Jerry Rice and Jennifer Johnson.
OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - It’s wedding season. Actually, it’s always wedding season for Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Jerry Rice.
When Rice crashes a wedding – because he does that – the boundary’s blurred. How, when you’re arguably the greatest football player in history, do you make an uninvited entrance on someone’s day and not make it all about you?
He can’t. He’s Jerry Rice. He’s a 49ers legend. Rooms, conversations and stories inherently become about him whenever his presence is spotted and known. But that inherent spotlight was greeted with unwavering welcome when Rice crashed Christopher and Jennifer Johnson’s September 2016 wedding at The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon.
“The strongest reaction was probably my mom,” said Christopher Johnson, a 29-year-old estimator at Mike's Auto Body. “She was just about in tears when she saw him and then gave him a big hug and a kiss.”
And this was no fluke. Rice is a member at The Bridges and, according to Director of Catering Sales Sandy Tijero, he’s crashed more weddings than she can count. He does it regularly, almost every weekend – and sometimes twice per. “But once football starts, it’s not as common,” Tijero said.
In a piece by The Ringer, Rice said crashing weddings is his favorite hobby in retirement. It began in 2006 and he’s since appeared in photos and stormed the dance floor at various local Bay Area venues. A story was shared where he performed his favored side-to-side dance to “Blow the Whistle” by Too Short.
“I don’t mind getting out there and cutting a rug and having fun. It’s my nature,” Rice told The Ringer. “I love people, and I want everything to be natural. I want to give people a memory.”
His entrance is usually made after a round of golf. And, true to tradition, Rice spotted the Johnson’s wedding after finishing up at the 18th hole. He approached to congratulate. And moments after his entrance, it was Jennifer Johnson’s maid of honor who spotted him.
“I couldn’t believe it when my maid of honor said she saw Jerry Rice walking around outside, and my first thought was ‘go get him in here,’” Johnson said. “But, obviously, I didn't think that she actually would, or that he would come in, but he did.”
Rice and Johnson snapped a selfie and he let her finish getting ready, but not before receiving instructions to track down the groom. “He’ll kill me if I met you and he didn’t,” she said. And so Rice mingled, asking around for the whereabouts of Chris Johnson.
“He (Rice) came over to us and my thoughts were: ‘OMG, it’s Jerry rice,” Christopher Johnson said.
Rice owns the most receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in NFL history. He also leads the league in weddings crashed – stat not at all backed by evidence, but confidently assumed.
And despite his nationally recognizable stature and unavoidable draw, Rice’s presence created no disruptions at the Johnsons wedding, the two said. He showed up, blew people away, took photos and then left before overstaying his welcome – if that’s even possible. He apparently makes his appearances impactful and exits swiftly, said Tijero, who is particularly familiar with Rice’s charm. Sometimes he’ll just pop in and say hello to a couple planning an event in Tijero’s office.
Christopher Johnson’s mom – the crier and the kisser – is a 49ers fan and clearly a Rice fan, too. And so too was a vast majority of those in attendance. The wedding was literally sports themed, complete with cookies iced with the 49ers logo. But when invited to the 49ers themed table, Rice had to decline, as he had somewhere to be. And the exit had some friction.
“My mother-in-law wouldn't let him go,” said Jennifer Johnson, 32-year-old analyst at AAA. “She thought it was so cool that he spent the time he did with everyone.
So if you’re planning a wedding and have any attraction to the Bay Area, know that if it takes place on a weekend, you may have a featured guest. But, for the grooms, be prepared for a variety of reactions.
“I’ve had some brides that start crying,” Rice said. “I tell them, ‘You’re not supposed to be crying for me. Your groom is a different story.’”