Wednesday, August 29, 2001 Updated: August 30, 9:42 AM ET
ESPN Classic celebrates the NFL's best
With the 2001 NFL season starting next week, ESPN Classic presents two days of SportsCentury profiles of the game's greatest players. Here's Saturday's schedule: All times EasternDan Marino Noon
Rice was MVP of Super Bowl XXIII with 11 catches for 215 yards against the Bengals.
Anyone who saw the cannon that Dan Marino displayed in college can't be amazed at the 30 passing records he established in the NFL. What is surprising is that five teams thought they were selecting a better quarterback than Marino in the 1983 draft. With his golden arm and lightning-quick release, Marino became the most prolific passer in NFL history.
Jerry Rice 1 p.m.
Gaudy statistics drew pro scouts to Jerry Rice when he played for obscure Mississippi Valley State. His pass-catching skills sold them on his potential. His MVP performance in an all-star game sealed the analysis: Rice was worth a first-round draft pick. But National Football League teams, renowned for attention to detail, played Rice short. The San Francisco 49ers thought differently.
O.J. Simpson 2 p.m.
O.J. Simpson will be forever remembered for being accused of murdering his former wife and her friend. But long before Simpson was the defendant in the Trial of the Nineties, he was the outstanding running back of the late sixties and seventies. Long before Simpson was inmate No. 4013970, he wore uniform No. 32.
Pete Rozelle 3 p.m.
Lombardi's Packers won the first two Super Bowls.
National Football League owners thought they knew what they were getting in January 1960 when they couldn't decide on a new commissioner and settled for a third option. Split between two candidates after 22 ballots, the owners turned to Pete Rozelle, the 33-year-old general manager of the Los Angeles Rams. Here was a bright and unassuming man, they figured, who could be twisted in their favor. A former public relations executive, Rozelle turned professional football into America's No. 1 sport.
Vince Lombardi 4 p.m.
When he was named head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers in 1959, Vince Lombardi made it known that he had never been associated with losing teams. He vowed this trend would continue. This was tough talk considering Lombardi had taken over a laughingstock, a franchise that had just gone 1-10-1, its ninth losing season in 11 years. But Lombardi's words proved prophetic.
Jim Plunkett 5 p.m.
Jackson rushed for 2,782 yards in the NFL.
Back and forth he swung, the pendulum passer. Rarely did an athlete reach the highs and lows, and highs again, of Jim Plunkett. An outstanding rookie year in the NFL with the New England Patriots preceded numerous injuries and a drift to the ranks of the ordinary. He even spent two seasons on the bench with the Raiders. And suddenly, from near-oblivion, a rise again to the top as 1981 Super Bowl MVP.
Bo Jackson 6 p.m.
There have been others -- from Jim Thorpe to Deion Sanders. But even now, almost a decade after he played his last football game and six years since his last baseball game, Bo Jackson is still considered by many to be "the man" among multi-sport athletes. Memories of Jackson linger, and not just because an ad campaign made "Bo Knows" a mantra.