Rice Ready to Provide for Family, Vikings

The Vikings needed a wide receiver and Sidney Rice decided he needed the NFL after his junior year of college, so the playmaker ended up with a team that surprised him.

For some players, the lure of money is often reason enough to forego a senior season and come out a year early. In a certain way, that was the case for new Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice.

But his goal wasn't getting the fancy car or the expensive watch. His reason for turning pro had more to do with day-to-day finances.

"It was a family situation," Rice said of his decision. "After speaking with my mom after the bowl game, I felt like it was better for me to move on."

Rice's mother was lifting furniture while working in 1991 when Rice was just five years old. As part of her job, she was lifting furniture and suffered a horrible accident.

"She hasn't worked in 16 years," Rice said. "She broke her back in 1991 and her disability was not (enough) to keep up her payments on certain things."

As a third-year sophomore, Rice had no idea whether coming out early would severely hurt his draft stock. After being just the second South Carolina wide receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons (the other being Sterling Sharpe), had he stayed with the Gamecocks for another season, he would clearly have been a mid-first rounder at worst. But, with just two years of college experience, it was a roll of the dice.

Whether intuition or not, what Rice had heard from friends familiar with the draft was that the Vikings might be one of the teams interested in him. Why? Because he never heard too much about their interest.

"I knew it would be late in the first to mid-second round," Rice said. "I had been hearing it all along – not (just) about the Vikings – everyone was telling me that it's a team that doesn't talk to you or doesn't bring you in for a visit that is going to take you. I was expecting it."

With the Vikings looking for Rice to make an immediate impact on one of the weakest positions on the team, he knows that his learning curve needs to be quick. Fortunately, a 6-3 receiver with a 39-inch vertical jump, he knows what special qualities he can bring to Tarvaris Jackson as he takes over the Vikings offense.

"My playmaking ability – my ability to make a play on the bomb and with my hands," Rice said of his greatest attributes. "It helped me a lot. He likes to throw the ball a lot – toss it around the ballpark. It gave me a great opportunity and I'm trying to make the best of it."

At a position that has been dominated by divas over the last few seasons, Rice said his plan is to work on the little things that he can bring to the table to make himself a better player. "I'm not going to say that I'm a great receiver and don't need to work on anything," Rice said "I plan to work on every little aspect of my game – route running, blocking, everything."

While the Vikings missed out on the prize receiver of the draft – Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson – they are pleased that they found a playmaker on the second round that was still available primarily because of the depth at the position. He may not be Johnson or the "other" famous wideout named Rice, but the Vikings believe they got themselves a playmaker of the future and he's ready to prove their investment right.


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