PRIDE ON THE LINE: Undersized senior tackle Rice boosts Temple with strong play, lively personality
TEMPLE NEEDS HIM ON THAT WALL: Senior Colby Rice, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound left tackle, is the only returning starter on Temple offensive line this season, his third year on varsity. After struggling in the first two games, the Wildcats have scored a combined 209 points in four consecutive wins and are averaging 395.7 yards per game overall. Defending District 12-6A champion Temple (4-2, 3-0) plays at rival Belton (3-3, 2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tiger Field. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
Temple senior Colby Rice is not afraid to go against the grain or to speak freely about what’s on his mind.
While offensive linemen who weigh 270-plus pounds have become commonplace in Texas Class 6A football, the 6-foot-3 Rice plays the left tackle position at a lean 205 pounds, which at least in theory puts him at a major disadvantage against much heavier defenders.
“I used to be kind of bigger, you could say,” Rice said, mentioning that he checked in at 235 to 240 pounds as a sophomore lineman for Temple’s varsity team. “But since I’ve lost all this weight, I’ve still grown to be good at the position and I know what I’m doing and I can hold my own against any dude, whoever it is. So that’s where I’m at.”
Although Wildcats head coach Scott Stewart might prefer for his left tackle to be a 6-5, 290-pound monster, he realizes that those hulking menaces don’t often filter into Temple’s program. And Stewart has Rice is in his current position precisely because he’s shown he can perform the job well, even if at first glance Rice looks more like a wide receiver or a safety than an offensive tackle.
“We’re going to try to put the most dependable person over on that left side, for obvious reasons. Colby plays hard,” Stewart said Tuesday as District 12-6A leader Temple (4-2, 3-0) prepared to play rival Belton (3-3, 2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tiger Field. “He’s humming at 205 pounds, so it is what it is. He eats, but he longed out. Metabolism does crazy things with teenagers.
“I think he absolutely is (a different player now than in 2019). Obviously he was carrying around a little more body weight then,” Stewart added. “He moves pretty well. The cool thing is you’re not going to show him a whole lot he hasn’t seen. There’s a confidence that comes with experience, and he plays with a lot of confidence.”
After playing in a rotation in 2019 and starting at right tackle in Temple’s bi-district playoff game at defending 6A Division II state champion Longview, Rice earned the starting role at right tackle as a junior and helped the 10-2 Wildcats go undefeated in 12-6A and grab their first playoff victory as a 6A program.
Following the graduation of his friend and former linemate Alex Rodriguez, Rice moved to the other end of the line to become Temple’s starting left tackle entering his senior season.
With Rice having both significant varsity experience and a talkative, outgoing personality, he sometimes can test the limits of what Stewart and his coaches are willing to hear from even a battle-tested player.
“There will be times when a coach will say something, and in my head I’ll say something and I’ll be like, ‘No, I can’t say that.’ So I just don’t say it,” Rice said, grinning. “It’s all jokes. It’s all love.”
Temple has plenty of players who follow the herd and never speak out of turn, so Stewart says it’s not too big a chore to deal with a more lively player such as Rice, who occasionally pushes the proverbial envelope.
“Colby’s a fun kid. He’s goofy. He’s got a great personality. He talks more trash than two radios, but it’s in a fun way. He’s not a disrespectful kid,” Stewart said. “Sometimes that (confidence) gets him in trouble, because he’ll feel like he needs to retort when somebody says something.
“It’s like, ‘If I ask you a question, it’ll end with a question mark and that will elicit a response. You’ll know when I ask you, but I’m not asking you a question right now.’ But he’ll just laugh and say, ‘Yes sir, I got you. I was just trying to . . .’ And it’s fun to coach kids like that. He’ll speak his mind, but then he’ll immediately go, ‘Coach, I was just . . .’ I do (appreciate that mentality). Sometimes it’s a pain in the butt, but you’ve got to have a little of that in you.”
PAVING THE WAY: Temple senior left tackle Colby Rice (53), along with sophomore left guard Endrei Sauls (71), helps block for senior running back Samari Howard during the Wildcats' 56-27 win at Killeen Ellison last Thursday night. Howard rushed for 208 yards against the Eagles and scored three touchdowns total. (File photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Last season, Rice was the only non-senior on a starting offensive line that included center Matthew Frye, left tackle Rodriguez, left guard Allen Camacho and right guard Kai Lynn. This season Rice is the lone returning starter on a line that includes senior center Jose Faz, sophomore left guard Endrei Sauls, junior right guard Agustin Silva and junior right tackle Jeremiah Mungia.
With the new-look line and sophomore Reese Rumfield starting at quarterback, Temple’s offense struggled to find production and rhythm in back-to-back home losses to top-ranked Austin Westlake (6-0) and Magnolia West (6-0) to begin the season, scoring a combined 27 points.
“We really had to sit down and we all had to learn that this is a new line, so we have to communicate, because communication is key,” Rice said. “If there’s no communication, then people are going to freak out and they’re not going to know what to do and things are not going to end well.
“It’s hard in the beginning, but once we all get to know each other and we all talk, we become a family and that bond that can’t be broken.”
The Wildcats discovered their groove by hanging 60 points on Hutto in the non-district finale, and they’ve exploded for a combined 149 points in 12-6A wins over Bryan (49-7), Harker Heights (44-34) and Killeen Ellison (56-27).
Following that recent surge, Temple’s balanced offense is averaging 395.7 yards per game, aided by senior running back Samari Howard’s 878 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground and Rumfield’s 1,081 yards and 14 TDs through the air.
Helped by second-year offensive line coaches Mike Bickham and Justin Bell, Temple’s offensive line has made steady strides each week since that difficult start.
“It’s improved a lot. It took a little bit more coaching than I thought it was going to, but we’re getting them right every step of the way,” Rice said. “I’ve seen a lot (of progress). I believe we have the ability to go far.”
Added Rice about Bickham’s coaching style with the linemen: “He’s the reason everybody keeps going. He’ll keep us on our toes. Everything he’s told us about our technique, he has not lied about it. Most definitely (he likes to have fun), but when it’s time to get down to work, he’s a totally different person.”
As the lineman with the most varsity experience entering this season, Rice has been glad to share his acquired knowledge with Faz, Mungia, Sauls and Silva and then watch them put it into play, with mostly positive results.
“Of course I would help them with it. I would see their steps and how aggressive they’d get,” Rice said. “I feel like they really trust me to show them. They’ve taken that into consideration and run with it.”
Because Sauls lines up next to Rice, the senior left tackle thinks he’s been able to make the most direct impact on the sophomore left guard.
“Endrei’s only a sophomore, which is crazy, so I knew with him it was going to take a little bit more and I was going to have to teach him and tell him if we have a double play or not,” Rice said. “I’m glad he’s on my side, because he’s the least experienced and I can teach him off the bat. I’ve seen him come a long way from August to now.”
Stewart thinks that Rice’s effervescent persona has rubbed off on his four fellow starters on the offensive line, even if they’re the quieter, more serious types.
“The guys take Colby for what he is, which he’s a character. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think they listen to half of what he says. But he does work hard, and I do appreciate him for that,” Stewart said. “I think they see that and it’s a good example for them to see, that you can have different personalities.”
As for the technical side of Rice as a player, Stewart said that the senior left tackle’s combination of athleticism, skill and competitiveness usually helps him overcome being outweighed by 40-plus pounds by some defenders he’s blocking.
“First of all, he’s strong. Size isn’t always a choice, but strength is. I can make an old lady strong if she’s willing to work. He takes a lot of pride in that,” Stewart said about Rice. “And there’s some times when you have to die for your country. That’s kind of the term we use when you’re just putting yourself on the railroad tracks and you know physics are going to kick in and you’ve got to fight as long as you can. A lot of (protecting the quarterback) has to do with those guys. Even when they don’t win (an individual battle), they’re willing to die for their country.”
Then-senior Blake Perez was slated to be Temple’s starting right tackle in 2019, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason scrimmage at College Station. That opened the door for Rice – who at that point weighed 30 to 35 pounds more than he currently does – to get significant playing time at right tackle.
Rice picked up more playing time after then-senior tight end Tyson Magana, Rice’s older brother, was injured late in the district season, causing Temple to shift Rodriguez from right tackle to tight end.
“My sophomore year I actually played a lot more than I thought I would,” Rice said.
His first varsity season concluded with a challenging assignment as he started at right tackle in the first-round playing game at Longview, which brought in a 26-game winning streak. One of the standout defensive linemen Rice was assigned to block was 6-4, 280-pound Sawyer Goram-Welch, who was committed to Oklahoma State and now plays for Texas.
“I was a young guy, so seeing the dude I was going up against and hearing about him before I saw him, it was crazy,” Rice recalled. “First time I lined up against him, I was like, ‘Wow, this dude is big.’ And then the first play when he collapsed, I went at him and it was like I didn’t even move him at all.”
It wasn’t a very enjoyable evening overall for the Wildcats, who generated only 218 yards total offense as the host Lobos charged to a 41-10 win.
Rice changed physically quite a bit between then and his junior season, which began with Temple avenging its lopsided postseason defeat with a season-opening 43-10 victory over Longview at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium. He didn’t consciously alter his diet much and didn’t plan on losing a lot of weight, but that’s what happened as he went from approximately 235 pounds to only 205.
“I guess it kind of just happened, because I wasn’t always this tall. But as I grew a few more inches, all the weight just came clean off,” said Rice, who as a junior missed 1½ district games because of a high ankle sprain but has remained healthy this season. “I just don’t eat as much as I used to. I’m trying to bulk up really, but I also have to eat (more) to bulk up. I just eat what I want. Whatever sounds good, I’ll go eat it.”
Senior tight end KeAndre Smith is an effective blocker and pass receiver for Temple, but has Rice – an undersized tackle by 6A standards – ever spoken with his coaches about trying to play tight end?
“Yeah, I have. I’ve mentioned it more than a lot,” he said. “But then I’d have to find a replacement to play left tackle, and I’ve been doing it for so long to where I’ve gotten good at it.”
At his size, Rice realizes that if he’s to achieve his goal of playing college football, it likely will have to be as a tight end.
“I’m hoping to go beyond this, probably at tight end,” he said. “If I needed to (add 10 to 15 pounds) and I was really determined to do it and that’s what I would be moved to do, I’d get on it right away.”
Rice also throws the discus for Temple’s track and field squad, and he’s considering trying to play basketball – a favorite activity of his away from school – for the Wildcats for the first time after football season ends.
“I’m kind of on the edge of thinking about playing basketball this year. I’m still debating,” he said. “For my senior year, I might as well go out with a bang.”
As for his academic career, Rice said he tolerates school more than he loves it. However, he understands that it’s something he must take care of throughout his senior year as he plans to attend college regardless of whether his football career extends beyond high school.
“I’m getting through it day by day. Every day it gets a little harder and I’m thinking like, ‘Do I want to get up and go?’ But of course I’m going to need it at the end of the day. It’s all about grades,” Rice said. “Actually I do like my government class right now with Coach (Allen) Roark. That’s my guy right there. I remember he was my teacher in middle school (at Lamar Junior High), and then when I was moving up to freshman year he came up here.”
Roark doubles as Temple’s head golf coach, something that admittedly piqued Rice’s interest as an unfamiliar sport he might try next spring.
“I did tell him I was going to try that, too. I did say that,” Rice said, smiling. “I was like, ‘Hey, when are you going to teach me how to play golf?’ He was like, ‘Whenever.’”
School and football consume Rice’s time from Monday through Friday, but on weekends he finds spare time to work at the conveniently named Spare Time family entertainment center in west Temple.
“I do all of the outside attractions, like the go-karts, the ropes course and the batting cages,” said Rice, who’s had that job for approximately 7 months. “I work Saturday and Sunday just so I have some money of my own. I have the school part, then I have football and then I have work on the weekends. It is (a grind).”
Rice said he sees a lot of familiar folks from Temple High School hanging out at Spare Time, including his young quarterback Rumfield.
Rice’s brothers include two younger ones who are in the Wildcats’ football program – junior Peyton Magana and sophomore Jordan Magana.
Rice, who turned 18 in late August, lives with his mother, Christy Arnold. He described how coming up through Temple’s football program and having some of the Wildcats' coaches serve as dependable role models has helped enrich his life as a young man.
“There are coaches on this team that I do consider a father figure, just because all these years growing up, I think since I was around 2 or 3 my dad wasn’t really in my life. He still isn’t, but I can look at some of these coaches as a father figure and I’m thankful for that,” said Rice, who identified offensive coordinator Josh Sadler as one of the coaches he’s leaned on for guidance.
At the same time, Rice holds his mother in extremely high regard for all the roles she’s dutifully played during his upbringing.
“Like I tell everybody, my mom has been the mother figure and the father figure for as long as I can remember, so if (my father) chose to come back, I don’t really need that,” he said. “I’ve been doing so good as I’m growing up and I’m 18 now, so I’m good.”
Rice, who plans to attend college and perhaps pursue a career in coaching, said his mother enjoys watching him play football but also worries about him getting injured, such as his high ankle sprain in a homecoming blowout of Bryan last October.
“It’s a little bit of both. She’s super supportive and she gives me the motivation I need to keep going. She tells me that I’ve just got to keep pushing through,” Rice said. “And then she’s also worried about how in football there’s a lot of hitting, so one wrong hit (can cause injury). She freaked out (last year), but after that she was fine.”
Rice’s goals for the remainder of this season and school year cover both team and personal angles.
“Of course we want to make it to state. That’s the big goal. And I just want to grow as a person in general and get better at stuff that I’m not really good at right now, like doing schoolwork,” he said. "I’ll slack a lot and it’ll take me one or two days after (it's due) to get the work done. I’ll get it done, but I have a hard time focusing and keeping my head straight on one thing.”
In the football realm, though, Rice has no problem staying focused on helping the Wildcats as they chase their third straight district championship and aim to advance farther than they did last season, which ended with a 56-28 area-round loss to Rockwall-Heath.
As Temple heads into Friday night’s rivalry matchup at Belton, Rice believes that the Wildcats have many positive factors that set them apart.
“Man, I feel like we’re different just because of the energy. It’s the way we prepare for things and just the way we do things in general,” he said. “People catch on quick. It’s the learning environment, it’s the teamwork, it’s the hard work, it’s the trust . . . all of that makes us (different). I love being a part of the team."
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