Michigan was embarrassed Saturday afternoon by Wisconsin, but that hasn’t stopped the son of the best receiver in NFL history from still being interested in the Wolverines.
Brenden Rice, son of 49ers legendary receiver Jerry Rice, has Michigan as one of his top four schools and will make his decision in two weeks. He took an official visit to Michigan earlier this month and watched the Wolverines beat Middle Tennessee in the season opener.
“I took two visits (to Michigan) and I loved it each time, was there for the Middle Tennessee game,” Rice said. “It’s crazy because as I was walking onto the field from the tunnel, you could just hear from people that I wouldn’t even know my name would get across the world like that, just calling, ‘Brenden, Brenden we need you,’ I was just amazed by how many people were there. It was a great atmosphere, just a crazy experience to be in.”
Rice is 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver from Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton who has more than 20 offers. He's considered a three-star prospect who is ranked No. 10 overall in Arizona by the 247Sports composite.
“I’m very interested in Michigan, they’re in my top four,” Rice said. “I haven’t really released my top four, but Michigan, Colorado, ASU (Arizona State) and Oregon, and USC is slowly getting there. I plan on making my decision in two weeks.
“Entrepreneurship is crazy there at Michigan. I also went to the Ross business school during the walk-through, really did the walk-through of everything. We went out to breakfast with Coach (Jim) Harbaugh a couple of times, me and my family.
“Man, you could just run through a brick wall for Coach Harbaugh, just his spirit and the enthusiasm he has. You can tell he’s an honest coach that’s definitely going to be a player’s coach who is going to want the best for you at all times, want you to get your degree and wants you to excel on the football field so it transfers both ways. I mean, the guy went to the Super Bowl. It’s a huge deciding factor to be actually recruited by Michigan. Yes, it’s Michigan, but it’s also Harbaugh, so that’s crazy.”
Rice plays for former Walled Lake Western coach Mike Zdebski at the school, which is in a suburb south of Phoenix.
Zdebski guided Walled Lake Western to a 14-0 record and Division 1 state championship 20 years ago, then to the Division 2 state title game at Ford Field in 2016 with Michigan State receiver Cody White playing a key role. This is his second year at Chandler Hamilton, which won five state championships in a 10-year period before Steve Belles was forced out in March 2017 following a hazing scandal.
Zdebski was the third coach in three years when he took over prior to the 2018 season. Hamilton struggled to a 3-7 season last year — the worst record in school history, missing the state playoffs for the first time since 1998 — but has gone 5-0 this season, ranked No. 21 in USA Today’s Super 25 rankings.
“Things are better now because we’re 5-0,” said Zdebski, who guided Walled Lake Western to state semifinal appearances in 2001, 2011 and ’15, in addition to the state title in ’99 and title game appearance in ’16. “Last year was different, then we had a year to get to know the kids and get them in the weight room. Then, I got the track job and we got them out for track. Just being around the kids for a year has really helped."
Colorado head coach Mel Tucker watched Rice play in Hamilton’s 42-13 win Friday over Phoenix Mountain Pointe. Colorado played Saturday at Arizona State, defeating the Sun Devils, 34-31, in Tempe.
Zdebski persuaded Rice to go out for track this past spring and it resulted in him lowering his 100-meter time from 11.78 seconds to 10.78, where he finished third in the state.
“He’s good," Zdebski said. "... The knock on him was that he was too slow. We got him in track and the first time he ran the 100 meters he ran 11.78, then gets in the state meet and runs a 10.78. He’s a great athlete, went out and fixed his weakness.”
Rice says it's been "an honor" to be coached by Zdebski.
“He has the heart, he has the drive, he has the fire and he’s going to drive us to be better,” Rice said. “You can tell that his work ethic from football transfers over to his life in everything he does.
“We switched to a spread offense since he’s come in and we’re more open to showcasing our athletes now. It’s totally a different type of vibe, and definitely a different type of game that we’ve learned, and it’s great to be a wide receiver in this offense.”
Rice also plays linebacker, but prefers receiver.
“I love playing receiver,” Rice said. “It’s just a lot I can learn from the wide receiver position. I have the skills, the body build and the speed for being a wide receiver. I can just go out and find some new things that I can do, how I can get faster, my muscle twitches, and like some things I’ve been looking up, like looking up my dad’s film and applying it to my own game. I text him (Jerry Rice) all the time and we always get into it.”