By Ray Hamill — Arcata senior Maximus Rice announced on Wednesday evening that he will be playing football at Azusa Pacific after graduation.
Rice signed a letter of intent in front of a large crowd of friends, teammates, family and teachers, and will now be reunited with his older brother Jack Rice, who transferred to play for Azusa late last summer.
And having his older brother there is one reason the younger Rice chose Azusa, but not the only one.
“Athletically, it’s one of the better Division-II teams,” Maximus said. “And I really felt it was a family environment, like here at Arcata. And then academically, it has criminal justice, which is what I want to study.”
Rice, an offensive lineman, has spent the last three years competing at Arcata High after transferring from St. Bernard’s, where he played as a freshman protecting Jack, a senior quarterback.
“Max has been, in my opinion, the best lineman in our county for four years,” Arcata football head coach Jamal Jones said.
But the three-sport athlete will be remembered for more than just his football skills.
“He’s a hard worker, and he’s a leader in the practice room,” Arcata wrestling coach Eric Mikolai said. “I know we’re here for football, but he’s a hell of a wrestler.”
Rice is the No. 1 seed in his bracket for this weekend’s H-DNL wrestling championships and is expected to make a run in the North Coast Section championships as well.
But football is where his athletic future lies.
“I think it’s a hell of an opportunity for him, go further his education, continue to play the sport he loves, and I think he can be a role model for a lot for other kids,” Jones told the gathering. “If you want to chase your dreams, chase your dreams. Don’t half ass it.”
Rice said he’s looking forward to the opportunity.
“I’m super excited for what lies ahead,” he said.
As for his time at Arcata, one year in particular stands out.
“There were a lot of good memories, its hard picking one,” he said. “But most definitely I’ll remember my junior year. All the seniors that year were here when I came here, and I bonded with them.”
He also says he’s learned a lot from playing football for three years with the Tigers.
“Definitely hard work and keeping your mind in the right spot,” he said. “And just kind of driving for that goal.”
He’s also looking forward to the experience of living somewhere different.
“I like Humboldt County, but it’s super secluded,” he said. “Los Angeles is a big city with a lot going on.”