Riceís decision to stick with Cobbers pays off
By Eric Peterson
The Forum 10/24/97
Wide receiver Mike Rice is having a career year for Concordiaís football team. The six-foot junior has 18 catches and leads the wide receiving corps with a 16.5 yards per catch average.

Not bad for a guy who was considering not playing this season.

Rice will make his fifth consecutive start Saturday as the Cobbers head to Augsburg for a game that will likely decide the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

"Weíre looking at it as a conference championship game," Rice said. "Itís upped the intensity this week in practice. Weíre preparing for the biggest game of the year. Itís going to make or break are season."

Rice is just happy heíll be playing such a big role. At the end of last season, Rice said he decided he was going to redshirt this season. He only caught one pass during his sophomore season.

And Rice didnít see himself getting too much playing time with starting wide receivers Tory Langemo, now a senior, and Chris Howell, now a junior, returning.

"Iíd figure Iíd redshirt and let Langemo graduate," Rice said. "Then Iíd have two more years left to get playing time."

But as the summer moved on, Rice re-thought his decision. He said halfway through the summer months he decided to change his mind and play this year.

"I just decided I didnít want to sit out a year, I knew Iíd miss it too much," Rice said. "I knew we had a great team coming back and I knew I just wouldnít be able to watch from the sideline and be a part of it. I knew I could contribute in other areas, it would have been selfish to sit out this season."

And coach Jim Christopherson is happy Rice decided to play. Especially in the last few games. Rice caught four passes for 98 yards and a touchdown against St. Johnís last Saturday. The week before, he caught four passes for 66 yards against St. Thomas.

"Whatís becoming real apparent is Riceís athletic ability," Christopherson said. "His jumping ability and his soft tacky hands. (Quarterback Ethan) Pole has confidence in him because he catches everything within reach."

Rice showed off his jumping ability and hands on a big play against the Johnnies.

Rice ran a deep out along the left sideline with a St. Johnís defensive back right on him. Pole fired a pass high and a little behind Rice. But Rice stuck out his hand, speared the screamer at the top of his jump and landed just inbounds to secure the reception.

"It was the only place Ethan could have thrown the ball," Rice said. "It was either going to be incomplete or a great catch. It just stuck. Itís exciting to pull one down like that."

The one thing Rice said he doesnít possess is great speed. But that still hasnít kept Rice from making the big play. He got behind the St. Johnís secondary for a 54-yard touchdown catch.

"Iím not the fastest guy," Rice said. "But I think Iíve proved myself as a good possession receiver. I think Iím good at getting open.> 

Transfer interrupted!

rack speed and football speed. When the balls in the air, itís a whole different thing."

Itís ironic that Brad Pole, Ethanís dad who now coaches at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, was the one who recruited Rice Ė a Billings (Mont.) Senior High School product.

Rice said the Pole family was a big reason he came here.

"(Brad) brought me in there when it was nice," Rice said. "I met Ethan right away when I came out here and he was the same type of kid I was. That kind of helped."

Rice said Montana State University and the University of Montana both showed interest, buy only as a walk on. Rice didnít want to be in that type of situation. And the smaller Montana schools that showed interest in Rice do not play football at the same level as the MIAC.

"I think Ethan would thank his dad for recruiting Rice," Christopherson said.

The only thing that hasnít sat well with Rice at Concordia is the winters.

"You know itís cold, but thereís a big difference between Montana and Minnesota winters," Rice said. "When it snows in Montana you can walk around in a sweatshirt. When it snows here you have to wear eight layers of clothing and 10 pairs of socks just to go outside."

COBBER NOTES: Starting running back Dan Steinbeisser, who missed the St. Johnís game with sprained ligaments in his knee, is back practicing this week. Christopherson said Steinbeisser wonít start, but should be available if needed against Augsburg. "If we need a spark, Steinbeisser is that sort of guy," Christopherson said. "But if things are going well, why risk the injury." ... Tom Fuchs suffered a shoulder injury against the Johnnies and is being evaluated day-to-day. However, Christopherson expects Fuchs to play.

... Jamie Aanenson, who started the season at outside linebacker and suffered ligament damage in his foot on the first play of the season, will opt for medical hardship. This giveís the junior the option to play for two more seasons.

1997 Cobber Football