Jan. 23, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Junior Paul Rice (Cleveland Heights, Ohio) has been elected captain of the 2009 Yale football team by a player vote taken Friday morning at Ray Tompkins House. Rice is the 132nd captain in Yale's storied history.
Rice helped Yale to its second straight season as the top scoring defense in the country in 2008, as the Bulldogs allowed just over 10 points per game. He was named honorable mention All-Ivy League after totaling 38 tackles and four interceptions in nine games.
"When you're coming into a place like Yale, you know they're recruiting a lot of leaders, a lot of strong personalities," Rice said. "While being captain was one of my goals, I wasn't sure it would happen. As I had success my freshman and sophomore years, and again this year, I thought it was a possibility."
Rice also was honorable mention All-Ivy in 2007, when he started all 10 games at cornerback and finished fourth on the team in tackles (33-16-49) as Yale went 9-1. The year before he earned Yale's Charley Loftus Award (top freshman on the team) and the New Haven Gridiron Club's Rookie of the Year Award, helping the Elis to their 14th Ivy League title and an 8-2 record. He made 35 tackles in 10 games that season, emerging as a starter at cornerback for the final six games after arriving at Yale as a running back.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Rice has terrorized opposing receivers as one of the biggest cornerbacks in the country. His four picks this past season included one that he wrestled away from a Dartmouth receiver and returned 24 yards for a touchdown (video clip at right).
Along with 122 tackles for his career, Rice also has six interceptions, three fumble recoveries, a 55-yard run off a fumble recovery (at Princeton in 2007) and a 34-yard run off a fake punt (at Holy Cross in 2007). With the graduation of several key members of Yale's defensive front seven, along with the development of younger players at cornerback, he is expected to move to a new position next season.
"The past couple years we've had a solid core of guys that have played and had experience," Rice said. "This year is going to be different. There's not as much experience. There are not as many returning starters. But the same tenets that we build our defense on -- toughness, strength at the point of attack, and just wanting it more than the other team does -- are still there. Those never leave."
Rice is the first captain under Tom Williams, who was introduced as Yale's new Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football last month.
"Paul is a worthy recipient of this honor," said Williams. "Based on my short time here, I believe he is the epitome of what we are looking for in a Yale student-athlete."
Rice recognizes the significance of the timing of his selection.
"For my teammates to pick me is a huge honor in and of itself. The fact that I'll be the first captain under Tom Williams makes it a little more special," Rice said. "The first thing you notice about Coach Williams is his strong demeanor. Everyone is impressed by him. He's a younger guy and is going to bring in a really energetic staff. Everyone's excited to get this new era underway."
Rice gave credit to the three captains he has played under at Yale -- receiver Chandler Henley `06, defensive lineman Brandt Hollander `08 and linebacker Bobby Abare '09 - for illustrating various ways to lead.
"Every single one of them was a different flavor," Rice said. "Chandler knew everybody -- he was very approachable, an easy guy to talk to, and that leant itself to winning that Ivy championship. Brandt brought a certain swagger to the team. Bobby's just one of the best players I've ever played with and also one of the best people I've ever played with. They are all remarkable individuals, but each one brought a distinct personality to the team."
Rice views this upcoming season as a chance for his class to step forward, and he looks at a number of his classmates as leaders in their own right.
"The thing about being a Yale captain is that even though there is only one person selected, one person cannot, by himself, lead 100 guys," Rice said. "You need to have guys like Larry Abare, Tim Handlon, Travis Henry and John Sheffield. You need to have guys who will lead in their own way, whether it's silently or more vocally, whether it's in the weight room, in conditioning or in day-to-day practice -- just keeping things light when you're going through a tough practice or a preseason. You need to have that kind of leadership."
A political science major and member of Silliman College, Rice is the 15th Ohio native named Yale captain. Rice was co-captain of the football team at University High School, which also produced Yale football captains Bill Conway `49E, Carmen Ilacqua `86, Malcolm McBride `00 and Tom Neville `71.
At University Rice was a running back, linebacker, safety and kicker. His team qualified for the playoffs three times and advanced to the Sweet 16 twice. Rice earned Division III co-defensive player of the year, first team All-Ohio safety, first team Ohio News Network All-Ohio and a chance to play in the Big 33 All-Star game. He was a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete selection.
A four-year letter winner in both football and basketball in high school, Rice earned MVP honors in both sports his junior and senior years. He was also part of the school record-setting 4x100-meter relay team in track.
Rice's father, Dr. Louis Rice, played safety for Harvard, lettering in 1975 and 1976. Yale won The Game and the Ivy League title in Louis' senior year.
Despite his father's ties to Yale's archrival, Paul Rice had his heart set on being a Bulldog very early on in the recruiting process four years ago.
"Yale was the first school to recruit me," Rice said. "They called me as soon as they were allowed to. They stayed true and were honest about what Yale had to offer. I came up in the summer before my senior year of high school, and had an official visit during my senior year. The one thing that really stood out to me, just from being around the guys, was the atmosphere that the team had. I really felt at home. That was the big selling point for me. I'm not a big glitz and glamour guy. The environment felt right. My dad, to his credit, let me find my own way and choose my own school. Unfortunately for him, it happened to be Yale."
Rice leads Yale into its 137th season of football. He will be introduced as captain at the annual Yale football team banquet Saturday night. The 2009 season opener is set for Sept. 19 at Georgetown.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity