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CU Buffs’ Brenden Rice dedicated to growing his game

Colorado freshman receiver had electric moments in 2020, but aims to improve in future

BOULDER, CO - April 19, 2021:  Colorado Buffaloes receiver Brenden Rice during spring football practice. (University of Colorado Athletics)
BOULDER, CO – April 19, 2021: Colorado Buffaloes receiver Brenden Rice during spring football practice. (University of Colorado Athletics)

It was on a punt return that Brenden Rice first showed his explosiveness last season.

When the Colorado receiver thinks about standing at the goal line to field a kickoff, though, that’s what gets him excited.

“That ball, just looking at the ball in the air and the twists and turns, oh my goodness,” he said. “It’s something different.”

BOULDER, CO – November 28, 2020:Brenden Rice, of CU, finds an opening during the Colorado San Diego State game at Folsom Field in Boulder on November 28, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

As a true freshman last season, Rice showed that he might be something different for the Buffaloes. With a 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, solid speed and exceptional genes, Rice had a debut season in 2020 that was electric at times, and might just be the launching point for a stellar career at CU.

The son of NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who is considered by many to be the greatest receiver to ever play the game, Rice caught six passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown and averaged 18.5 yards on two kickoff returns in CU’s COVID-19-shortened season.

Despite playing among a group loaded with talent, Rice scored on three of the nine times he touched the ball.

“Being under the wing of KD Nixon and people like Maurice Bell, Vontae Shenault, the confidence factor is everything in the wide receiver game,” Rice said. “You see (former NFL star) Chad Ochocinco, and all these great wide receivers; if you don’t have confidence, you can’t take that next step.

“As soon as I caught my first touchdown, I got my feel for the game and it truly balanced out, and I felt as though I can truly come in here and make an impact, day in and day out in every single game.”

Although he didn’t grow up with his legendary father, he is still associated with the all-time great. In fact, every time Rice made a big play last season, it was on ESPN – in part because he’s Jerry’s son.

Rice said he doesn’t feel any pressure, though.

“I know what I do on and off the field,” he said. “I know the time I put into this game and everything. I take notes from him, I take notes from other receivers – Brandon Marshall, all these big-name receivers, all these big body receivers. Just applying it to my game and truly going out there and making the plays, making the right blocks and executing everything down to the bare minimum. There’s no pressure at all.”

It also helps that he’s got plenty of people around him – head coach Karl Dorrell, offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini, and his talented teammates – to keep his ego in check.

“Most definitely, they put my humility in check always,” Rice said. “But at the same time I came in here and I don’t have a lot of ego to my name, especially after … the way I was raised all my life and also being in shadows all my life. I have a lot to work for, the standards I want to grow to. I just want to build every single day, day in and day out. I can’t take nothing for granted. I take all the coaching I can. I try to go be the best player I can every single day.”

That’s been difficult this spring. Due to a finger injury and then COVID-19 protocols, Rice missed the first nine practices, returning to the field on Monday. Rice is using the last two weeks of spring practices to make up for the lost time.

“It’s definitely a catch-up game here, but at the same time, I’ve got my brothers around me,” he said. “They’re gonna lift me up, they’re gonna help me. I’ve got great coaches. I’m in the right system to actually elevate and truly grow.”

While CU fans have already caught glimpses of Rice’s greatness, they’ve also been victims of his sense of humor. Every now and then, he uses social media to make people wonder if he’s going to be the latest Buff to transfer out of Boulder. On Jan. 1, he posted a graphic and a message that looked like a transfer announcement. And, it was … sort of.

“I will be transferring from Xbox to the Playstation 5,” he wrote.

All in good fun, he said. He’s committed to growing his game at CU and enjoying his time in Boulder.

“I love Boulder, first of all,” he said. “I’ll never leave. This is the place for me. I like learning from people like Coach Chev, (quality control) coach Reggie Moore, (cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin) … and coach Dorrell – all wide receiver people that can help me truly elevate the game.

“And, I have to say, yeah, I’m very much a jokester in the whole Twitter game. Boulder is just everything to me. I’m happy just to be brought in like a family. I’m just thankful, honestly.”

CU athletics
Colorado’s Brenden Rice runs down the sideline on his way to a touchdown off a punt return during Saturday’s game at Folsom Field.