Born in Bakersfield and raised in Oildale, Jim Rice attended Beardsley Jr. High and entered North High in 1954, the school’s second year of existence. There, he and became one of the all-time “Stars,” a three-sport athlete, excelling in football, basketball and track and field.
Although just 5’10” and 155 pounds, Rice was a fierce competitor in football, playing running back and defensive back. In those days, you were placed on a team level according your height, weight and school year. So it wasn’t until his senior year that he was classified as a varsity player. But he quickly became known as one of the toughest guys on the team, attracting the attention of colleges.
He played two years of varsity basketball at guard, then was an all-around performer in track and field, shining in nearly every event he tried.
He received a scholarship offer from the University of California at Berkeley, but enrolled at Bakersfield College as a freshman. In those days, freshmen could not play varsity sports in four-year colleges, so he tried to play his freshman year at BC. But one day, after practice, he became paralyzed from the waist down.
His parents initially thought it was from football, but it turned out to be polio. He was in a coma for several weeks and the doctors later told him he would never walk again.
While in the hospital, BC’s football coach Homer Beatty paid him a visit and told him he could beat it because of his work ethic and determination. Miraculously, after extensive and painful treatments and rehabilitation, Jim was back on the football field.
Although Homer Beatty had left BC, Rice went on to have a great career at BC as a defensive back, special teams player and occasional running back. He played on the 1959 Renegade team that beat Tyler, Texas JC in the Junior Rose Bowl in Pasadena. In that game, he intercepted a pass and ran it back to the 7-yard line where his old North High teammate, Terry Hill, ran it in for a touchdown. That team included other former North High teammates Vern Burke, Bobby Ezell and Lloyd Mosley.
In 1960, Jim married his high school sweetheart, Carol Myers, and was out of football for two years. He received a call from Fresno State coach Cecil Coleman, who convinced him to come play for the Bulldogs. Jim started at cornerback for two years and had a team-leading nine interceptions during that time.
One of his favorite sports was water skiing and during the summer after graduation he won the National Jr. Boys Championship at La Port, Indiana. He repeated again in 1959 at San Diego. While a student at Fresno State, he came out of retirement and competed and won in all three events, slalom, tricks and jumping. During his skiing career, he won over 200 events, stacking up more than 50 trophies.
Jim and Carol now reside in Boise, Idaho, where he has built a very successful real estate business and is an avid fisherman and hunter.