Javan Rice (R) with parents during visit to Vanderbilt.

Javan Rice’s road to committing to Vandy was an interesting story. Vanderbilt special team's coach Jeff Genyk needed a good kicker who was also high character and scholastically sound. Miami kicker Rice was looking for a school with strong academics and great football coaching. Jamie Kohl of Kohl's Kicking found the perfect match.

Vanderbilt special team’s coach Jeff Genyk, who’s been coaching specialists for years at the college level, was looking for a kicker that could take over those duties after veteran Tommy Openshaw’s eligibility is completed following the upcoming season. Genyk, a bright coach who has built an excellent network of contacts, turned to one of the nation’s leading authorities on kicking, Jamie Kohl of Kohl’s Kicking. Genyk required a player who was high character, a great student, and an outstanding kicker. Kohl found just the guy for Vandy.

“Coach Kohl and coach Genyk had been in contact for a while,” Rice said. “They just kind of went down the list and got to me.”

Genyk traveled to Miami and visited Rice’s school. There he talked to Rice and his coaches, counselors and even the principal. A couple of weeks later an offer was extended to Rice.

Rice visited Vanderbilt on June 13. During the visit, he felt at home and knew it was the place for him.

“As soon as I got there and looked around and spoke to coach Mason I knew that was where I wanted to be,” Rice said.

Even so, he took a couple days to think things over before making his commit in order to make sure it was the right move.

In the end, the strong Vanderbilt academics, playing in the SEC and Vandy quality coaching staff enticed Rice to head north to Nashville after high school.

“The coaching staff is more focused on off the field because winning on the field is good but football is only going to last you four years, Rice said. “Vanderbilt is kind of like an Ivy in terms of it’s a 40-year decision. The formation is more than just a football player; you’re not there just as a football player, you’re there as a student first, as a man, as a son, as a brother and then you’re an athlete after that.”

Rice comes from an athletic family of seven. His dad player rugby. Rice’s older sister is a national championship rower, his older brother played on a soccer state championship hampionship team and was all-state. He’s now at Princeton and won an Ivy League title there. His little brother is a football, soccer and volleyball player. His younger sister does it all as a swimmer, softball, and soccer player. Rice says he’s tried to get her to kick with them but she doesn’t want to do it.

Rice booms a kickoff.

On the field Rice is a winner who has the range needed at the college level. As a junior, he connected on 9 of 13 field goals with a long of 49 yards. An impressive 6 of 9 of those made field goals were longer than 40 yards. He led his team in scoring with 51 points. After the season he earned second-team All-State and second-team All-Dade County honors.

Rice attended two of the Kohl kicking camps over the past few months and worked hard to improve his abilities and standing among college kicking prospects. Camp director Jamie Kohl spoke with about his development.

“He has matured physically quite a bit in the last six months and his ball flight was higher and more consistent than it had ever been,” Kohl said. “He really separated himself and moved into an elite category as a kicker. His frame [6-3, 190] as an athlete is very intriguing to college coaches. I feel that his kickoffs and hang time and distances started coming to the point that he separated himself from the pack. I think that is a big part of the reason Vandy really liked him and wanted him.”

While Rice’s offer list isn’t staggering by any means with offers from Vanderbilt, FIU and Army, it’s tough for specialists to even get an offer at the FBS level. Many teams obtain kickers by inviting them as preferred walk-ons. Because of Vanderbilt’s yearly tuition which approaches $100,000 it must go the scholarship route to obtain reliable kickers. Yale, Harvard, Syracuse, Florida, Boston College, Indiana, and California were also interested in Rice’s services.

Asked if he would visit other schools Rice replied with a firm, “I’m shutting it down.”

Overall, Rice and Vanderbilt do appear to be the perfect match. Vandy’s coaches get an excellent kicker who they won’t have to babysit academically or worry about off the field transgressions. Rice gets a school that provides him all the best both in the classroom and athletically, a school that will set him up for success for the next 40 years.

For a complete list of 2018 Vanderbilt commits click HERE.


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