Lonnie Rice, former Bishop McDevitt star, heading to Syracuse

Lonnie Rice, who played football for Bishop McDevitt High School, signed with Syracuse University during the NCAA’s national signing day early period.

Rice is McDevitt’s record holder in all-purpose yards and has wanted to play for Syracuse since he was 16. He started his high school career at defensive back before switching to quarterback and leading McDevitt into deep playoff runs in 2018 and 2019.

“When I was getting recruited out of high school, I was a quarterback, safety, [defensive back], and a linebacker, so I think the biggest confusion [for prospective coaches during] the recruiting process for me [coming out of] high school was, ‘What position is he going to play?’” Rice told The Inquirer. “Where is he going to fit in our scheme? And what defense is he going to play in? Or is he going to end up an offensive guy?”

Coach Mike Watkins recruited Rice to come to McDevitt.

“He honestly changed my life with that call,” Rice said. “I felt like he was the person and coach that still had faith in me and believed in me and saw the good in the situation of me being injured.”

“Lonnie took a chance on me, took a chance on McDevitt, and became the cornerstone to turn around a football program,” the former McDevitt coach told The Inquirer. “The leadership qualities that he showed were just off the charts, and I knew that kid was special from the moment I met him.”

His path to Syracuse included junior college ball for Lackawanna College in Scranton.

“Knowing when Lonnie went in the portal, I thought Lackawanna would be a perfect place to get him ready for a place like Syracuse, and it’s a credit to Coach [Dino] Babers,” Watkins said. “Coach [Chris] Achuff is the one that recruited Lonnie; we stayed in contact for a few years.”

Syracuse maintained contact with Rice during his JUCO days before a scholarship offer to join the Orange finally came along.

“When I first went on that visit [in 2018], they gave me a keychain, and I still have that keychain to this day. I’ve just been walking around with it,” Rice said. “I just kept getting this feeling in my stomach because p

He signed his letter of intent on Wednesday.

According to The Inquirer, seven other players who played for McDevitt signed with teams during the early period of national signing day, including Imhotep’s Semaj Bridgeman (Michigan); Archbishop Wood’s Markus Dixon (Clemson), Eric Gardner, and Cole Evans (Army); Northeast’s Tyrese Whitaker (Temple); and Roman Catholic’s Jordan Montgomery (Temple) and Jameial Lyons (Penn State).

“It almost brings you to tears to think about his journey,” Watkins said of his relationship with Rice. “Lonnie is family to me. My wife looks at him as family, and my daughters idolize him. He’s just brought so much to the McDevitt community and how he opened up the doors. … Lonnie’s recruitment really opened the doors for these guys to get the looks that they did.”

For extensive coverage on Rice’s journey to Syracuse, you can read The Philadelphia Inquirer’s article here.

Photo credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer