The look on Jerry Rice’s face was priceless. It’s not every day you tell a Pro Football Hall of Famer — much less a superstar as thoroughly dominating as Rice — something he didn’t know about how great he actually was.
“No, no, no. Are you serious?” Rice said, covering his mouth and laughing.
Totally! Ask anyone who knows Tecmo Super Bowl, they’ll tell you that if you substitute Jerry Rice, the top wide receiver on an overpowering San Francisco 49ers team, to running back, he is even more powerful and more dominating than the fabled Tecmo Bo Jackson.
It’s true. So true that, for the past 30 years, there have been informal rules in basements and frat houses against making this kind of substitution. (There were also house rules against taking Jackson’s Raiders, or the 49ers, the best team in the game by far.) Any serious Tecmo Super Bowl tournament also has a strict competition ban on giving running plays to Rice.
“Wide receiver at running back is a ban for many reasons; Jerry being better than Bo at running back is also because he is a better receiver,” said Jon Bailey, the former tournament director of Tecmo Madison, the Super Bowl of Tecmo Super Bowl. “We had a player put Jerry at running back before the ban, and he had, like, 150 [yards] on the ground, and 150 through the air with him, and the ban was born.”
So, how about that, Mr. Rice?
“See, that was something I never did, back in the day,” Rice said, meaning take screen passes or short routes. “I actually had to be able to run routes downfield, deep downfield, and get open, and make the catch. Today, these players have been more utilized as running backs, just to get the ball in their hands.”
Rice’s real-life playing style is probably a little more suited for the playbook of NFL Blitz Legends, an arcade cabinet re-release for which he’s joined fellow all-time greats Dan Marino and Deion Sanders to promote and participate in. His deep-threat game was perfect for the playbooks of NFL Blitz, NFL Blitz ’99, and NFL Blitz 2000: Gold Edition, where nearly every play had the primary split end on a streak route, and if it didn’t, there was always Hail Mary.
I asked Rice what his most video game-like play was in his career — the one where he pulled off a catch that seemed to glitch the game he was in, and surprised even himself. “Hold it, hold it, hold it, I caught everything!” Rice said. “Hey, maybe that’s why they put me in the backfield, they wanted me to run instead.”
Seriously, though, “You do get in a position where sometimes you just throw your hands up, and the ball just drops in no matter what,” Rice said. “And you go back, and you look at this on film during the week, and you say, ‘Oh, my God. Wow. How did I do that? How did I make that catch?’ And that’s what this game [NFL Blitz Legends] is all about.”
NFL Blitz Legends is coming later this year from Arcade1Up, it’s a five-foot cabinet comprising Midway’s three arcade Blitz games from 1997 to 2000; pre-orders are open now, but it’s not cheap. Fans can get it for $599.99 from Best Buy, Walmart, and Arcade1Up’s website.