Flint, Michigan born and raised, Andre Rison was a multi-sport star at Flint Northwestern High School, excelling on the gridiron, the hardwood and the track.
Rison then headed to Michigan State where he continued to excel as a Spartan in three sports at the collegiate level but made his mark in football where he set school records in career receptions and career receiving yards. As a senior, Rison was named an honorable mention All American by the Associated Press and the Sporting News.
Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft, he made an immediate impact, catching 52 passes for 820 yards and four touchdowns.
After a single season in Indy, he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons, where he was considered one of the elite receivers in the National Football League. In his five seasons with the Falcons, Rison finished near the top of nearly every single statistical receiving category.
A five-time Pro Bowler, First Team All Pro, three-time Second Team All Pro and eventual Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers, Rison was one of the very best wide receivers of his generation, finishing his career with over 700 receptions, north of 10,000 yards and 84 touchdowns. Rison scored the first points of Super Bowl XXXI on a 54-yard touchdown catch from Brett Favre. He was a 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee.
Rison currently serves as a coach, motivational speaker and entrepreneur.
In November of 2021, he released a book Wide Open: The Andre Rison Story which chronicles his life story.
In the latest installment of Card Back Q&A, the future Hall of Famer talks about his record setting MSU days, playing in Jerry Glanville’s system in Atlanta, studying Michael Jordan, being compared to Jerry Rice and much more.
Tony Reid- Your 1989 Pro Set Rookie Card stated how you set Michigan State School records in career receptions and yards. You broke MLB star Kirk Gibson’s records. It also mentioned you lettering in basketball and track at MSU. Being that busy and successful, what was the overall college experience like?
Andre Rison-I was being pimped, man. Nowadays with the college kids getting paid, I was absolutely getting pimped (laughs). It was wonderful. I got to compete on the largest stages in the collegiate arena. When you are talking about playing Big Ten Football, Big Ten Basketball and Big Ten track. I played alongside the great Steve Smith the great NBA player that we watched play in the NBA every day. He is one of my great friends, I call him my little tall brother. I got a chance to play with Scott Skiles. I made All Big Ten in track.
Michigan State was a great institution in allowing us to express ourselves at that time, as individuals with our talent. That was my first experience playing with arguably the greatest college football running back, Fort Lauderdale, Florida native, in Lorenzo White. My starting quarterback was also out of Florida. It gave me my Florida ties and I have my Florida ties to this day.
TR–Your 1991 Pinnacle card mentioned your world class play during your time in Atlanta stating “Andre excels in Jerry Glanville’s four-wideout Red Gun Offense”. That Atlanta Falcons team and that Falcons sideline seemed like the coolest place on earth to be. What was it like playing in that offense and hanging out on the sideline?
AR-I felt like Curry playing for Steve Kerr in Golden State. I was a small man in a big man’s game and I was dominating. I did it in my own fashion and within the team’s restraints. As far as the sideline, a lot of people mention Hammer and say Deion had Hammer there. Hammer was Deion’s guest. Hammer was a good friend of mine. My guest was and still is a great friend of mine, I had my brother in crime from L.A., Ice Cube on the sideline. There is a clip in YouTube. I scored a touchdown and he is standing on the sideline. I have my arm around him. I think he has a White Sox jersey on. That was like L.A. Lakers Showtime was in basketball.
TR-On the back of your 1992 Bowman card there is a quote from you saying “The Lord put me on earth to go pro.” Your mom had a quote on the same card that said “He needs to hear the roar of the crowd.” Is it fair to say that the crowd was a major motivator for you?
AR-Man, if you aren’t making the crowd roar you aren’t making any plays. That’s what she meant.
TR–Your 1992 Pinnacle card notes that you caught more passes in your first three four and five seasons than any player in the history of the game. You had a productive five year window as anybody in the history of the game. What was it like to produce at that level and be that guy?
AR-At that point in time you have to study the great artists and that is what I was doing. I was studying Michael Jordan and nobody else. I was studying Malcolm X and high powered people. I was witnessing the obstacles that they overcame and my mind was blending with theirs, especially Michael Jordan, as we played together in the same years in the 1990’s. He is a great friend of mine, like an older brother. I just watched everything that he was doing and I tried to emulate the level of preparation and level of competition to the extent that he did. I didn’t chase any football players. I didn’t chase Jerry Rice. People already tagged him to be the greatest. I hadn’t played a year yet and he was already the greatest. Damn, where is my dream?
Stats don’t make you better than the next guy. You know that. We knew and everybody knew nobody was going to catch Jerry Rice’s stats. That doesn’t mean I can’t catch better than he does. That doesn’t mean I run faster than him. That doesn’t mean I can’t run better routes than him. I can. I dismissed that. I clung to Michael Jordan.
TR–The 1992 Score Gridiron Stars card stated “Andre may turn out to be the best receiver of them all.” You were positioned, the level of greatness is hard to explain. Although Rice had the title did you feel like you were the best in the world or even the best ever?
AR-I still feel that way. What are you going to do to stop me? The proof is there so I don’t have to say it anymore. It was the difference between playing for one or two organizations or you might play for four or five organizations. If you play with Joe Montana or Troy Aikman, no disrespect to my quarterbacks because I had some great ones along the line but if you can play with Jim Kelly for years and years, its different. Those boys with the Rams got blessed when Kurt Warner got there. That’s how the games and careers play out. That doesn’t mean you can tell me all this hoopla that was raised about Drew Pearson helped him get in the Hall of Fame. OK. There are different stories for everyone. Terrell Owens wasn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer. He never got in trouble with anybody. Why wasn’t he a first ballot Hall of Famer? Randy Moss was a first ballot Hall of Famer. Randy Moss was a real bad boy than T.O. It’s a human vote. Stats speak for themselves. I retired top five or top ten all time in every major category. Life is too short. I gave that league all I had, preparation wise. As human beings, it’s such a great situation to be able to enjoy these great talents that grace us in different times and different eras and that is what you take out of it.