, Brandon Aiyuk, all of those guys. I am going to be watching them really, really closely because I feel like this is our year. It is time for the Niners to take that trophy home.

VN: When it comes to representing a certain brand as a retired player, how has your experience being in the league paid off in the later years as you continue with your investments?

JR: Well, it was the same way when I played football back in the day. Very smart. And I like to position myself with winners and with winners that are going to do it the right way. I think of PepsiCo as being a GOAT. And then, I have people to call me the GOAT. So it is perfect, but I don’t rush into anything. But if it aligns right, I’m part of it. To have this opportunity to be part of this campaign with some of the legends, I mean some of the greatest football players to ever play the game, and for me to be added into that, it was almost like a no-brainer.

VN: Do you believe you should be mentioned in any GOAT conversations?

JR: I never think of myself that way because it makes you feel a little weird. But it’s okay for the fans to say that or other players to say that.

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About The Author
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. She began her career in sports journalism with bylines at SB Nation, USA Today, and most recently Yahoo. She received a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Truman State University, and when she's not watching old clips of Serena Williams' best matches, she is likely perfecting her signature chocolate chip cookie recipe or preparing a traditional Cameroonian meal.