TAMPA – The rich got richer this spring when Nick Rice arrived in Florida. The senior kicker/punter transferred from Mill Creek (Ga.) to state title contender Plant.
It’s so far so good for the 6’1″, 185 lbs. who blasted his first field goal for the Panthers, a 53-yarder in last week’s 38-0 victory at Robinson to help Plant improve to 2-0.
Rice moved down in April due to his dad’s new job at PLM Trailer Leasing. His former school, Mill Creek was the biggest in Georgia with roughly 4,000 students. While there, he kicked for three years there exclusively on field goals.
“I’m excited being at Plant,” Rice told Prep Sports Scouting. “When I first moved in, I didn’t really know what to think about being the new kid because I’ve never been the new kid before. It was really easy, they welcomed me in and are all really nice.”
It’s been a smooth transition with Plant kicking coach Tyler Rhodes helping him with his consistency on punts. Rice is averaging 45.0 yards on five punts in two games while also booting three touchbacks. Furthermore, he says the field goal team is very connected.
“We picked up quickly. All of our snaps are crisp,” he said. “Our holder, Kyle [Trina] is great. We work after practice a lot with that.”
With time expiring in the third quarter, Rice’s 53-yard field goal gave the Panthers a 38-0 lead. It was his longest field goal in a game and the best part about it was that his mom was there to watch on her birthday. His mom was visiting from Georgia as she’s still in the process of trying to sell the house up there.
“Everyone started dancing and they all came up to me afterward giving me high-fives and chest bumps,” Rice said of his teammates reaction.
Rice says his longest kick in a practice was from 65 yards out last November. In terms of his confidence, he found that as a freshman.
“I kicked in practice and our head coach walked up to me and said the varsity coach wanted to look at you,” he said. “I got a mini-tryout for the varsity team. That was the moment where I became more confident and realized my own potential.”
Starting his football life at age 6 playing as a running back and middle linebacker, Rice moved to kicker exclusively in the fifth grade. He also played soccer at age 4, a sport his mom played her whole life.
Although he hasn’t kicked at Dad’s stadium yet, he’s looking forward to his chance this Friday night against visiting Leto.
“It’s really awesome,” he said. “The student section is rocking, it’s jam packed and filled with 5,000 people and all that from what I’ve heard.”
Rice called it intimidating playing for 13th-year Plant head coach Robert Weiner. The highly successful coach Weiner has led the Panthers to four state championships (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011). Plant finished 9-3 last season falling in the 7A region semifinal to Lakeland.
“He [Weiner] backs you down to make a 60-yard field goal in practice,” Rice said. “He expects you to make it. It’s definitely a lot of fun, he brings a lot of enthusiasm and I like it a lot.”
Rice pointed to his leg strength and lack of nervousness in key situations as his biggest strengths. He’s aiming to become a more well-rounded player as both a punter and kicker.
Currently, he holds one Division-II offer from Florida Tech.
The NFL isn’t something that is on his mind at this point. He plans to study business in college and follow in his dad’s footsteps.
Rice says his dad is his biggest role model.
“He was a punter back in the day,” he said. “He was a walk-on for Ohio State. His words have always been encouraging and it’s been awesome.”
Being a reliable kicker whether it’s on field goals, punts or kickoffs is not easy. Rice has been a consistent performer in high school and for Plant, he is helping them already.
Nick Rice may only have one offer, but that will change now that he’s playing with the big boys down in Florida in 7A football. Rice is a smart and overjoyous kid who is a true team player. If he can keep knocking down 50 plus yard field goals, you can bet he’ll get noticed.
Favorite players to watch – Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, Texans WR Braxton Miller, Bills QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Favorite movies – The Hunger Games series
Favorite TV shows – The Walking Dead
Fun fact about you that no one knows – “Everyone down here is good at fishing, I’m a terrible fisherman. The only thing I’ve caught is like a broken cell phone.”
Nickname from your teammates or friends – “Nicky Ice”
Game tape: Rice’s Hudl tape
In case you missed it:
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
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