Bishop McDevitt football players gathered on a hot, humid Tuesday afternoon before the start of a recent practice behind the school in Wyncote, Montgomery County.
One deep voice could be heard from inside the huddle.
"You don’t win games on Friday,” Lonnie Rice told his teammates. “You win games in practice. We get after it now! Today! Let’s go!”
Bishop McDevitt’s motto is “Brick by Brick,” a slogan emblazoned on T-shirts and the back of helmets. It reflects both the steady progress of the team in the last few seasons and the blue-collar work ethic that head coach Mike Watkins and his assistants have tried in instill in the program.
It also is the perfect catchphrase for Rice, a senior leader who is more than just a star quarterback and linebacker. He also is the Lancers’ cornerstone.
“He does everything 100 percent,” Watkins said. “He works hard, not just in the game but in the weight room, in the classroom. He does all the right things.”
Watkins noted that before attending that Tuesday practice, Rice was part of a group of seniors who served as mentors during freshman orientation.
“He does so many things off the field that people don’t know,” Watkins said.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Rice ran for four touchdowns and passed for another as Bishop McDevitt opened the season Friday with a 34-21 win over Central.
Rice, a two-time All-Catholic League selection by the coaches and a University of Buffalo recruit, said he takes seriously his role as a leader.
“I’ve been feeling responsible since I walked in the door,” Rice said. “It’s just me. I just feel like I’ve always got to set the tone and be a leader. That’s my job and my role.
“I can just meet somebody and they could be getting ready to do something wrong and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, c’mon. You know that’s not the right thing to do.’”
Rice, who lives in the Northeast section of Philadelphia, was a youth football star who many observers pegged to attend one of the city’s established football powers.
He said he decided to attend McDevitt because of the opportunity to help build a pedestrian program to a championship level.
“I never wanted to go to a high school that was already there,” Rice said. “I could have went to various schools, things were going around about me going to various schools, [St. Joseph] Prep, Imhotep [Charter].
“But I wanted to go to a place just like this.”
Bishop McDevitt was 2-7 in Rice’s freshman season. The Lancers improved to 5-5 in 2017 and took another step forward to 8-4 in 2018, reaching the District 12 Class 2A finals before falling to nemesis West Catholic, 34-33, in double overtime.
“We haven’t beaten them in 19 years,” Watkins said of the Burrs’ dominance of the series.
Rice said the Lancers, who also feature another dynamic playmaker in senior linebacker Tyrone Fowler as well as a bevy of talented freshmen and sophomores, are primed to push through to prominence.
“Our progression has been crazy,” Rice said. “That was the goal from the jump. Come in, be a leader, help us take steps forward.
“We’ve gotten closer and closer every year. I feel like this is our year to go all the way because we’ve had a lot of bumps and bruises, overcome a lot of adversity along the way.”
The Lancers are likely to go as far as Rice leads them. He’s a dominant defensive player, recruited by Buffalo to play the Bulls’ rover position – a hydrid linebacker/safety – but also a smart, savvy, and skilled quarterback.
“He’s like a chess piece,” Watkins said of Rice’s versatility. “He’s got great size, great athleticism at a position that he has the ball in his hands constantly.
“He sees the field really well. People that think he’s just going to tuck it and run, that’s not his game. He wants to throw first.”
Rice said the Lancers’ “Brick by Brick” rallying cry is a perfect fit for his personality. He said success this season would be extra special for him because of the toil that went into building the program to another level.
“That’s why it would be so amazing,” Rice said. "I didn’t want to go somewhere and just get a handout state championship.