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.
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.