Mason Rice is enjoying a healthy run as a senior with Bryan’s football team

Bryan Viking’s roots run deep for Mason Rice.

As the son of a Bryan coach, the linebacker remembers attending games, watching practices and hanging around the field. Since Rice was about 3 years old, her father Matt Rice has served as the team’s safeties and cornerbacks coach.

And Rice remembers looking up to guys like former Bryan cornerback VJ Banks, safety Gus Hancock, running back Kee Kee Johnson, punter Tyler Slaydon and the list goes on.

“I mean honestly, I tried to learn all their names and be friendly with them,” Rice said. “Some names escape me.”






Rice


Now as a senior, Rice is influencing the next generation, just as previous Vikings did to him.

“It’s really neat because from the time I said I was 6, I’ve always looked up to college guys,” Rice said. “Man, these guys are so cool. Now to become one of those and even think like all the kids…I mean, we’re raising five all kinds of middle school and elementary school kids who come out at halftime and at the stadium.

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“It’s really cool to think how influential you are to other people and stuff like that. I know we’ve been to some elementary schools after couple games and helped the kids get out of their cars and say hello to them in the morning. It’s just cool to know that you’re impacting the kids and influencing them in a positive way.

As a junior, Rice was called up to college but broke his thumb in the second quarter of the team’s opener last season. The broken thumb sidelined him for four weeks. When he returned, he said he was unable to play at the level he would have liked because he had missed so much time.

This season, he is making up for lost time as he has 31 tackles and two interceptions, including a return for a touchdown.

“I have a lot of fun playing football,” Rice said. “I see it as a really fun game, and I think it’s really cool to go through the process from week to week, because I didn’t have that last year. You don’t hurt all the Friday nights and then you wake up and have to start all over again. I think part of doing that for six games in a row is pretty fun now. It’s part of the whole football experience. I feel a lot more involved this year , for sure.

Rice will look to help Bryan (3-2, 0-1) earn his first win of the season in District 12-6A when the Vikings play at Copperas Cove (2-2, 0-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Rice played all-around defense starting at college safety before moving to cornerback as a rookie. As a sophomore, he began moving closer to the line of scrimmage as an outside linebacker/safety hybrid.

“I never objected to it,” Rice said of the move to linebacker. “I’m always very open to whatever the coaches want. I think it was the coaches’ decision to move me to outside linebacker in second year, but I like the idea.

Rice began to grow in the role as a sophomore, and he credits two of his coaches for helping him grow. His dad is one of them for instilling a hard work mentality on and off the court, and the other is coach Tarin Mitchell when he was at Bryan.

“He pushed a lot of kids. He brought a lot of energy, quite similar to how [head coach Ricky Tullos] a,” Rice said. “He got us all excited, and we all stayed after practice and went to work together. And it was probably one of the biggest growing seasons I’ve had since I started playing in seventh grade.

The movement along defense hasn’t stopped this year as the versatile defenseman has played both outside and inside linebacker. Rice has spent two games this season at inside linebacker and the other three at outside linebacker.

“At the end of the day, he’s always had a phenomenal work ethic, just a phenomenal kid and student-athlete on and off the court,” Tullos said. “I just think his level of play continues to rise, just that he becomes more familiar with what we are trying to accomplish. He understands defense. He understands what we’re trying to do, and I think every time you think less because you’re used to it and you’re comfortable, your game is going to elevate. I think that’s what we see with Mason.

About Betty J. Snyder

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