‘Viking’ Warrior stands out
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He stands out, even if it's not on the field -- yet.
Joshua Rice's opportunities to make an impact in a Hawaii football game have been limited so far. But the blond shoulder-length hair flowing out of his helmet -- on a team stocked with players with long dark hair -- makes the sophomore linebacker easy to pick out.
Rice and his teammates had the day off yesterday before returning to fall practice today, and he tentatively planned to go surfing -- his favorite non-football activity.
Rice, who was born in Hawaii but spent most of his teen years in Las Vegas, is determined to prove he's back in the islands to have more than just a good time on the waves.
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University of Hawaii football fans might find themselves this fall pondering the identity of the lone Warrior with the shaggy blond locks sprouting from his helmet.
It's not Fabio.
Behold "The Viking," sophomore linebacker Joshua Rice.
"Some guys (on the team) think I look like a Viking or something," Rice said. "Yeah, I'm pretty into Vikings. I haven't cut it in two years, since I got here. I started growing it out in the summer of my senior year (of high school)."
Drawing inspiration from the Nordic warriors as well as his fellow Warriors, the Hawaii-born Rice brings a unique persona to the team.
His look is also a nod to the late Arizona Cardinals player-turned-soldier Pat Tillman. Before joining the Army, one of Tillman's trademarks was his long blond hair.
"You can really tell when he does something good because you know who it is," linebackers coach Cal Lee said of Rice. "That's his trademark, the golden (locks). He's just been a joy to work with because he wants to help wherever he can, on the scout team, special teams."
Rice was raised near Sunset Beach until age 10, when his family of four moved to Las Vegas. While he missed his island home, Rice, now 20, has the searing desert to thank for his return to Hawaii. (That, along with some extended family, and fond memories of Makiki Park and trips to Rainbow Drive-In.)
Instead of pillaging on the football field, The Viking took to surfing whenever he could on trips to California. Yesterday, he had tentative plans to take advantage of the Warriors' day off from fall camp to hit the waves at Sandy Beach.
When he was back in the desert, football became his focus. If he had never moved away from Hawaii, "I probably would have just surfed instead," he reflected.
Now, he can do both.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Adam Leonard sprayed fellow UH linebacker Joshua Rice with water during a break from Saturday's practice.
Rice's chance of cracking the Warriors' stacked linebacker rotation this season is slim, with its seasoned corps of Blaze Soares, Solomon Elimimian, Adam Leonard and Brad Kalilimoku.
But that hasn't gotten him down; if anything, it's been reason to train even harder.
"I gotta wait my turn," Rice said. "But, I mean, just work as hard as I can, just keep up the intensity, always get better, because when that shot does come, when they put me in, I want to shine."
Rice hasn't taken the easy route with academics, either. He graduated as a decorated scholar-athlete from Coronado High School, and planned to major in mechanical engineering at UH before settling on business.
After redshirting his first season in 2005, the 6-foot, 215-pound Rice has definitely shown flashes of talent. Last year, he put in some work on special teams, and he recorded a 13-yard sack against Louisiana Tech for his lone tackle of the season.
In spring practice contact drills, he drew some oohs and aahs for leveling Kiran Kepo'o as the freshman quarterback scrambled to the line of scrimmage.
To Lee, Rice has distinguished himself by tirelessly looking to hone his ability.
"He knows what he's up against, and he just works hard at it," Lee said. "Trains hard" -- the coach paused -- "and you never know, you never know. If the time comes, you gotta be ready. And if it did come to Josh, he'd be ready."
After yesterday's day off, the Warriors were scheduled to return to practice at 4 p.m. today.