BOULDER – Like any other college freshman, Brenden Rice is determined to carve his own path and make a name for himself.
What makes his quest so different is he’s the son of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.
No matter how many catches he makes, the Colorado receiver realizes comparisons to his dad will inevitably trail him.
To make his own name, he has to step out from the shadow of his powerful last name.
“I have my first name Brenden,” he said, “and that’s what it starts with every day.”
Brenden Rice, freshman receiver – that’s how the coaching staff treats him. He’s not Jerry Rice’s kid. He’s just another wideout who has the size ( 6-foot-3, 205 pounds ) and skills to be molded into something special.
“I want him to be him,” said Colorado coach Karl Dorrell, whose 2-0 team is slated to be off this weekend after the Pac-12 canceled its game with Arizona State due to a number of positive COVID-19 cases with the Sun Devils. “Brenden Rice is a really good player and he’s got a chance to have his own great career and he’s going to do it on his own merit.
“He’s a very determined kid, a very competitive kid. So I’m a Brenden Rice fan.”
Rice certainly had a memorable day at Stanford last weekend with two receptions for 38 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown catch on the most open play he could recall.
This was how it unfolded: He and QB Sam Noyer sensed the cornerback was going to blitz off the edge. Noyer pointed down and Rice instantly understood.
Then, Rice broke free – with no safety help over the top. Noyer lofted a pass, Rice easily grabbed it and glided into the end zone as the Buffaloes beat Stanford 35-32.
“It was a good first touchdown,” Rice said.
One of the first to send him a congratulatory text was his father.
It meant a lot.
Growing up, he lived with his mom. He said his relationship with his father really began to bloom in high school.
“It’s amazing, how we developed and how we got to know each other a little bit better,” he explained.
Sorry dad. Ask him whom his game most resembles and he says Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The younger Rice’s regard for Hopkins was only enhanced last weekend with Hopkins’ 43-yard winning catch – in heavy traffic – from Kyler Murray against Buffalo on a play now dubbed “Hail Murray.”
“Big, physical dude that’s able to run routes but at the same time you throw a jump ball up and he’s going to go get it,” Brenden Rice explained. “I love that mentality.”
It’s the same sort of mentality as his father, who played for two decades with the 49ers, Raiders, Seahawks and very briefly the Broncos. Jerry Rice holds the NFL records for career receptions (1,549), yards receiving (22,895) and total touchdowns (208).
The elder Rice is renown for his work ethic and eye-hand coordination, which Brenden Rice got to experience up close. The father and son would frequently engage in staring contests.
His father always won.
“He’d be like, ‘You know why I always beat you? ... I always had to look up in the air for that ball,’” the son recounted with a smile.
The younger Rice wasn’t always a receiver. He dabbled with running back and some defense as a kid. But he developed a fondness for being a wideout. He was a highly touted recruit out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, where he had 123 receptions for 2,139 yards and 27 TDs.
He even envisioned eclipsing his dad.
“I wanted to break those records,” said Brenden Rice, whose father was a first-round pick by San Francisco in 1985 after a stellar career at Mississippi Valley State. “I wanted to be the next legendary Rice.”
He’s part of a talented receiving group at Colorado that includes Dimitri Stanley, K.D. Nixon, Maurice Bell, Daniel Arias and La’Vontae Shenault, the brother of Jacksonville Jaguars receiver and former Buffs standout Laviska Shenault Jr.
Rice is one of the few true freshman receivers that offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini has put his faith in to play a big role right away.
“Brenden really picked it up,” said Chiaverini, who was instrumental in recruiting Rice to Boulder. “He has a bright future at CU.”
Partly because he has Dorrell and Chiaverini constantly watching his routes. Both were college receivers and then wideout coaches.
Of course, there’s always dad to lean on, too.
“We talk about it all the time, about having his own legacy. He’s doing that,” Chiaverini said. “Brenden is making a name for himself.”