Happy belated 32nd birthday to Super Bowl Champion Sidney Rice.
Forced to overcome daunting obstacles including poverty, bullying and injuries, Rice’s journey to and through the NFL is well worth dissecting.
Raised in Gaffney, South Carolina by his mother Ida Coleman, Sidney was the youngest of three boys. After his mother was forced out of work due to back surgery, she would support her boys solely on disability checks, forcing Sidney and his brothers into a life of extreme poverty.
Sidney would be bullied for “his tattered clothes and hole-riddled shoes” in grade school, while at home, his brothers would harass him for losing in sports. A specific incident occurred where Rice was the only player on his basketball team without matching shoes. Teammate at the time Allen Wilkins stated “We clowned him for that… and you could tell he was mad”. Despite being picked on for things he could not control, Rice refused to retaliate.
Rice stated, “I just knew I had to deal with it. I couldn’t blame it on my mom because she was doing all she could do… I don’t complain about a lot because there are a lot of people who are less fortunate than I was — and I really had nothing”.
With all of this negativity in Sidney’s life, one thing remained positive, his Mother. Her endless love and support was the catalyst for Rice’s success. In an interview by Pioneer Press, Ida recalls a six-year-old Sidney stating, “Mama, when I make it to the pros, I’m going to buy you your first house and your first car”, which exemplifies their early bond. Although she could never provide Sidney with a birthday party, she could provide him with emotional and spiritual support, as she “encouraged him to attend church… pushed him to the first in the family to graduate high school… [and was] a fixture in the stands” at all sporting events.
Moral of the story, a mother’s love and support can go a long way.
More about Sidney and his family’s humble upbringing can be found at TwinCities.com.
High School Career
Rice played both football and basketball at an extremely high level for the Gaffney High School Indians. In the 2002-2003 basketball season, Rice was named Class 4A Basketball Player of the Year, posting averages of 18 points and seven rebounds per game as he led the Indians to a 28-0 record that season. Rice would lead the Indians to a consecutive state championship title the following season.
As a football player, Rice was just as immaculate. Over his high school career, he amassed 167 receptions, 3,044 yards and 31 touchdowns. His major break out came as a senior, catching 77 passes for 1,414 yards and 14 touchdowns, although individual achievement was far from Rice’s ultimate goal, as his head coach Phil Strickland stated “He doesn’t just care about Sidney… he cares about the team”. Rice would lead the Indians’ football program to a state championship in his senior season.
As a heavily recruited wide receiver, Rice inevitably would have a difficult decision of where to attend college and continue his football career, although he would eventually choose the University of South Carolina over the likes of Syracuse and Tennessee in order to be closer to his mother.
Rice’s first college season came in 2005, where as a redshirt freshman, he would have 70 catches for 1,143 yards (14th in all-time SEC history) and 13 touchdowns (University of South Carolina record). He began his college career with eight consecutive games with a touchdown. In 2006, Rice would catch 72 passes for 1,090 yards and 10 touchdowns, with five of said touchdowns occurring in a single game against Florida Atlantic. In just two seasons at the University of South Carolina, Rice would break Sterling Sharpe’s career touchdown record of 23, making him one of the most prolific receivers in the school’s history.
Rice would be selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. His first purchase, you guessed it, a gray Jaguar and a 3,000 square-foot house for his beloved mother.
In his rookie season, Rice would have 31 receptions for 396 yards and four touchdowns, although his most notable play would be a 79-yard pass, the longest for a non-quarterback in Vikings history. Unfortunately, his rookie season would be cut short in week 15 due to a knee injury, although his season-long performance was enough to earn a starting job the following season.
In 2008, Rice suffered another knee injury in week 1, which tore his season apart. He would be reduced to a tertiary role, where he would see just 31 targets in 13 games.
In 2009, Rice had a lot to prove, and so did newly acquired quarterback, Brett Favre. Rice would go on to have a Pro Bowl caliber season, turning 121 targets into 83 receptions, 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. The Vikings would make it to the playoffs once again in 2009, where in just two games, Rice was able to turn 10 catches into 184 yards and four touchdowns.
Unfortunately, this would be the peak of Rice’s NFL career, as injuries continued to derail it.
In the Vikings second postseason game in the 2009-2010 season, Rice suffered a hip injury, although he would opt to avoid surgery until three weeks into the next season’s training camp, forcing him out until November. Rice would be an impact player for the Vikings from week 10 on, although Minnesota did not extend his contract after the season.
Rice received a massive five-year, $41 million contract from the Seattle Seahawks, where he would reunite with former Viking quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Sadly, for the then 25-year-old Rice, he battled injuries once again. This time, multiple concussions can be added onto lingering knee and shoulder injuries. The Seahawks would place Rice on injured reserve in November of 2011, where head coach Pete Carroll would state that “He’s got a series of issues that we can deal with and get him right”.
In 2012, Rice would start all 16 games, turning 50 receptions into 748 yards and 7 touchdowns. He would be a major impact player for the Seahawks in this season, catching two game-winning touchdown passes from rookie quarterback Russell Wilson along the way.
In 2013, Rice would suffer a torn ACL, which kept him out for the remainder of the season, although the Seahawks would continue on to win Super Bowl XLVIII convincingly over the Denver Broncos.
Rice was released by the Seahawks in 2014, only to be re-signed less than a month later on a team friendly contract, although Rice would announce his retirement from professional football on July 23, 2014, citing his numerous injuries as the main cause for his “early” exit from the NFL at just 27-years-old.
When asked what his favorite moment of his career was, Rice stated “[it] would have to be Thursday the 19th – June 19 and getting the ring… that would have to be my favorite moment”.