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NFL Draft

Landon Rice: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • February 26, 2021
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There are plenty of recognizable names from bigger programs among this year’s tight end class, but if you’re looking for a late-round sleeper who could make some noise at the next level, Jacksonville State’s Landon Rice has the tools to be that guy.

A well-rounded prospect with an old school mentality, Rice recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his football bloodlines and how he became a great in-line blocker. 

JM: For those of our readers who are still getting familiar with you, how would you describe your skill set?

LR: I’m a physical, hard-nosed, tough tight end. I’m a physical run blocker. I can block on the perimeter. I’m a big body, I’m athletic. I have terrific size at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. I move well for my size. I have great ball skills. I can run every route in the route tree. I’m very comfortable putting my hand in the dirt and playing in the box. I’ve been a box guy my entire life dating back to my childhood. 

My dad is an offensive line coach so I’ve been blocking my entire life (laughs). I’ve been working double teams and combo blocks since I was a little boy. I love the physicality of the game. That’s my skill set. I’m a blue-collar tight end. I love the game for what it is.

JM: You’ve been used as more of an in-line blocker than anything. You’re an excellent blocker. What do you enjoy about being a blocking tight end?

LR: I love dominating a guy on the line of scrimmage. I love being physical. I love working a double team with my offensive tackle. I love whooping a guy across the field. I take great pride in opening a hole for my running back or giving my quarterback a clean pocket to operate from. I love paving the way for my teammates. I just thrive on the physical nature of the game. I’m most comfortable playing in the box.

That’s not my only asset, though. I’ve shown my versatility in the passing game. I can run a lot of different routes. I can catch in space, I can make a contested catch. I’m very comfortable with all of these things. I can block in space, I can block in the screen game. I can do it all.

JM: How did you become a blocking specialist? You mentioned that you’re the son of an offensive line coach. Is that where it started? A blocking tight end doesn’t always receive the credit he deserves.

LR: I’ve always been around offensive linemen. In high school, I hung out with the offensive linemen in our locker room. Growing up, I’ve been under the shoe, I’ve been in the trenches. I grew to love that. I have the size and skill set for it. I’ve become pretty good at it. I love getting up on the line of scrimmage and getting nasty. I’m looking to dominate every rep as a blocker. 

I’ve done it my entire life. That’s who I am. It’s really just in my DNA. I grew up around football, I’ve always been in the trenches as a tight end. I actually played on the O-line as a young child. When I reached middle school, I actually played some fullback and linebacker. I was bigger than everybody else, but I was also more athletic than them too. They put me in positions to succeed. I was used as a running back at times. 

I got to high school, it was a smaller school and I was the biggest kid on the team. I played on the offensive line as a freshman. I played tackle. I was working through O-line drills and I loved that. It allowed me to dominate in the run game. I played defensive end too. I definitely know what it feels like and what it takes to be an offensive lineman. I was a warrior down there in the trenches. 

I eventually made the transition to tight end and I carry that same mentality with me. That’s how I became a physical run blocker. I have that O-line background. I’ve always played the game with extreme effort. I pride myself on that. I’ve never played the game just to do my job. I’m playing to dominate for the duration of the play and I play through the whistle too. I try to pancake the guy, I try to run them out of bounds.

JM: You actually started your career at Auburn before Jacksonville State. What was the biggest difference you noticed between the SEC and FCS?

LR: The difference in facilities was the first thing I noticed. With a smaller school, it’s obviously very different than what Auburn looks like. The speed of the game is different. At Auburn, I was going up against Carl Lawson in my first couple of practices. He’s in the NFL now with the Cincinnati Bengals and he’s a very good pass rusher. I had to block him on every play (laughs). I’m trying to man-block him on power [runs] during an inside drill. That was one heck of a task for an 18-year-old kid that just graduated high school. It groomed me and turned me into a physical player. I was fighting for my life on every rep (laughs). If I didn’t bring my A-game, he was going to embarrass me. 

I was going up against high-caliber guys like him at Auburn on a daily basis. That stayed with me. Coming to Jacksonville State, the talent level may not have been the same, but my standard of excellence didn’t change. I held myself accountable. I knew what it took to play at that level. In my mind, I was never competing against Jacksonville State talent. 

For the record, we are one of the best schools in the FCS. The talent is top-notch. We have guys in the NFL right now. We got after it at practice. Our coaches never allowed us to drop our standards. In our minds, we were competing against everybody in the nation. We weren’t just competing within the FCS. We had to prove that we were the best. 

We held ourselves to a high standard. We had a motto that went, “six seconds of savage.” The average football play lasts six seconds. We gave our maximum effort for those six seconds. We played through the whistle. Whether that means catching a ball or blocking, we’re dominating our opponent. 

To circle back to address your question about the difference, the speed of the game definitely stood out to me. I never played down to my opponent. I didn’t let that impact me.

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