Jared and Justin Rice are typical brothers, ready to argue about anything, and competitive in pretty much everything.
And these days, that brotherly battle is on display every day at Fresno State football practice, on opposite sides of the line scrimmage.
“Rice on Rice action,” said younger brother Justin. “Rice on Rice crime.”
Jared, the older brother by 13 months, is a senior standout at tight end for the Bulldogs, and younger brother Justin is a junior starter at outside linebacker, which means occasionally, they get to mix it up at practice.
“It’s kind of interesting when they go up against one another, and one guy’s blocking the other one,” Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford said. ” I wish I could hear what they’re saying to each other.”
“Always gotta give him a little extra,” said Justin, about facing off with his brother in practice.
“Whenever he (Justin) beats me, he makes sure to tell my dad about it,” said Jared.
Their father Jeff was a good athlete himself, playing quarterback at Cal and UC Davis in the 1980’s.
Not surprisingly, Jared and Justin followed their dad into sports, and the sibling rivalry started at a young age.
“A lot of wrestling, a lot of arguing,” said Jared, who claims he won most of those early battles.
“I always had to beat him at everything, so whatever he did, I had to do something better,” said Justin, when talking about his early relationship with Jared.
When they teamed up on the gridiron though, they were an impressive combination.
They won three state titles together as teammates at Modesto’s Central Catholic High School, and after Jared accepted an offer to play for Fresno State, Justin followed suit one year later.
“It was just a good fit,” said Justin about choosing the Bulldogs. “I’d been around the team for a while with him (being there).”
After redshirting as a true freshman, Jared has been a key contributor at tight end for the Bulldogs over the last three seasons. He was pegged a preseason all-conference pick this year as a senior, and for the second straight year, is on the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, presented annually to college football’s best tight end.
“It’s nice to be honored and recognized as one of the top guys,” said Jared. “But I want the award is what I want.”
Justin’s path to becoming a key contributor for the Bulldogs hasn’t been as smooth. He initially came in as a running back, after rushing for a school record 2,698 yards with 32 touchdowns as a high school senior. He was switched to defense after Jeff Tedford’s arrival though, eventually settling in at outside linebacker last year as a true junior, where he played in the first four games and redshirted. With all three starting linebackers from last year having moved on from the program, Rice has assumed a starting spot on the outside heading into this season.
Jared and Justin are expected to play big roles for the Bulldogs this season, and there is actually a third Rice brother at Fresno State football practice each day, who serves a different role. Youngest brother Jack, who played football at Central Catholic as well, is a freshman student manager for the Bulldogs.
Jack’s older brothers are on opposite sides of the ball at practice, but off the field, Jared and Justin spend a lot of time together.
“They sit next to each other at dinner,” Tedford said.
They’re roommates off the field as well, and have grown extremely close in their four years together at Fresno State.
“We’re probably best friends right now,” said Justin.
Best friends and brothers who are are about to experience their last season together on the college gridiron, so they’re going to savor every last minute of it.
“Well it’s my last year,” summed up Jared. “So it’s gonna be fun playing with him, especially now, because he’s playing a lot.”
“Cherish every moment,” added Justin. “Every time he’s making a big play, I’m probably going to be the first one jumping up and down, yelling at him. And I’m hoping he’s going to meet me at the sideline any time I make a big play.”