Uncle Rico From 'Napoleon Dynamite' Gets a Call Anytime an NFL Quarterback Stumbles
Actor Jon Gries' phone was ringing off the hook after a recent viral endorsement from the Denver Broncos' star wide receiver.
It seems every time an NFL team is in need of a quarterback, Jon Gries sees a picture of himself pop up on social media.
The actor, who played Uncle Rico in the cult favorite Napoleon Dynamite, tells The Hollywood Reporter he gets a kick out of it every single time.
"I think I have about 10 different [photoshopped by others] pictures of me signing with different teams," Gries says, laughing.
Becoming a meme is nothing new for the man who brought to life the character Uncle Rico — a former high school quarterback who desperately yearns for his glory days — in the 2004 Fox Searchlight title.
However, a recent viral endorsement from Denver Broncos' star wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has led to Gries' phone ringing off the hook, he says.
"I wrote him back a couple of messages, telling him 'hey man, I am ready anytime. I want to come out and throw," Gries says. "[Sanders] wrote that he is going to be my agent."
The timing makes sense. Peyton Manning, who is Gries' favorite QB, is retiring after 18 years in the league and winning Super Bowl 50, and Brock Osweiler has left to play for the Houston Texans, so it's time for Uncle Rico to finally throw a football over the Rocky Mountains, Gries says.
"I think Uncle Rico would say, 'Get me on up there! My van won't make it up those mountains. Give me a shot, let me try out. Don't just talk, I want a shot,'" Gries says in character, then laughs. He adds that he is not surprised Uncle Rico has stuck in the minds of so many after all these years.
"I think there is something very universal about that character; people sit around and talk about their glory days, which were mostly in high school," he says.
Even before Sanders' call to action for a new QB, pro athletes talked about Uncle Rico, Gries says.
"A couple of the players I have met in the past have told me Ray Lewis is a huge fan of Uncle Rico and was always spouting Uncle Rico-isms before he retired," Gries says.
Gries even reprised the role for ESPN in years past, "trying out" alongside Matt Leinart, he says. "I was throwing passes to Plaxico Burress," he adds, laughing.
And while he can't prove it, Gries says it seems pretty apparent that Peyton Manning was doing his own Uncle Rico in a Sprint commercial years ago.
Looking back, Gries says he was very fortunate to land the role of Uncle Rico.
"And that fact that it is continuing on, going on for more than 10 years, it's a nice tribute," he says.
As for the news that Denver signed quarterback Mark Sanchez on Friday, Gries says that will work out just fine: "Look at the great combination: Rico and Sanchez."