Brice learns patience at USM

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 27, 1999

George Brice has learned many lessons since hanging up his cleats for the Natchez Bulldogs. The USM freshman has found that patience is truly a virtue during a red-shirt season.

Brice played offense and defense during his tenure with Natchez. He was a tight end and defensive end.

During his 1999 senior season, Brice and his father, George Brice Sr., compiled clips of his best plays and sent highlight tapes to different colleges.

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Before long, the colleges were interested in Brice. Aside from&160;USM, he received calls from Jackson State, Louisiana Tech, Grambling, Louisiana-Lafayette, NLU and Alabama A&M.

&uot;At first, I was real enthusiastic about all the attention,&uot; Brice said. &uot;But the constant telephone calls began to wear me down.&uot;

Former USM coach Steve Buckley made the first contact with Brice.

The elder Brice remembers when USM head coach Jeff Bower visited their home.

&uot;They (Bower and Buckley) called and said they would visit the day after the Humanitarian Bowl,&uot; Brice said. &uot;I hung up the phone and said ‘yeah right.’ Sure enough the next day coach Bower was sitting in my house talking to me about wanting my son at USM.&uot;

When time came to choose a new team, the decision wasn’t that hard.

&uot;The main reason I&160;chose USM is their attitude,&uot; Brice said. &uot;They aren’t afraid to play anyone. Coach Bower’s attitude is: suit up and let’s play. USM has a reputation of playing the tough teams.&uot;

When Brice arrived in Hattiesburg during the summer, he found out that he would be red-shirted.

&uot;At first, I really didn’t like it,&uot; Brice said. &uot;It took sometime for me to get used to not playing for a year.&uot;

The reason for the red-shirt is simple. The coaches want the 19-year-old to get bigger. Brice currently weighs 238 pounds. The coaches want Brice to put 265 pounds on his 6-4 frame.

That means plenty of eating and weight-room work for Brice.

&uot;I&160;had to change my mindset and get a new attitude. I know that the opportunity is going to come. That is the light at the end of the tunnel,&uot; he said.

Life as a red-shirt athlete means time spent on the scout team. Brice is currently listed three spots behind starting lineman, Cedric Scott.

Brice found a friend in Scott. &uot;The coaches assign a big brother to the freshman players. My big brother is Cedric. He has looked out for me while I&160;was wet behind the ears,&uot; Brice said.

Scott has proved to be a good role model and shared some of the same challenges Brice faces. USM signed Scott two years ago from Gulfport High School. Scott was a talented defensive player but was a skinny 200 pounds. Scott beefed up to 280 pounds and has become of defensive star for USM.

Brice is looking forward to this week’s festivities at the&160;Liberty Bowl. The game makes his first opportunity to travel to with the team.

&uot;We accomplished most of our goals this year. Winning the Liberty Bowl would help us take another step to become a new champion,&uot; Brice said. &uot;I’m looking forward to what lies ahead for myself and the team.&uot;