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Jerry Rice Jr. makes his bid for NFL shot with Ravens

FootballPro FootballNFLBaltimore RavensJohn HarbaughUCLAUNLV Rebels

Jerry Rice Jr. broke into his pattern, caught the football cleanly and didn't stop sprinting until he reached the end zone before hustling back to the huddle Saturday afternoon.

As the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice auditioned at the Ravens' rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, the undrafted former UNLV wide receiver hopes he made enough of an impression to beat long odds and possibly earn an NFL contract.

"I'm trying to handle business and, when I get a chance, try to make an impact," said Rice Jr., who transferred to UNLV for his final season of eligibility after walking on at UCLA and earning a scholarship. "I'm trying to shine in this little thing out here. I think it's going well.

"Regardless of how everything goes because I know it's a business, I enjoyed it and I think I did well and I'm proud of myself. I'm thankful for this opportunity."

Rice Jr. is accustomed to always having to prove himself and deal with the heightened expectations that accompany being the son of an NFL legend.

Rice was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection who played in the NFL for 20 seasons and won three Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco 49ers. He's the NFL's all-time leader with 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns and is widely regarded as the gold standard among wide receivers.

"It's something I've been born with since the beginning, I don't know any better," said Rice Jr., who caught 11 passes for 86 yards and his lone college touchdown last season for the Rebels. "You can take it two ways. You can either burden yourself or take it as a challenge. I definitely take it as a challenge. Why not strive to be the greatest? You only get one chance to do this. Why not try to do your best."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was complimentary of Rice Jr., noting his knowledge of the West Coast offense that his father thrived in while playing for the late Bill Walsh.

"Jerry Rice Jr. has done a nice job," Harbaugh said. "He's a really good athlete. He doesn't have his dad's size, but he sure got his athleticism. He runs in a real similar way. He's got that West Coast offense down. He's probably had that playbook since he was in the cradle.

"He knows all the rules of the crossing routes. He knows what to do, very good hands, real smooth athlete. He did a real nice job."

Rice Jr. caught nine passes for the Bruins before going to UNLV.

At the UCLA campus Pro Day workout, Rice Jr. ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds, bench pressed 225 pounds nine times and had a 33-inch vertical leap with an 8-10 broad jump.

"Knowledge of the game," Rice Jr. said when asked to rate his strengths as a player. "I'm pretty smart with the playbook. I've got pretty good hands. I try to work hard. The work ethic can take you so far."

Rice Jr. said he got some sound advice from his father before he arrived in Baltimore.

"Most things are the basics: work hard, take advance of opportunities," said Rice Jr., who's interested in pursuing a career in the NFL in sports management one day. "Lastly, have fun with the whole experience."

Altough he's a bit undersized for the NFL at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Rice Jr. says he's determined to stick with the Ravens.

"I have an overall goal," Rice Jr. said. "We have a lot of stepping stones to get there. I'm trying to make the team any way possible."

awilson@baltsun.com

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FootballPro FootballNFLBaltimore RavensJohn HarbaughUCLAUNLV Rebels
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