Up Close: Chase Rice, Part I

Andy is back on the road again this year to provide his unique two-part in-depth profiles of UNC's 2004 commitments. Today, he reports from Asheville, N.C. on committed linebacker Chase Rice.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – No one respects the physical conditioning aspects of football more than North Carolina 2004 commitment Chase Rice. Now in the middle of his senior season at A.C. Reynolds, the defending 4-A state champions, Rice does not have time to dwell on getting hurt.

Still, his daily inspiration does come from his two older brothers, who both had their football careers cut short by serious injuries.

"That has been the one thing that keeps me going," said Rice. "I try to take care of myself stay in just as good of shape as I can."

Due to two shoulder surgeries, Chad Rice, a former Duke defensive end, was forced to accept a medical hardship last year as a sophomore. Casey Rice never got to play college football at all. He missed his senior season at Reynolds in 2001 after tearing nearly every ligament in his knee and his hamstring. Both were members of the Rockets' 1999 state championship squad.

Chase was a sophomore and agonized while Casey was forced to watch from the sideline.

"That was the hardest for me," Rice said. "Before the games when he couldn't play, he would get the other guys fired up, because he gave his knee to be out there."

"My oldest brother's injury hurt me as well, because he is the first guy I ever learned stuff from. When I saw that he couldn't play football anymore, I didn't like that at all."

But Rice has not let the misfortunes his eldest brothers exerienced make him into a tentative player. At linebacker in 2002, Rice led the team with 123 tackles, and he also had three interceptions.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Rice said he will play linebacker at UNC, not safety as some have projected. Rice, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds, is ranked No. 19 in the state by the Insiders Network. The UNC coaches told him he might play outside or inside linebacker.

"Chase is dedicated to the sport," Rockets' head coach Steve McCurry said. "He loves football. He lives and eats football. He does everything he possibly can to be a better football player, which for a coach is great.

"He's got a lot of God-given ability and can run. He's really worked on that and he's gotten even faster."

McCurry was impressed when the UNC coaches arrived early last spring.

"They were real classy, upbeat and positive," McCurry said.

As soon as a few offers came down, the news on Rice travelled quickly.

"It seems like when one school gets interested in a player, it spreads," McCurry said. "They say, ‘Hey, this one school is going to offer him. Are we missing something?' That's what happened in Chase's situation. He was highly recruited, but once Wake and Duke offered him, everybody said, ‘Hey, this must be a player.'"

On July 24, the Tar Heels joined in and put their offer on the table as well. Four days later, Rice committed to Carolina.

Rice was most impressed with UNC's defensive coordinator and linebackers' coach, as well as head coach John Bunting.

"I got to work out with Coach [Dave] Huxtable, and I really liked the way he coaches," Rice said. "He coached [Atlanta Falcons' linebacker] Keith Brooking at Georgia Tech. He compares me to Brooking. He was 6-2, 190 pounds in high school, which is a lot like me right now.

"The thing I'll remember the most is all the coaches I got to know. I got to spend all day with them and go through their camp and do their drills.

Stay tuned for Part II tommorrow…

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