An Interview With QB Mike Rathe

USC needed insurance at the QB position for the upcoming campaign. A policy written that would all but guarantee the coaches would not find themselves in a similar situation as this past season - without heady depth and limited options. Even with Dondrial Pinkins returning, and the highly touted Mitchell committed, and the even more highly touted Newton looming on the horizon - that isn't enough. The SC coaches may have found their season's underwriter in San Diego signal caller Mike Rathe ...

Mike Rathe (pronounced, wrath), is a confident 6-2, 210 pound west-coaster who is ready to try his hand at SEC football.

"Playing for Coach Holtz is something I never thought would happen," said Rathe when we caught up with him just after he had finished watching ESPN's special on the Gamecocks Thursday night. "It's kind of dream situation being able to play for someone like him with what he has accomplished and all. And to be playing in the SEC, which is the best conference in America, is just a dream come true for me."

Rathe is not delusional about his situation. He knows he has a lot of work ahead of him and he clearly understands that the game is about to get a lot faster and bigger in the near future ... beginning with the atmosphere. One thing that was evident to him tonight after watching the ESPN show.

"I can't wait to experience what it is like to play in that stadium - where Gamecock fans care so much about their football. That means a lot to me." He went on, "It looked like a lot of fun. I am really glad I am coming to South Carolina. Hopefully we will not have to deal with those losses next season."

But Mike is familiar with the frustration that sometime comes with the game of football. "We went 4-6 last season at Mesa. It was definitely a frustrating season for me and the team."

Teamwork is important to the signal caller who will turn 21 this Sunday, the 22nd of December.

With the other quarterbacks coming in, assuming that both Blake Mitchell and Syvelle Newton are Gamecocks come signing day ... and with Dondrial Pinkins already in place, we asked Rathe what he thought his role on the team would be?

"I just want to get there and start working on my game," he said. "I am going to come in and go to work and work hard. They tell me I'll have a chance to compete and that's all I could ask for being a JC guy. But whatever happens I will do whatever it takes to win, and I will do the right things for the team, things that they need me to do."

Skip Holtz recruited Rathe, and he made an impression on both Mike and his father Ken.

"I'll tell you what," said Ken, who is a sports photographer and provided the pictures included in this piece, "we really like Coach Skip. I mean he is a great guy. He is what sold us on South Carolina. We were really impressed with him."

The senior Rathe went on. "He told us all of these things about South Carolina fans. About how they were always there even during the tough times. And he told us that there are three seasons in South Carolina. NASCAR, college football, and college football recruiting season."

The younger Rathe agreed about Coach "Skip" Holtz. "He is a great guy. Real down to earth and genuine. He cares about the players and I think he is going to be a good guy to play for."

And Mike will not be coming in cold to Skip's USC offense. There are things that are already familiar to him that he has seen on film.

The offense at San Diego Mesa was similar according to Rathe. "We ran (the ball) some ... and then we would spread it out. It was a lot like what I've seen of South Carolina's offense. It's just that SC's is more complicated so hopefully I'll get into the playbooks as early as I can and get into learning their system right away."

Rathe has the tools to run an offense effectively. At 6-2, he tells us that he runs a 4.7 forty, benches 340, squats around 400 and has a strong and accurate arm - and the ability to put the ball 70 yards down the field when necessary.

This past season at Mesa, Rathe rolled-up impressive passing numbers.

"I was around 53 - 54% (throwing the ball)," he told us. "I had something like 2500 yards, 30 TDs and 12 interceptions."

But what about his running game?

"I finished with 180 rushing yards and one TD but we really didn't run the ball that much"

What may be the best part of Rathe, is what's between his ears.

"He is very into his game," says Ken. "He's a cerebral player even if I say so myself. He's just a good all around person too."

Mike took care of business at Mesa, and already has his future major in mind. "I pulled down a 3.6 (G.P.A.) this year. I'll probably major in Sports Entertainment Management when I get to South Carolina."

It was during the younger Rathe's trip to Columbia that he really fell in love with the place.

"Everything was great! From the way I was treated, to actually getting to see a game being played in there during the high school championships. Jeff Barnes and John Strickland were my hosts ... two real good guys. I got to see the facilities and was really impressed. The campus was beautiful with all of the history of the Horse Shoe and all that ... not too big not too small."

And the good part of all of this for Gamecock fans is that they are not only getting a quality person who comes from a quality family, but they are also getting a JuCo transfer that may have three years of eligibility remaining.

"I broke my finger the second game of last year and had surgery and had pins put in it. But everything is healed now and it is fine," remarked Mike about the injury.

"He'll get the medical redshirt," added Ken. "If he doesn't it will be a crime because we have all the paperwork done with the I's dotted and the T's crossed."

"I'll arrive around the 9th or 10th of January," Mike said in finishing. "I'll be around and will participate in spring practice and then we'll go from there ... but I am ready."

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