Brenden Rice, a wide receiver on Chandler Hamilton’s freshman team, is considered a can’t-miss prospect. And that’s not because his father is Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.
Brenden already is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, and, according to varsity head coach Steve Belles, “has great hands.”
“He’ll play varsity football as a sophomore,” Belles said.
It is rare for freshmen to play varsity football.
Belles knows Brenden is probably ready, but said, “I want those kids to know their class, too, and never lose sight of that.”
It also is a good chance for Brenden to further bond with his stepfather, Rick Cunningham, who helps coach the freshman team. Cunningham was an offensive lineman at Texas A&M and in the NFL, including a stint with the Cardinals. His son, Qualen Cunningham, was an All-Arizona defensive end at Hamilton in 2013, before going on to Texas A&M to continue his football career.
Cunningham wore No. 2 at Hamilton.
That is the number Brenden wears to follow him.
“I don’t get to talk to my father a lot,” Brenden said.
Because he said Jerry Rice isn’t in his life as much, Brenden said it “fuels my drive to be better than he ever was.”
“My stepdad, Rick Cunningham, has been a role model for me and kept me going on the right path,” Rice said. “He has stepped up and took me under his wing ever since I was born, knowing that I wasn’t one of his own.”
Brenden said he has considered waiting until his senior year to wear his dad’s No. 80 and Hall of Fame gloves.
“It’s something that I would have to think over considering I don’t want the help of his name to get me places in life,” Rice said.