Story by Brian Hand, Spurs & Feathers
Read more great features about the Gamecocks at spursandfeathers.com.
Coming out of Gaffney High School, Sidney Rice was one of the most coveted players in the entire country.
Rice ultimately made the decision to attend the University of South Carolina, and over a decade later, he is incredibly thankful he made the choice to be a Gamecock.
"I ended up in the right place," Rice said. "I was right where I was supposed to be, and I'm very happy with that."
A two-sport star at Gaffney High School, Rice chose the Gamecocks after a prep career where he was named the High School Sports Report Offensive Player of the Year in football and the South Carolina Class AAAA Basketball Player of the Year.
Rice had to sit out all of the 2004 season due to injury, but when the wide receiver did hit the field for the Gamecocks in Steve Spurrier's first year in charge of the program in 2005, he made an immediate impact, garnering Freshman All-America honors after leading the Gamecocks with 70 catches for 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns. Rice followed that up in his sophomore year with 72 catches for 1,090 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Having had the redshirt season in 2004, Rice would depart South Carolina after just two seasons on the field for the NFL where he was a second round selection (44th overall) of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2007 NFL Draft.
A two-time first-team All-SEC selection, Rice in total caught 142 passes, including 23 touchdowns, in his two-year career with the Gamecocks. In South Carolina's 45-6 win over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 23, 2006, Rice hauled in a school-record five touchdown passes from Gamecock quarterback Syvelle Newton.
Being able to play in front of those fans, it was awesome just the support that we had.Sidney Rice
Rice's impressive two-year career finished with the legend having averaged 15.7 yards per catch on 2,233 total yards receiving.
Despite those gaudy numbers in donning the garnet and black, Rice was still surprised when he learned that he would be inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame at The Zone at Williams-Brice Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 20.
"I was kind of in shock," Rice said of hearing the news. "It wasn't something that I was expecting at all, and it totally hit me from left field when I heard about it. I'm obviously super excited and super grateful for the opportunity to even have the opportunity to attend the University of South Carolina, let alone live out my dream and play football and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I am very, very grateful to be a part of their history."
Rice knows his numbers place him among the elite in Gamecock and college football history, but to him it was just all one tremendous experience.
"I had the best years of my life there," Rice said. "I wasn't there to set records, although they came with it, but the people that I encountered, the relationships that I made and being able to play in front of those fans, it was awesome just the support that we had. We could go out there and have fun, and regardless of what happened, those fans would be there the next week hoping for the same thing they hoped for the week before."
Due to injuries, Rice stepped away from the NFL at the age of 27 in 2014, but that was not before he put together an impressive professional career that included stops with both the Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. The 2009 Pro Bowl selection concluded his career with 3,592 yards receiving on 243 receptions. Rice had 30 receiving touchdowns in an NFL career that included him being a member of Seattle's Super Bowl championship-winning team for the 2013 season.
Rice currently spends most of his time in Seattle, and since his retirement he has taken that same passion he played with on the football field into the business world and into his charity and community service efforts.
"I currently have five Wingstop restaurants here in the Seattle area, two coffee shops currently, a print and design company and a couple different other investments in real estate and a little technology stuff, so I'm pretty much in everything," Rice, who also lives in Miami some of the year, said. "I've been blessed to be able to meet a lot of people and come across a lot of different things, and the opportunities have presented themselves and I have been able to do well with it so far. The plan is to sustain and continue to grow and be as successful as possible."