Before Paul Johnson, there was Homer Rice, and guess what?

I’ve chatted with Homer Rice off and on for more than 30 years. He’s always been riveting. In fact, just when I think I’ve heard it all involving this caretaker of sports wisdom, I discover something else.

Did you know Rice has a Jackie Robinson connection?

We’ll discuss that in a moment, but let’s start with this: Rice is the former Georgia Tech athletics director. So this is interesting with the Yellow Jackets holding their spring football game Saturday: Coach Paul Johnson has spent the past dozen years, spanning from Georgia Southern to Navy to the Flats, perfecting the triple-option offense, but guess who invented the thing about six decades ago?

Yep.

Take a bow, Mr. Rice.

I’m guessing Johnson and Rice huddle often about the inner workings of B-backs, A-backs and the such. “I’ve been down there to meet with Paul a couple of times, and I went to practice [this week] to talk about the needs and that sort of thing, but we don’t talk football too much,” said Rice, 83, threatening to make the earth spin backward before adding, “Well, we kind of go back over a little bit of history.”

That history eventually moves to the present, where Rice says of Johnson, “He has done the best job with this [triple-option] play and what he has added to it than anybody I’ve known in the history of the play. He has a great feel for it. There’s a lot of teaching involved, and it doesn’t come easy, but he has stayed with it.

“Once Paul gets the type of players you really need for that offense, he’ll be unstoppable.”

He’ll be like Rice during much of his coaching career. But listen to this: Here I was this week enjoying my latest conversation with Rice, and the subject switched from football to baseball, especially since Wednesday marked Jackie Robinson’s 62nd anniversary breaking the color barrier in baseball.

It turns out Rice interacted with Robinson back then, along with all of those other famous Brooklyn Dodgers. That’s because Rice was a rising catcher in the organization. “There’s a guy named Campanella who came along, and I thought, well, I better go into coaching,” said Rice, chuckling, referring to future Hall of Famer Roy Campanella.

No, I didn’t know any of that. I did know Rice fought in the Philippines during World War II. I knew he was a storied high school football coach in Tennessee and Kentucky (a combined 102-9-7). I knew about his slick offenses as a coordinator at Kentucky and Oklahoma in the 1960s and as a coach at Cincinnati and Rice.

He also was the coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1970s, when we first met. Plus, he was an athletics director at Rice and North Carolina before spending 17 years, through 1997, turning a pitiful athletics department at Tech into a prolific one. The trophy given to the top AD every year is named after Rice, too, and did I mention he just authored his seventh book?

He’s the man.

He’s the renaissance man.

52 comments Add your comment

Hector

April 18th, 2009
9:59 pm

You said he “just authored his seventh book?” What’s this book called? I’ve read some of his past books and I’d love to hear more of what he has to say.

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 18th, 2009
7:30 pm

I have T. Moore but it is nice to hear an article that is positive. You are right Bayou Bengal we didn’t show-up for the game. Your Fat A$$es pushed us around and we didn’t play worth a crap, but we only lost to 1 SEC team last year and how many did you lose to?

Gerry

April 18th, 2009
5:24 pm

Great story,remember Homer hired a young coach named Bobby Cremins the rest is history also Bobby Ross. Before that the program was dead

gtforever

April 18th, 2009
2:24 pm

Nice article….. Bayou, tons of talent??? We have never had tons of talent anywhere, on either side of the ball. We have a few special players, but for the most part they are not the best athletes. Hopefully, Coach will recruit to change all this. LSU whipped our arses, hopefully we can get together again when things are a little more even talent wise…

Falconfan42

April 18th, 2009
11:43 am

Mr Moore,

I wanted to let you know how sorry I am that your position at the paper has been eliminated. You will be sorely missed. While I may not agree with your all your columns, I can say it was a real pleasure reading them over the last 25 or so years. It is said to see the newspaper industry in the shape it is in. I am sure you will get a nice new challenging position somewhere soon. Take care and go Braves,Falcons and Hawks!!

Dr. Phil

April 18th, 2009
10:47 am

Rice was one of those old-school gentlemen of character, like Joel Eaves and even Vince Dooley. Now we have puppets like Damon Evans.

Who cares

April 18th, 2009
10:36 am

Homer Rice was great because he had ties to Jackie Robinson…WOW, HE MUST BE GREAT!

Bill

April 18th, 2009
9:56 am

Great job TM. freshd, not everyone fits your blog. Win are lose I’ve always said the same.

jacketbacker

April 18th, 2009
9:33 am

get over yourself bayou trash…..so LSwho stopped it….in fact, so did UNC and Gardner Webb. seems like we bounced back pretty good after those games!!.. We had a bad game, that’s it…..CPJ said he did not have the team ready to play….it happens….i hope we see you rednecks again down the road….i’m pretty sure it will be a different outcome…

45-42!!!!

THWG

KG

April 18th, 2009
9:02 am

Sugarhill Douche, athens has never seen a class act such as Homer Rice. And you forgot to pick up my trash yesterday!