Former player turned coach

By Keelen Holcomb

DeKALB | Melvin Rice returned to NIU, his alma mater, this summer to take over as assistant cornerback coach.

Rice, a letter-winning cornerback for NIU from 2005-08 , was a solid three-year starter for the Huskies defense from 2006-08, accruing 175 tackles, two interceptions and 18 pass breakups in his career.

He went on to graduate with a degree in sociology and criminology in 2009 but returned to the Huskies after being away for five years.

Former players often come and give back to their alma mater by doing a variety of things such as donating to the school, providing workout equipment for gyms or, as is the case with Rice, returning to coach.

The differences of playing football for the Huskies and coaching for them seven years later boils down to one major difference – free time.

“The experience of a student athlete gives you a lot more free time,” Rice said. “Being a coach, we spend a lot of hours in that film room breaking down opponents, getting our guys right, so you know we spend a lot of time in this building, and I enjoy every moment of it.”

Rice finished his first training camp as a coach when practice concluded Aug. 27, and he said the feeling wasn’t too different from when he was a player.

“It’s the same, [the coaches] demand a lot from the players, so the players demand a lot from the coaches as well,” Rice said. “So it’s our job to put them in the right position and it’s [the players] job to make the plays, so I don’t see any big difference.”

One difference Rice noticed when he came back to NIU was the upgrade with the athletic facilities since he had been a player.

“The biggest thing is the Yordon center, I was the first team that was in that building, but the indoor [football field] is tremendous,” Rice said. “It has a new scoreboard, new turf, got new graphics on the field, graphics in the stadium, so you know that helps in recruiting and bringing players here.”

NIU is away for the second week in a row when they play at 6 p.m. Saturday against University of South Florida at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Rice and the Huskies have their home opener at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 17 versus San Diego State University.