Scouting a skinny kid from Mississippi Valley State

Former 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice was named to the 2010 Hall of Fame class. (Ben Liebenberg / NFL.com)

Watching Jerry Rice up on the stage at the Hall of Fame selection show is a bittersweet moment for Gil Brandt. Working in the front office for the Dallas Cowboys in 1985, Brandt and one of his scouts had their eye on the skinny receiver from little-known Mississippi Valley State, and they were confident they were going to get him.

“We had a scout named Ron Marciniak who was really good. He really loved Rice,” Brandt said. “I’ve got to take you back to February of that year for Rice’s pro day. Rice didn’t run very well — 4.6(-second 40-yard dash), something like that. We were getting players lined up in order and Marciniak was standing on the table, talking about Rice and how he caught bricks. His dad used to drop bricks to help his hands. Now, we’re feeling we have a good chance to get him.

“New England was picking at 16 and we were 17, and San Francisco was 28th (after winning Super Bowl XIX). None of the teams ahead of us needed a wide receiver. All of a sudden, a trade. San Francisco trades up with New England and takes Rice. Talk about being deflated.

“He didn’t run fast, but he was so strong that when he put on that uniform, he would run faster than guys did in shorts.

“I pulled his scouting report out the other day and it was something. I just remember Marciniak standing on the table, and us just missing out on the best wide receiver of all time.”

At 17, the Cowboys settled for Michigan defensive end Kevin Brooks.

— Aron Angel

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