Photo: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire

As a senior in High School Tony Rice was the South Carolina player of the year and a Parade all-American.  And that made him the crown jewel of Lou Holtz’s 1986, first recruiting class.  6-1, 200 lbs, 4.48 time in the 40, Holtz envisioned him as the ideal candidate to run his run option oriented, ball control offense. 

Unfortunately, Rice was forced to set out as a freshman under the old proposition 48 academic qualification rule. But, in the fourth game of his sophomore season, starter Terry Andrysiak went down with a separated shoulder and Rice took over.  The Irish won five straight and the table was set for a perfect run in 1988 with Rice in the quarterback seat.  

Rice was not a gifted passer but he did it well enough to compliment his rushing and running the option ability and leadership skills. In the 1988 Championship season, he threw for 1,176 yards and 8 TDs and ran for 700 yards and 9 more TDs as the Irish rolled to a perfect record and the #1 ranking. 

During the 1988 season at USC in what was arguably the biggest game in years that ND had played, Rice came up big. ND was ranked #1, USC #2. On the first play of the game Rice hit Rocket Ishmail for a 55 yard gain that led to a touchdown and at 7-0 lead. On the next Irish possession Rice took an option play left, found himself isolated with one defender, made a move and ended up going 65 yards to make the score 14-0. the Irish went on to a 27-10 victory.

In 1989, Rice’s senior year, he only managed 2 TD passes but he ran for another 884 yards and 7 TDs as the Irish went 12-1 and knocked off #1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl to finish #2 in the final polls. 

Rice set ND career quarterback records for yards rushing at 1,912 and touchdowns at 23.  With Tony Rice at quarterback, Notre Dame went 28-3.

Rice’s option-oriented skillset did not translate into an NFL career, but he managed a three-year career in the CFL and World League.  After that he settled into a career in the Insurance business.

As an over the top exciting player, great leader, and National Champion, Tony Rice is herby bestowed the esteemed title of, All-Time Irish Hero.

ByPhil Houk

For over 25 years, bringing you the glory of Notre Dame football.

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