Leopard-turned-Avenger does it all

Campus Times
May 19, 2000

photo by Jason Cooper

Anthony Rice (#8), a 1997 physical education alumnus, loves playing for the Los Angeles Avengers because of the proximity to his home. His goal of playing in the National Football League once again means he does not see himself pursuing a long-term career in the Arena Football League. Rice was the Avengers top draft choice in this year's expansion draft.

by Danny Craig
Features Editor

Within the ranks of the University of La Verne football program there have been numerous individuals who have been deemed "grid-iron greats." However, despite the countless years of blood, sweat and tears poured into Arnett Field, few members of the ULV football team have set their sights on professional football.

In the extended history records of La Verne athletics, there is but one individual's name that is synonymous with La Verne football and has proven himself worthy of such a goal: Anthony Rice.

Rice was arguably the most prolific running back to play in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a career total of 2,661 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. Rice currently holds seven out of the 9 rushing records for ULV.

ULV football coach Don Morel said he remembers Rice fondly as a team leader, student and an individual.

"I remember one game," said Morel, "where I think he scored about four touchdowns and ran for about 200 yards and when the game was over, he got on his bike and rode home. How many guys do that?"

Perhaps it is only fitting that Rice's niche in the program's history has landed him a life in professional football, at first in the NFL and now with the Los Angeles Avengers. His is a life unique to any other graduate of ULV.

"It's been a perfect situation," said Rice of his new workplace. Living in his home town of Pomona with his wife Yolanda, Rice enjoys being close to his family.

Before his life in professional football, Rice attended ULV from 1995 to 1997 after transferring from Washington State University. He said he disliked the the overwhelming size of Washington's campus and the style of it's Division I program.

"Sometimes I think to myself that I might have had a better opportunity to go on to the NFL (at WSU). But I don't have any regrets. I loved being at La Verne," said Rice.

As Rice grew an appreciation for La Verne, he made his mark on the Athletics Department.

"In the 10 years that I've been here, we have never had an athlete like Anthony Rice," said Morel.

Rice also proved himself to be a standout on the track and holds school records in the 100-meter dash, the 1600-meter relay, and he was a member of the 400-meter relay team that won a national championship.

"He was the quintessential La Verne guy," said Morel.

However, it was not until his senior year that Rice began to see the NFL as an option. He was scouted and recruited by the Philadelphia Eagles for a defensive position.

"It was one of the best experiences of my life. It was also one of the worst," said Rice. Coming from Division III La Verne, he said that he was not used to the political aspect of the game.

"My first year I didn't have a clue," he said. Rice found himself playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage at defensive back for the first time in his career since at Garey High School in Pomona. He found adjusting to the differences exceptionally difficult.

"They would say, 'All right. Cover two! Cover two!' I was like, what is that?," said Rice.

He continued to play with the Eagles in a position that was unfamiliar to him with influences from Philadelphia All-Pro cornerback Troy Vincent who was his roommate throughout the season.

Rice said he found himself continuously having to out perform his Division III background.

"Anthony knew it was going to be tough. Playing at that level is a struggle. I think he did a great job," said Morel.

As the 1997-98 season for the Eagles drew to a close, Rice found himself without a spot in the lineup.

Team administrators for Philadelphia chose to send him to play in the World League for the London Monarchs as their designated draftee.

Rice said the change was for the better.

"I think that's why I became a better corner," he said. Rice found many aspects of the World League competition identical to the NFL.

"Basically, it's just a bunch of guys trying to make the team. It doesn't matter where you're allocated from," he said.

After completing a season with the Monarchs and being released from Philadelphia, Rice was offered a spot on the San Jose Sabercats arena football team through an acquaintance he had with the head coach of the franchise.

While playing in San Jose, Rice said he had heard about a new team being formed in Los Angeles and although interested, he could not pursue the news while still being under contract with San Jose.

Then, Rice fell into a bit of luck. In what he describes as being "blessed," Rice was then picked up by the Los Angeles Avengers expansion draft and put on the roster for the team's inaugural season as a wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner.

For Rice, his professional career would had one of its first major highlights on the evening of April 15, 2000, in Grand Rapids, Miss. when the Avengers took on the Rampage for their debut game.

At 6:56 in the first quarter, Rice caught a 9-yard pass from L.A. quarterback Scott Semptimphelter for the game's first touchdown. That score would make Anthony Rice the first man in franchise history to score a touchdown for the L.A. Avengers.

Disappointed in the team's overall 51-30 loss to the Rampage, Rice said he was unaware of his feat until called at his home by a newspaper to get his impressions of the "historical moment."

With experience and excitement, Rice has been content with the Avengers' atmosphere and playing under head coach Stan Brock. Rice said he plans to stay with the team for an extended period.

"Don [Morel] taught me a lot about being a man and an individual," said Rice. "Coach Brock reminds me a lot of Don. He's one of those coaches who really cares about his players. You'll find a lot of phony coaches who are only there to protect their own."

Morel's sentiment for his former player is similar.

"I think he [Rice] had confidence that other guys didn't, that if he didn't make it, he had a degree to fall back on," said Morel.

Although pleased with his career, Rice said he still aspires to return to the NFL. Currently seeking an agent to work with, Rice wishes to finish his career outside of the arena leagues.

"I still feel like I'm going to catch a lucky break," said Rice.

photo by Jason Cooper

Anthony Rice's career has led him to more than one arena of play. After graduating from ULV in 1997, football took him to the NFL and NFL Europe, and he is now playing in the Arena League for Los Angeles.

Anthony Rice at ULV, 1994-96

Yards -- 2,661
Attempts -- 429
Average -- 6.2
Touchdowns -- 36

Receptions -- 89
Yards -- 1,290
Average -- 14.5
Touchdowns -- 10

Rushing Records
·Most rushing attempts in a season: 277 in 1996 (1st)
·Most rushing attempts in a game (1996 vs. APU): 41 (1st)
·Most yards in a season: 1465 in 1996 (1st)
·Most touchdowns (career): 36 (1st)
·Most yards (career): 2661 (tied for 1st)
·Most touchdowns in a season: 19 in 1996 (tied for 1st)
·Most touchdowns in a game: 4, both in 1996 vs. CMS and in 1995 vs. Occidental (tied for 1st)
·Most yards in a game (1995 vs. Occidental): 245 (4th)
·Most career Attempts: 429 (5th)