A lot of NFL players, former and current, have a passion for golf. Some of them are pretty good at it, too — John Elway, Tony Romo(notes), Trent Dilfer(notes) and Billy Joe Tolliver come to mind. Soon-to-be Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is pushing it to another level, though. He's going pro.
Rice, playing with a sponsor's exemption, will tee it up with the professionals starting Thursday at the Fresh Express Classic on the Nationwide Tour.
Think of the Nationwide Tour as sort of a minor league for the PGA Tour. The guys there are striving to get to the highest level, and they're pretty darn close. Current PGA Tour studs that came from the Nationwide Tour (or previous iterations) include Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson, Chad Campbell, Tom Lehman and Jeff Maggert.
And maybe he can. Rice, 47, is a better-than-scratch golfer, and the passion he has for golf is just as intense as the passion that made him the best wide receiver in NFL history. Check out this quote, via Barry Salbert at the Huffington Post:
Rice also used to get up at 4 a.m. so he could squeeze in a session at the driving range before showing up for a Bill Walsh practice at 8:30. And considering that he didn't pick up a golf club until he was in his 30s, his golf prowess is extremely impressive.
Rice's goal is not to win, but just to make the cut. He's pretty confident that he can do it, and given his work ethic, his natural athletic ability and his intense desire to keep himself in the spotlight, I'm not going to doubt him.