Some high-school football players are in it for the fun. Some are in it simply because they are good athletes and can make things happen on Friday nights.
Derek Rice? Football is a job for him. Even as a teenager.
You see, the senior lineman at Taylorsville High has the dream to play college football — and to go to college, period. His parents, however, are like many other sets of parents. They aren’t rich. Paying for higher education will be difficult. A scholarship would be most welcome.
“Actually, it would be a life saver,” Rice said. “It’s my dream to get a scholarship. It may be the only way I can make it to college.”
Fortunately for Rice, he’s 6-foot-8 and 270 pounds, just about ideal size for a left tackle. But he has more than that. He’s got good footwork. He’s talented and athletic. And he has maybe the best work ethic on Taylorsville’s team.
Rice made every weightlifting session this summer. He hasn’t taken a day off. When the season starts next month, Rice, or “Big D” as his teammates and coaching staff affectionately call him, will almost certainly be one of the captains for Taylorsville’s head coach, Rod Wells. And if the Warriors plan on improving on last year’s one win, Rice will have a big hand in that.
“I think he’s a definite Division I football player,” said Wells. “He’s one of only 10 players to not miss a workout this week. He lost a lot of weight last season playing basketball. But he’s put the weight back on. He’s got a focus you don’t see in most teenagers. He’s very driven and he doesn’t get deterred by little things.”
His attitude, perhaps, can be traced to the way he treats football. The game is an outlet to Rice. He didn’t play during his freshman year. His sophomore and junior seasons yielded a lot of improvement — and a lot of losing and frustration, as the Warriors have annually been one of the worst programs in the state.
But teams are noticing the potential and the upside of Rice, who has garnered interest from schools such as Utah State and Southern Utah.
He’s far from a finished product, and would likely need a redshirt season to gain even more weight and strength wherever he ends up. But Rice has said he feels more athletic than ever coming into this season. He will play on both sides of the ball for the first time in his career, and he’s looking forward to leading a resurgence in Taylorsville football.
“I think we’re going to be a much better team this season,” Rice said. “I think we’re all a little tired of being known as a team that can’t win games.”
Derek Rice towers on Taylorsville’s line
Will play offensive tackle and defensive end this season.
Is 6-8, 270 pounds.
Is entering his third year of playing football.