This past weekend I had the opportunity of a lifetime. Maybe not to some, but to me it felt that way. Because of Dr. and Mrs. York’s generosity, I was able to attend Jerry Rice’s Hall of Fame After Party in Canton, Ohio.
Jerry’s party tent was the last one on right in an area where there were 7 different tents lining both sides of the street, one for each of the Hall of Fame inductees. The first time I had to show my credentials was to security to allow us access to the street. After gaining access we headed down to Jerry’s tent. There we had to show our credentials again just to get into the line to get in the tent. Once we got to the front of the line we again had to show the credentials to the woman with the guest list. After she gave us approval we headed for the front door of the Jerry Rice #80 tent where we had to show them again. So for those of you counting at home, that would be 4 times. Godforbid I would have forgot something in the car because I may have missed the party had I had to go through it again.
The entrance the tent was lined with three foot high stem roses with Jerry’s career records projected behind them on the white walls. After making it past the rose entrance we came into the main area of the tent. To say this was a jaw dropping, mesmerizing sight would an extreme understatement. The York’s attention to detail and sophistication was a true testament to what Jerry Rice means to them and the 49ers organization. Three foot diameter balls of red roses hung from the ceiling where there was soft red and blue lighting that would set the mood for celebration. To our right there was another awesome sight. Three Vince Lombardi trophies that Jerry helped win on podiums with spotlights on them. Moving past the trophies, after drooling obviously, we found our table which was placed right next to the platform where the piano was and right under the giant #80 made out of roses at the peak of the tent. The hors d’oeuvres table seemed to go on forever in both directions. Either side had individual glasses with shrimp cocktail while in the middle was a big steaming platter of oysters. If the seafood wasn’t for you, you could see one of the many waitresses with a plethora of different hors d’oeuvres to choose from. For dinner our choices seemed endless. The spread was really something and I could honestly write another post on just how awesome it was. I had the chicken with rice and sautéed mushrooms, stir fried with cheese. I can’t really explain how outstanding the food was because they haven’t created a word for it yet. During dinner I glanced over towards the Super Bowl trophies and saw that Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana as well as running back Roger Craig had made their way to the party.
After dinner the man of the hour Jerry Rice appeared. He thanked the DeBartolo’s and York’s for their support and hard work throughout his career. He then introduced his good friend John Legend who serenaded the crowd on the piano. It was after this that the party really started. The DJ started spinning and people began celebrating the career and induction of their friend Jerry. Dr. York, Marie Denise and team President Jed York made their way through the crowd, stopping to talk to virtually everyone. It was really refreshing to see the owners interacting with everyone and thanking them for joining them for this special day. Television personalities as well as athletes joined in too. Chris Berman, Coach Steve Mariucci and Rich Eisen were in attendance as well as Roger Craig, Steve Young, Joe Montana and Marcus Allen.
The rest of my night was filled with exhilarating moments. I got to meet all the celebrities there and they all could not have been nicer. They all obliged for pictures and even engaged me in conversation. Jerry Rice was obviously the highlight of the evening who took time to come take pictures with me. Watching Jerry mingle with everyone at the party, you could tell he was truly happy. It seemed to me, watching from afar, that his feet never touched the ground the entire night.
Unfortunately, like all good things, this night had to come to an end. Before we left everyone was given a gift. The gift we received was a Nike box that was made to look like a brick. The reason for the brick was because Jerry’s father was a bricklayer. It is said that the hard work ethic he saw in his father is where Jerry’s fire came from. People have said Jerry wasn’t always the fastest or most talented player but he had to build his talents, like his father’s bricks, from the ground up. Inside this box was a pair of brand new Nike Vapor Jet receiving gloves with the palms having representations of Jerry’s greatest achievements, milestones and his legacy. As if this wasn’t enough, Jerry autographed one of the gloves in every box for the people that shared this special evening with him.
This was truly an unbelievable evening and I am grateful to the York’s for including me in the celebration. It was clear from the moment I walked into the tent just how much the York’s care and believe in this organization. Jerry Rice wasn’t just a player for the organization but more of an extension of their family. This principal is something they continue today with their current team. The time and passion Dr. York, Marie Denise and Jed devote to the San Francisco 49ers is unparalleled. It is with these traits that I can say with certainty they will soon need to add more podiums to the Vince Lombardi display.
Congratulations to the York’s and, of course, #80.
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