UCLA's Rice Jr. to make debut

LOS ANGELES — The name on the back of Jerry Rice Jr.'s UCLA jersey is an awfully heavy thing for a walk-on receiver to carry on his shoulders.

The Bruins are grateful it hasn't slowed him down at all, because it's time to see what the son of the NFL's greatest receiver can do.

After nearly three years on the practice squad doing the grunt work expected from any walk-on, Rice is expected to play in the Rose Bowl for the first time on Saturday when the Bruins host California.

"I've been pretty mentally prepared for a long time," Rice said after ditching his practice-squad gear and wearing his own jersey — No. 88, not his dad's famed No. 80 — during practice this week.

"I know the playbook a lot, but it's going to be different," Rice said. "I know when it gets closer to the game, I'm going to get more anxious, more excited, more nervous, all those things will come up, so I make sure to keep level-minded and be ready for anything."

Rice's opportunity arose after four top UCLA receivers — Taylor Embree, Randall Carroll, Shaquelle Evans and Ricky Marvray — were suspended by the Pac-12 for participating in a brawl last week at Arizona. The Bruins' roster is enviably deep with receivers, but the suspensions put Rice onto the depth chart right behind starters Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith.

"Jerry has a golden opportunity," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Jerry Rice Jr. has done everything we've ever asked him to. He just needed an opportunity, and now he's got one. He'll play every play if we ask him to."

Rice has been hard at work to earn this opportunity ever since arriving at UCLA in 2009. His coaches and teammates say he has none of the attitude or entitlement that might be expected from the namesake of the San Francisco 49ers' Hall of Famer, and his talent has grown to the point that he earned a scholarship for next year.

Rice grew up in Atherton, Calif., an upscale Bay Area enclave on the Peninsula between the 49ers' Santa Clara training complex and Candlestick Park. He played well on both sides of the ball at the elite Menlo School, but wasn't heavily recruited until Kansas State and Air Force offered scholarships late in his senior year.

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