Shortly after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ season came to an end with a 45-23 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 101st Grey Cup, Brandonite Landon Rice received all the motivation he needed to prepare for next season.
The 28-year-old spent the 2013 campaign on Hamilton’s practice roster, but was named as one of the players to watch for in the future by Ticats head coach/general manager Kent Austin in a year-end press conference. Since then, Rice has been focused on making sure he makes the team’s active roster for his second season in the Canadian Football League.
“That was some real motivation,” he said. “You have to have that motivation if you want to pursue the dreams and your goals of what you want to do with your life and what I personally want to do with this career. That was really all the motivation I needed to get the work done that I needed to do.”
Since being singled out by Austin, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive lineman has returned to Manitoba to train for Ticats’ training camp, which starts in June. He moved back to Winnipeg, where he lifted weights at the University of Bisons’ new facility at Investors Group Field. The Bison alumnus also worked on his footwork on the track and at indoor facilities, in addition to following Hamilton’s off-season workout program and drill manuals.
Now Rice is hoping that the work he put in this off-season, combined with a few spots opening up in training camp — 10-year veteran centre Marwan Hage, for one, is no longer with the club — can help him impress the coaching staff enough to make his dream of playing in regular-season games come true.
“It would be amazing,” Rice said. “It’s what all this hard work is for. The final goal is to get in games and to win games and to get that playing time. I’m just hoping to go out there and do that.”
While Rice is focused on his future, he has never forgotten where he got his start in football. Rice, who started playing in the first season of the Westman Youth Football Association before joining the Crocus Plainsmen, helped his father Garth work an assistant coach with the Atom Division Ticats on Thursday night.
Rice used to coach atom-aged kids when he was younger and was happy to do it again for another day.
“It’s great,” said Rice, who learned the atom championship trophy is now named after him as well. “I was lucky to be in town on these few days I was out here and help my dad coach. I love it. I love football and all the coaching I’ve done in the past has been with the Westman Youth Football Association with the 10-, 11- and 12-year-old division. It’s just great to see those kids have fun.”
Rice doesn’t have much time left before he returns to Hamilton. Training camp is just a couple weeks away, but he doesn’t mind having to go back to work with a chance to make his dream of playing in the CFL come true this summer.
“My summer is another two weeks and then it’s work time and training camp kicks off,” he said. “So I’m just going to keep in shape and keep my body healthy and then focus on what’s coming up.”