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Lauren Tolbert / UGA Sports
Junior middle linebacker Monty Rice had his season cut short by injuries last season, a sprained knee and foot ailment.

Georgia football’s Mr. Fix It, middle linebacker Monty Rice

ATHENS — Every football team needs it’s “Mr. Fix It,” a player that can get everyone lined up, make a stop when someone else misses a tackle or ensure the attitude is right in the huddle.

Junior Monty Rice is that player for Georgia football, back to once again try to fill the shoes of the previous Mr. Fix It, 2017 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Roquan Smith.

That might seem like too much to expect, what with nine linebackers being selected to the SEC’s preseason first, second and third teams this summer and Rice not among them.

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But Kirby Smart believes, and he explained why Rice is the man he’s looking for to lead the Georgia defense to a championship this season.

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“Monty is a businessman,” Smart said, describing the serious nature with which Rice carries himself. “He’s not cutting up, messing around at practice. He’s very serious about what he does. He’s got a purpose about him.”

That purpose is to win games, all of them.

Georgia was a much better team with Rice on the field, as he was setting the pace as the tackles leader before suffering a fluke foot injury during warmups before the Nov. 17 UMass game.

He’s a smart guy, really intelligent and he’s a heavy hitter,” UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning said. “When he puts his pads on, I think guys feel it.”

Indeed, Rice rated as the surest tackler in the SEC last season, per advanced metrics.

 

 

The Bulldogs were playing their best football of the season at the time of Rice’s injury, coming off consecutive wins over Florida, Kentucky and Auburn.

Rice, who had 27 tackles during that stretch run, admits it was a difficult finish to the season standing on the sidelines while Alabama and Texas had its way with his defense.

“We lost, who wants to lose? That’s been on my mind all year,” Rice said. “I really didn’t get to play against Texas because I was still dealing with the foot thing, so yeah, I’ve got a bunch of motivation.”

Sometimes, Jake Fromm said, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Rice will playfully take it out on teammates — even on the starting quarterback!.

“Monty is a guy that will put on a little bit of a shell, but when you get him away you’ll get comfortable wit him, he’ll open up, he’ll smile, he’ll trash talk to you,” Fromm said. “He’s a guy, he’ll just punch you for no reason, and you’re like ‘Monty! I’m not as big and strong as you, you can’t be doing that.

“No, but Monty is great, he’s a great friend. Sometimes I give him a smile and wink and hopefully he won’t hit me.”

Rice is just hoping he gets through the season healthy.

Even before his foot injury last season Rice missed time on the field on account of a sprained knee.

RELATED: Freak injury takes Monty Rice out of already banged up Front 7

“At first I was frustrated, but it was God’s way of telling me to slow down,” Rice said. “I’m doing yoga, I do a bunch of stretching, range of motion, hot tub, cold tub, I do it all.”

What Rice doesn’t do is look back.

RELATED: Monty Rice is a linebacker with a cause entering 2018 season

Like most every other Georgia player this fall, he was asked about losing to Alabama in championship games the past two seasons, and if those have left any scars or lingering effect on the team.

“Not at all, those games are in the past, it happened for a reason, everything happens for a reason, so there’s nothing we can do about it now,” Rice said. “If we’re crying about it now, what’s it going to change? We lost, it is what it is.”

And now Smart is turning to Rice to help fix it.

 

 

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