A Super Bowl Great’s Secrets to Beating Airport Stress

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NFL icon and three-time Super Bowl winner Jerry Rice is one of the best—if not the best—player in football history. A member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame, the 49ers wide receiver was widely admired for his work ethic and preparation, and he held more than 30 league records upon retiring in 2006 after more than two decades on the field.

Since then, Rice has carved out a career in TV, including a fan-favorite turn on Dancing with the Stars. His newest project is a partnership with Marriott Rewards and SPG in which he will host a “Punt, Pass & Kick” masterclass in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will host Superbowl LIII next February.

A Super Bowl Great’s Secrets to Beating Airport Stress

Rice still lives in the Bay Area but estimates he travels more than 1 million miles every year. His preferred carrier is American Airlines Inc. “It’s crazy. I’m always going places,” he shrugs. Here’s his travel advice:

Losers run late.

I always get to the airport early. I’m always on time. I was the same way when I played football. I’m never late for a meeting. I want to be able to go through security and not feel rushed, so I can relax at the [Admirals] Club. The night before a trip, I make sure I have everything I need. It’s important to me to do that, just like when I laid my uniform out a certain way. The shoes had to be new, the pants had to be new, everything had to fit a certain way. Neat, organized. Everything is done the night before, because I don’t want to rush. I’d say I’m the best traveler I know because I am going to make sure everyone is packed the night before.

Embrace the role of unofficial tour guide, no matter who you’re traveling with.

Traveling with a team is a little easier because wherever you’re going, whatever country, you’ve got someone to meet you at the airplane, a bus to go to the hotel, and everything. There’s camaraderie. But some guys are not as responsible as certain other guys, so you have to make sure to call them early so they get on the road [on time.]. It’s like being a tour guide. I had to do a lot of that throughout my career. 

A Super Bowl Great’s Secrets to Beating Airport Stress

Stay fit on the road without weights or machines.

A lot of people on the road, they let themselves go and eat whatever or don’t work out. But I don’t have to have a gym to get a workout in. The majority of time, that’s how I do it. I don’t even call ahead to see if they have a gym. I can jump down, do three sets of 30 burpees, and that’s a total workout. You’re working every muscle in your body just jumping up and down on the floor: your core, arms, legs, everything. You would not believe it, but try that, and you’ll be completely exhausted by three sets.

A Super Bowl Great’s Secrets to Beating Airport Stress

Want to spot Rice in San Francisco? He’s a regular at this restaurant.

I like a variety of foods—steakhouse, Italian, whatever. But there is one place here in San Francisco I’d recommend for anyone. It’s called Crustaceans and has this pasta with roasted garlic and roasted crab. You put a little bib on, then they bring it to you out of the shell and you have to just eat it right there.

Take a trip to China, but be prepared for the cultural differences.

When you go to China, the tradition, the history—the Great Wall? It’s unbelievable to stand on it. There’s so much scenery. And in Shanghai? I’m just gonna tell you this one thing: The bathrooms are totally different. I’m going to leave it at that.

A Super Bowl Great’s Secrets to Beating Airport Stress

If you want to play a foursome of golf with him, book a stay here.

I love Hawaii for the hospitality, and the weather is unreal. I remember going there for many years doing football camp. Now I go over to Ko Olina a lot to play golf, and I like to surprise people at the golf course and get a pick-up game. They have no idea I’m coming, and all of sudden they’re in my foursome. I’m one of those guys that likes to get to the golf course early and warm up the right way, hitting some balls, rolling some putts. And I use social media to tell people where I’m going to be. At Ko Olina, I call the pro shop and ask if any tee time is available. If someone is going off right after me, I invite them into my foursome and go out for a great round of golf. At first, they can be a little nervous, but I know how to relax people.

Have the mental toughness of the G.O.A.T.

If the plane is delayed, or a flight is canceled—and that happens a lot—or I get demoted to coach, even? As long as there’s a seat, I [know] I’m headed home. You gotta be able to adjust. It was the same thing when I played football: When things weren’t going right—or whatever, you’re going though some adversity—you have to fight through that. It’s the same with a flight [problem]. I know we all complain about airports, but you have to be patient and courteous to people. A lot of people that are stressed out at the airport, I try to make them smile.

Be a man of the people.

I’ve had people shake my hand as I go through security. It’s cool to be recognized. People say in whispers “Omigod, that’s Jerry Rice,” and if that makes their day, it’s worth it. The questions I get asked are fun: People want to know about my history, what made me want to play professional football, how I was able to endure for so many years. People don’t only look at me from football but from TV, because of Dancing with the Stars. [Rice was runner-up.] When I’m running to my flight, I’ve noticed women looking at me, and the dead giveaway is when they shimmy. I shimmy back. That happens a lot. You gotta let them know you’re human.

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