Rice talks Shrine Bowl and ECU

2014 ECU commit Orangeburg-Wilkinson (S.C.) offensive tackle was one of three commits selected to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. Inside ECU Sports spoke with him about the experience and the Pirates.

ECU had three of its 2014 commits get invited to the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. The only commit from South Carolina to be selected was Orangeburg-Wilkinson offensive tackle Messiah Rice.

The Shrine Bowl is an annual all-star game with the top talent from both North Carolina and South Carolina. Not only do recruits get a chance to square off against the best the two states have to offer, but all proceeds go to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

This year's game raised close to 1.5 million dollars to provide care to burned and disabled children whether they can pay or not. Rice and his S.C. teammates beat N.C. by a score of 28-23. Fellow 2014 commits, Middle Creek wide receiver Curtis Burston and New Burn defensive back Cody Purdie, were on the other sideline.

Rice enjoyed his time at the Shrine Bowl.

"It was a great experience," said the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Rice. "Going up there with 39 unknown guys from S.C. and five unknown coaches and winning was a rewarding experience. We all came together as one and played for one goal, it was a great opportunity."

Rice is tied with ECU's only Georgia commit, Hardaway offensive tackle Desmond Barmore, for tallest offensive lineman in the 2014 class. His size helped him dominate on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball this season.

All-star games like the Shrine Bowl give recruits a chance to see how their talent stacks up against potential future opponents. Rice thought it was beneficial to his game and that it gave him a preview of what's to come.

"(The Shrine Bowl) prepared me by getting me ready to put in work every day to get better," Rice said. "There was no weaker link in the group, everyone good so I prepared myself mentally and physically to bang down in the trenches with the big boys. That's how it's going to be in college, I'll be on a right schedule and it'll be nothing but books and grinding. I'm ready for it."

As far as ECU goes, Rice said he is fully committed to becoming a Pirate. The bond he has with head coach Ruffin McNeill has grown to the point that he feels like a part of the family – this is before he's even signed his letter of intent.

He loves campus, he loves the environment and will join his future teammates in early summer 2014.

"I'm leaving for summer school in June so I can get a head start," Rice said. "I want to be acclimated when fall comes around. Coach said I'll be red-shirted. I'm ready to get to work."

Orangeburg-Wilkinson finished its season at 9-1 and Rice improved in multiple facets of his game. Run-blocking, which was his least favorite thing to do, is now fun to him. He mentioned this season helped him mature as a player and his pass-blocking is better as well.

Rice is anxious to arrive to school.

"The things I'm looking forward to most are meeting the players and building on my bond with the coaching staff," said Rice. "I already have a good bond with my offensive line coach (Brandon) Jones. I'm ready to get on the field and work to get better. I know it won't be easy, but I'm always up for the challenge."

Red-shirting Rice is a smart move with his 6-foot-7, 260-pound frame. He will be able to build more muscle and with improved technique hopefully get on the field relatively soon.

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