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Monty Rice is a senior and leader for the Georgia football program.

Monty Rice honored as Butkus Award finalist: ‘Frankly he deserves that award’

This hasn’t been the easiest year for senior linebacker Monty Rice. In addition to navigating a pandemic and all that entails, he’s also battled a foot injury that limited him against the likes of Alabama, Kentucky and Florida.

Georgia lost two of those games, in part due to the defensive struggles in those games. But aside from those performances, the Georgia defense has been able to hold its spot near the top of the SEC and college football.

And that’s due to the play of Rice, who was honored as a Butkus Award finalist on Monday. The award is given to the nation’s top linebacker. Roquan Smith took home the award for his play during the 2017 season for Georgia.

This year, Rice has 49 tackles to go along with four tackles for loss and a sack. He’s also been a disruptive defender as he’s forced two fumbles while also recovering one for a touchdown against Tennessee.

Rice has been a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, as he has 29 career starts to his name. Add in that he’s done it all while playing in the toughest conference in the country, Kirby Smart certainly made a compelling case for the senior from Huntsville, Ala. to win the award.

“Anytime something comes up for a kid as good as him that has given as much to a program as he has ours,” Smart said. “He has been one of the tremendous leaders in this organization for a while.”

This past week against Missouri, Rice and the Georgia defense had perhaps their most impressive effort of the season. Missouri had scored 91 points in its previous two games, while Missouri running back Larry Rountree ran for 345 yards in those two games.

The Bulldogs came out and held Missouri to just 14 points and a season-worst 200 yards of total offense. Rountree had only 16 yards in the game.

Related: Georgia football winners and losers following big win over Missouri

Rice has been a four-time captain for Georgia this season, and while his play on the field has merited honors, teammate Lewis Cine took the time to praise what Rice brings from a leadership capacity.

“He leads by example. His effort is amazing,” Cine said. “He’s one of those guys I look up to in the way he carries himself on the field. He grinds on the field, play by play by play. He’s going to give you his 100 percent, and frankly he deserves that award, and hopefully it goes his way.”

This will be Rice’s final season at Georgia as the senior has accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl. That will give him another chance to impress NFL talent evaluators, in addition to what he’s done in this time at Georgia.

Rice did miss some time at the end of the 2018 season due to injury. But he’s become accustomed to playing through pain and injuries as he’s had to do so once again in 2020.

Smart pointed out that is a plus for Rice when it comes to the next level, given the grueling 16-game NFL slate.

“Monty is going to make a great teammate and pro regardless of whether he wins that award or not,” Smart said. “He is certainly deserving of the accolades he has received, and I am certainly hopeful he gets an opportunity to win it.” 

Georgia and Rice will get a chance to play one more game in Sanford Stadium this weekend as the Bulldogs are set to host Vanderbilt. The game is set for a 12 p.m. ET kickoff and will air on the SEC Network.

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