Tony Rice (American football)

Last updated
Tony Rice
No. 9
Born: (1967-09-05) September 5, 1967 (age 50)
Greenwood, South Carolina
Career information
Position(s) Quarterback
College Notre Dame
Career history
As player
1990 Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL)
1991–1992 Barcelona Dragons (World League)
1994 Munich Thunder (FLE)
Honors 1989 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award
1989 4th in Heisman Trophy
1989 All-American Team

Tony Rice (born September 5, 1967) is a former professional American football player, playing quarterback in the Canadian Football League and World League of American Football. Rice is perhaps best remembered as the dynamic option quarterback of the University of Notre Dame's 1988 National Championship Team under coach Lou Holtz. Rice would play professional football for only three seasons for the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Barcelona Dragons of the World League of American Football from 1990 to 1992. He also played for Munich Thunder in the FLE (Football League of Europe) in 1994.

American football Team field sport

American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. The offense, which is the team controlling the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with or passing the ball, while the defense, which is the team without control of the ball, aims to stop the offense's advance and aims to take control of the ball for themselves. The offense must advance at least ten yards in four downs, or plays, and otherwise they turn over the football to the defense; if the offense succeeds in advancing ten yards or more, they are given a new set of four downs. Points are primarily scored by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown or kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts for a field goal. The team with the most points at the end of a game wins.

Quarterback position in gridiron football

A quarterback, colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in American and Canadian football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive team and line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offensive team, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is the offensive player that almost always throws forward passes.

Canadian Football League Professional Canadian football league

The Canadian Football League is a professional sports league in Canada. The CFL is the highest level of competition in Canadian football. The league consists of nine teams, each located in a city in Canada. They are divided into two divisions: four teams in the East Division and five teams in the West Division.


Recruitment and Proposition 48

While growing up in Woodruff, South Carolina, Rice played high school football for Woodruff High School under Coach Willie Varner. Rice entered Notre Dame in 1986 and was the crown jewel in Holtz's first recruiting class. These incoming freshmen were also the first to be bound by the NCAA rules of Proposition 48, which stated that in order to participate during his (or her) freshman year, an athlete must (1) be a high school graduate; (2) have a high school grade point average of 2.0 in an 11-course core curriculum; and (3) have scored 700 (out of a possible 1600) on the SAT or 17 (out of a possible 36) on the ACT. If he (or she) failed to meet those standards, the athlete would not be allowed to play or practice with a college team his (or her) freshman year. Because Rice failed to meet the required 700 on his SAT (he scored a 690), he was forced to sit out the entire 1986 season. Even with future NFL quarterback Steve Beuerlein leading the offense, the team struggled to a 5-6 record.

Woodruff, South Carolina City in South Carolina, United States

Woodruff is a city in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, United States, located in the "Upstate" area. The population was 4,101 at the 2010 census.

The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. Since it was first debuted by the College Board in 1926, its name and scoring have changed several times; originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, it was later called the Scholastic Assessment Test, then the SAT I: Reasoning Test, then the SAT Reasoning Test, and now, simply the SAT.

Steve Beuerlein American football player

Stephen Taylor Beuerlein is a former American football quarterback, and is currently an NFL and college football analyst for CBS.

In 1987, Tony Rice became the starting quarterback for Notre Dame following an injury to Terry Andrysiak. The Irish would finish the season 8-4 and earn a berth to the Cotton Bowl Classic, where they would endure a 35-10 loss to 13th-ranked Texas A&M in a game where Rice played only sparingly. Despite the loss, the team showed dramatic improvement and would finish the year ranked #17 — the team's first Top-25 finish since 1980.

Terrence J. Andrysiak is a former American football quarterback for St. Francis Cabrini High School and the University of Notre Dame. He is currently a financial executive for Morgan Stanley in Flint, Michigan and coaches 7th & 8th grade football for St. John Evangelist, Fenton, MI.

Cotton Bowl Classic American college football tournament

The Cotton Bowl Classic, also simply known as the Cotton Bowl, is an American college football bowl game that has been held annually in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex since January 1, 1937. The game was originally played at its namesake stadium in Dallas before moving to AT&T Stadium in nearby Arlington in 2010. Since 2014, the game has been sponsored by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and officially known as the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. It has been previously sponsored by Southwestern Bell Corporation/SBC Communications/AT&T (1997–2014) and Mobil (1989–1995)

Texas A&M University public research university in College Station, Texas, United States

Texas A&M University is a public research university in College Station, Texas, United States. It is a state flagship university and since 1948 is the founding member of the Texas A&M University System. The Texas A&M system endowment is among the 10 largest endowments in the nation. As of 2017, Texas A&M's student body is the largest in Texas and the second largest in the United States. Texas A&M's designation as a land, sea, and space grant institution–the only university in Texas to hold all three designations–reflects a range of research with ongoing projects funded by organizations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research. In 2001, Texas A&M was inducted as a member of the Association of American Universities. The school's students, alumni—over 450,000 strong—and sports teams are known as Aggies. The Texas A&M Aggies athletes compete in 18 varsity sports as a member of the Southeastern Conference.

The elusive, strong-armed Rice was a perfect fit for Holtz's ball control, run-oriented offense. Despite standing only 6'1" 200 lbs., he had great speed (4.48 40 yard dash time) for a quarterback, and tremendous strength, which made him an incredibly difficult player to contain. For the year he would finish with over 1,000 yards of total offense and 8 total touchdowns (663 yards, 1 touchdown passing and 337 yards, 7 touchdowns rushing).

Matchup versus USC '87

Tony Rice's first encounter with Southern Cal happened to be only his second start of his young career on October 24, 1987 as the sophomore quarterback caught the #18 ranked USC Trojans (8-4) by surprise, 26-15. For Rice, this signature win was a foreshadowing of events yet to come, as his 26-yard touchdown run lifted the Irish to a 10-7 lead with 2:55 left in the first half. He finished the contest rushing 9 times for 56 yards and completing 3-of-7 passes for 47 yards. [1]

USC Trojans intercollegiate sports teams of the University of Southern California

The USC Trojans are the athletic teams that represent the University of Southern California (USC), located in Los Angeles, California. While the men's teams are nicknamed the Trojans, the women's athletic teams are referred to as either the Trojans or Women of Troy. The program participates in the Pac-12 Conference and has won 130 team national championships, 107 of which are National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national championships. USC's official colors are cardinal and gold. The Trojans have a cross-town rivalry with UCLA. However, USC's rivalry with Notre Dame predates the UCLA rivalry by three years. The Notre Dame rivalry stems mainly from the annual football game played between these two universities and is considered the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football.

Matchup versus Alabama '87

Notre Dame completely caught No. 10 Alabama off guard, 37-6, on November 14 as Tony Rice directed an option offense that gained 352 yards on the ground which offset the effort of the Crimson Tide's star running back Bobby Humphrey—who gained 94 yards on 14 rushes himself. With the score tied at 3-3 after the first quarter, Rice answered with a 12-yard touchdown run and a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andy Heck in the second quarter. Notre Dame led 20-6 at the half. Irish running backs' Mark Green and Ricky Watters ended the game with 74 and 75-yard touchdown runs respectively to complete the rout. Rice wound up completing 5 of 8 passes for 117 yards while rushing 9 times for 30 yards during the contest. [2]

Alabama Crimson Tide Intercollegiate sports teams

The Alabama Crimson Tide refers to the 21 men and women varsity teams that represent the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide teams compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I as a member of the Southeastern Conference. In 2002, Sports Illustrated named Alabama the No. 26 best collegiate sports program in America. Athletics facilities on the campus include the 101,821-seat Bryant–Denny Stadium, named after football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and former University President George Denny, 15,316-seat Coleman Coliseum, Foster Auditorium, Sewell–Thomas Stadium, the Alabama Soccer Stadium, the Sam Bailey Track Stadium, the Ol' Colony Golf Complex, the Alabama Aquatic Center, and the Alabama Tennis Stadium.

Bobby Humphrey Player of American football

Bobby Gene Humphrey is a former professional American football player who was selected in the first round by the Denver Broncos in the 1989 NFL Supplemental Draft after a stellar career at the University of Alabama. He was a three-sport star at Glenn High School in Birmingham, while receiving a scholarship to play football at Alabama. In his four seasons playing for the Crimson Tide, Humphrey rushed for 3,420 yards, caught 60 passes for 523 yards, and scored 40 touchdowns. He made the College Football All-America Team in 1986 and 1987. In 1986, he set a school record with 1,471 rushing yards. In 1987, he was voted as UPI's offensive player of the year and finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

Andrew Robert Heck is an American football coach and former player. He is the offensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. He played tackle in the National Football League (NFL) for twelve seasons. He was drafted in the 1989 NFL Draft with the 15th overall selection in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks He played college football at Notre Dame University. He also played for the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins

The 1988 national championship season

1988 would see Notre Dame claim its first National Championship in 11 years. For the season the team would go a perfect 12-0 en route to claiming an NCAA-record eighth AP National Championship since the poll began in 1936. The season would feature dramatic wins over top ranked opponents including Michigan, USC, and Miami in addition to featuring several future NFL players including Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, Ricky Watters, Chris Zorich, Derek Brown, Todd Lyght, Pat Terrell, Tony Brooks, Anthony Johnson, Andy Heck, Tim Grunhard and Rodney Culver. In all, 21 of the 22 starters on the 1988 National Championship team would go on to play in the NFL, the lone exception being Tony Rice.[ citation needed ]

Raghib Ismail American football player, wide receiver

Raghib Ramadian "Rocket" Ismail is a retired player of American and Canadian football. A wide receiver and kick returner, he came to prominence playing college football for the University of Notre Dame before moving on to both the Canadian Football League (CFL) from 1991–92 and the National Football League (NFL) from 1993-2001.

Ricky Watters American football player

Richard James Watters is a former American football running back who played for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. Watters played college football at the University of Notre Dame where he played wide receiver on the school's 1988 national champion team. He also won a Super Bowl as a member of the 1994 San Francisco 49ers. Watters was known throughout his playing career for his outstanding receiving skills and his unique high-step running style, which earned him the nickname Ricky "Running" Watters, from ESPN sportcaster Chris Berman.

Chris Zorich All-American college football player, professional football player, defensive lineman, ollege Football Hall of Fame member

Christopher Robert Zorich is a former American football defensive tackle who played in college for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and in the National Football League (NFL) for the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins. Zorich is currently the athletic director at Chicago State University.

Matchup versus Miami '88

Miami was No.1 and Notre Dame No.4 when they met in South Bend, Ind. on October 15. The Irish held a 31-21 lead in the third quarter, but the Hurricanes rallied to within 31-30 on a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game. The Canes went for the two-point conversion and missed as Notre Dame's safety Pat Terrell batted down the ball. The loss snapped a 36-game, regular season winning streak for the Miami Hurricanes. [3]

Rice, who opened up the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, completed 8 of 16 passes for 195 yards—which included a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Braxston Banks in the second quarter. [4]

Matchup versus Penn State '88

No. 1 Notre Dame ran its record to a perfect 10-0 by defeating Penn State, 21-3, at home on November 19. In doing so, Tony Rice performed at a high level while completing the longest pass play of his career—a 67 yarder to flanker Raghib "Rocket" Ismail for a touchdown. Rice went 10-of-18 passing for 181 yards while rushing 15 times for a game-high 84 yards and a touchdown. The game was never in jeopardy as the Irish had built a 14-0 lead in the 2nd quarter. [5]

Matchup versus USC '88

A week later, #1 Notre Dame visited #2 USC at the L.A. Coliseum. The USC team led by All-American and future Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner Rodney Peete was 10-0 and a truly formidable team. Entering the game Peete was leading the nation in passing and was a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame would additionally be playing without leading pass catcher Ricky Watters, and leading rusher Tony Brooks, both of whom were suspended for arriving late to team meetings. Tony Rice would have a spectacular day, including a breathtaking 65-yard touchdown run on the Irish's first drive. The Irish would win the game handily 27-10 and propel them into the National Championship game.

Rice finished the contest rushing 13 times for 86 yards and completing 5 of 9 passes for 91 yards against the Trojans. [6]

Fiesta Bowl

Coming into the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz insisted that his team couldn't pass the ball against West Virginia. Tony Rice simply smiled and agreed. But by the end of the game he had outplayed Mountaineer quarterback Major Harris, who went down with an injury early in the game, by completing 7 of 11 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

Rice would finish the year with 1,176 yards and 8 touchdowns passing and 700 yards and 9 touchdowns rushing.

Senior season, 1989

Tony Rice entered his senior season with high expectations following all the successes from a year ago. Preseason ranked No. 2 Notre Dame faced a brutal schedule that included monster games against five ranked opponents.

The Irish met resistance early from the state of Michigan as two Raghib "Rocket" Ismail kickoff returns for scores gave Notre Dame the upper hand in a 24-19 win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich. on September 16, 1989. The next week, Michigan State was feisty defensively as Notre Dame's running backs Ricky Watters and Anthony Johnson managed to find the endzone and lift the Irish past the Spartans, 21-13. [7]

Notre Dame's next test came when the Irish traveled to face #17 Air Force on October 14 in what became a shootout. Rice went 9-of-13 passing for 123 yards and rushed 14 times for 71 yards against the Falcons' defense. He also threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Johnson as the Irish had to overcome a strong performance from Air Force's explosive QB Dee Dowis who passed for 306 yards. [8]

Coach Lou Holtz's Notre Dame Fighting Irish got to 6-0 as they were ranked #1 in the country. The Irish had to face USC at home on October 21 in what turned into sloppy play by both sides. Notre Dame was able to overcome five turnovers to win 28-24, thanks to a fine effort from the defense led by linebacker Chris Zorich. The Irish were down 17-7 at halftime. Rice scored on touchdown runs of 7 and 15 yards and finished with 99 yards on 18 carries. He also threw for 91 yards off 5 of 16 passing attempts. [9]

The season resumed as Rice directed Notre Dame's offense to 310 yards rushing in their October 28 matchup with Pittsburgh—a game the Irish easily won, 45-7. He had 12 carries for 69 yards and went 1-of-7 passing for 29 yards against the Panthers. [10]

On November 18, Notre Dame extended its record to 11-0 by knocking off #17 Penn State, 34-23, in what was a career day for Rice. The mobile quarterback had a career-high 141 rushing yards and completed 5 of 10 passes for 47 yards as the Irish finished with 425 yards on the ground against the Nittany Lions. At this point, Notre Dame's winning streak had run up to a total of 23 games. [11]

Matchup with Miami '89

On November 25, #1 Notre Dame had to travel to face 7th-ranked Miami (10-1). The Irish had survived a very tough schedule having gone 11-0 along the way, but the next task was daunting. Miami grabbed a 17-10 halftime lead and set the tone with its fine defensive play. In the end, Miami's defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, with help from his teammates, shut down Notre Dame's running attack as Rice was limited to 50 yards on 20 carries. He didn't have much success throwing the ball either as Rice finished 7-of-15 for 106 yards passing. It was a tough day for the Irish as they lost the rematch, 27-10. [12]

Matchup with #1 Colorado (Orange Bowl)

4th-ranked Notre Dame had to face #1 Colorado (11-0) in the Orange Bowl. For Tony Rice and Co., it was their opportunity for redemption following their late season loss to Miami, and the Irish took full advantage of it. QB Darian Hagan and Colorado started off with success offensively but experienced breakdowns inside and near the redzone. The Buffaloes missed a chip shot field goal, lost a fumble, and were stopped at the one-yard line off a successful goal line stand by Stan Smagala and the rest of the Irish defense. This led to a 0-0 score at halftime.

The 2nd half opened up with Rice directing a 69-yard drive in seven plays as fullback Anthony Johnson punched it in from the 2-yard line giving Notre Dame a 7-0 lead. Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, filling in at tailback for an injured Ricky Watters, broke away for a 36-yard touchdown run to push Notre Dame's lead to 14-0 with 7:19 left in the third quarter. The Irish won the game, 21-6. [13]

Rice was sharp as he completed 5 of 9 passes for 99 yards and rushed 14 times for 50 yards. He completed a very successful 12-1 season as Notre Dame was ranked #2 by the AP College Football Poll after the win over Colorado. [14]

Conclusion to senior year and career at Notre Dame

Tony Rice's record as a starting quarterback for the University of Notre Dame was an impressive 31-4 that included a national championship and almost another. Rice won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award on December 1, 1989 and finished fourth in the 1989 Heisman Trophy voting a day later. He also made the 1989 College Football All-America Team as a quarterback. His regular season statistics had him completing 68-of-137 passes for 1,122 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 174 times for 884 yards and 7 touchdowns in 12 games. He had a longest run of 38 yards while his longest pass play of the season covered 52 yards—a deep post to Raghib Ismail. [15] [16]


1986Prop. 48

Notes - Statistics from the table include bowl game performances.

Professional career

Tony Rice was passed up by the NFL Draft on April 22–23, 1990. He opted for the CFL after NFL teams shied away from him because of his slight, 6-foot-1 build and his success as a runner, not a passer. In June 1990, Rice was working with the Saskatchewan Roughriders during training camp as the third-string quarterback behind starter Kent Austin. The Roughriders finished 9-9 in his only season in the CFL as Rice served in mop-up duty while the starting quarterback Austin threw for 4,604 yards. [17]

After his short stint with the Roughriders of the CFL, Rice began checking other options. In February 1991, he was drafted in the second round by the Barcelona Dragons of the World League of American Football, which played its football season in the spring beginning in March. [18]

Rice's first season with Barcelona was very successful as the Dragons finished 9-3 and reached the championship game that was known as the "World Bowl '91." Rice's Dragons fell to the London Monarchs, 21-0. He had nearly equal playing time with the team's starter, Scott Erney, as Rice went 69-of-129 passing for 915 yards with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions for the season. He had 33 rushes for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first year with the new football league. [19]

The next season was not as prosperous for Barcelona as the team finished at 5-6. The Sacramento Surge knocked them out of the playoffs, 17-15, on May 31, 1992. As the backup quarterback, Rice was 22-of-57 passing for 313 yards and had 102 yards rushing and a touchdown for the 1992 season. [20]

The World League of American Football ceased its operations following the 1992 season. Rice joined the Munich Thunder of the Football League of Europe in Munich, Germany in 1994 and played quarterback for one season there as this was his last go around with professional football.


Tony Rice and his ex-wife Felicia have five children—Alex from Bad Girls Club (season 12), Madeline Santi, Anthony, Michael, and Jasmine. Anthony is a wide receiver for Central Michigan University. He works at Hub International as a risk manager and works closely with Pop Warner teams making visits and giving speeches and is active in the D.A.R.E. program, fighting to keep kids off drugs. [21]

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