The Dart: Local fire captain ready for some footballPublished 12:48am Monday, August 27, 2012
NATCHEZ — Weeks before the start of football season, Capt. Leonard Rice was meticulously planning and picking the perfect roster that would hopefully take him to the promised land.
Rice was hunkered over his laptop at the Natchez Fire Department Station No. 3 Sunday afternoon when The Dart landed on Vaughn Drive during the second round of his fantasy football league’s draft.
With Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford safely secured in his roster, Rice breathed a little easier as he picked the remaining 20 players that would take the fantasy field for the National Football League’s kickoff game Sept. 5.
Rice, along with 15 other active and retired Natchez firefighters, have been participating in their ESPN fantasy football league for nearly 15 seasons.
And those 15 seasons have come with ups, downs, cheers and jeers for Rice, also known as “Return of the Mack” by his fantasy football colleagues.
“I’ve put a lot of research into my roster this year,” Rice said laughing. “I’m just hoping Matthew Stafford can take me all the way to the promised land this year.”
Rice said the league uses a unique system of point scoring that covers all facets of the game — not just offensive or defensive scoring like some leagues use.
In the league, each aspect of the game has a point value assigned, a touchdown is worth six points, a tackle is worth one point and an interception is worth three points among others.
The user who has the most points accumulated at the end of the regular season moves on to a series of playoff games before advancing to the championship game.
The championship game, or promised land, is a place Rice has been once before and somewhere he would love to return.
“I won the championship in 2010, when I got Tom Brady who took me to the promised land,” Rice said. “I had a dynamite roster back in 2009 that would have taken me to the promised land, but I made a trade about halfway through the season that ended up costing me in the end.
“It all comes back around though.”
And when the league doesn’t come back around, Rice said he and his competitors make sure to let each other know.
“Our league is nicknamed ‘Smack League’ because we all talk a lot of smack,” Rice said laughing. “It’s all good though.”
In hopes of avoiding the smack talk and returning to the promised land this year, Rice continued along with the draft crafting his roster to capitalize on every possible point.
“The first thing is to get some offensive weapons on your roster and after that it’s all strategy,” Rice said. “I take the spread system and get key players on all the different positions.
“Like kickers would normally be the last pick, but I’m getting mine early because that’s one or three points you don’t really think about.”
Balancing the perfect roster and working a shift at the fire department hasn’t posed any problems yet, Rice said, but he does have a backup plan in case a call comes in.
“I have it set to do the picks automatically in case we have to go out on a call,” Rice said. “I haven’t had to go out on a call during a draft before, but one time my computer locked up after my first pick and it made all my picks for me.
“I actually did pretty good that season.”
And at the end of the day after all the stress of stolen picks and celebrations of secured players, Rice said the league is something he uses to keep him connected with the game he loves.
“I’ve been watching football since I was 6 years old — starting with LSU and ‘Cholly Mac,’” Rice said. “It’s addicting, because all the free time you have you’ll be checking it and watching the trades, but it’s fun.
“And if you win the championship, you get bragging rights for the next year.”