NORMAN — Jerry Rice was already football's all-time greatest receiver in 2002, when he was an Oakland Raider nearing the end of a legendary career.
Several times before practices, though, he'd still approach assistant coach Jay Norvell seeking additional guidance.
“He'd come up before practice and say, ‘Coach, how's my stance? Am I coming off clean?'” Norvell said.
“I'd just scratch my head; ‘this guy's unbelievable.'”
Norvell, now Oklahoma's co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach, relayed that story to his unit Tuesday to stress the importance of details.
“The thing that made Jerry Rice so great was that he tried to do the little things better than anybody else,” Norvell said.
Norvell has recruited lots of impressive receivers to Oklahoma; they say his genuine personality was important when they made their college choices.
“He does a great job of meeting your family and making them feel comfortable with who he is,” said junior Kenny Stills. “He's not afraid to show his personality. You can tell it's not fake.
“I think that's what gets people to want to come to OU.”
But he's also able to sell the six seasons he coached in the NFL; the first four in Indianapolis, Norvell coached Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, the Colts' enormously successful receiving duo during the Peyton Manning era.
Then in Oakland, he coached the likes of Rice and Tim Brown.
“Kids are always wanting to get to that next level,” Norvell said. “(NFL receivers) work their tail off, and they don't realize it. They think it's easy. To be able to share those kinds of stories I think is helpful for these guys.”
Senior quarterback Landry Jones called his current group of receivers the deepest he's had over his four seasons as a starter. That's high praise, especially considering the NCAA's all-time receptions leader, Ryan Broyles, is gone.