Assistant Athletic Trainer-Football, Michigan State University
“I love being of service to everyone around me.”
Everyone has a calling in their life, and individuals become passionate about what they do with that calling. Born and raised in Bronx, New York, Lionel Rice knew early on that he wanted to pursue a career in sports medicine. Initially, he wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon, but after sustaining an injury during high school football with no athletic trainer on sight, he found his calling in athletic training.
Rice attended King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training. While pursuing his degree, he was a member of the college's football team, playing as an offensive guard, and also served as a student athletic trainer. Later, he pursued his Master's Degree in Athletic Training at California University of Pennsylvania, where he served as a graduate assistant. During his time at California University of Pennsylvania, Rice had the opportunity to connect with John Norwig, the head athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who became his mentor. Norwig played a pivotal role in helping Rice gain valuable experience in NFL athletic training, and Rice worked as a seasonal athletic trainer with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings. After completing his Master's Degree, Rice served his residency as the football athletic trainer for two years at Bethune-Cookman University, and later worked as a senior assistant athletic trainer for two years at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Currently, Rice is serving as an assistant athletic trainer in football at Michigan State University, where he has been for two years.
Rice has a servant’s heart and wants to help everyone who is around him, but his pride and joy is caring for his student-athletes. “We owe our student-athletes the best treatment and healthcare in everything we do,” Rice said. Rice loves seeing his student-athletes recover from their injury and get back to the sport they love and seeing them perform at a higher level than they were before the injury. He describes the most rewarding part of his job by “creating relationships with everyone around him that he has helped out.” Many of his former athletes remain in contact with him, and he experiences great joy in witnessing their accomplishments. He loves to see his athletes get better. He loves providing clinical knowledge to his athletes to be sure they are taken care of the best of his ability. Rice loves to rise to the challenge and overcome adversity, “there isn’t a problem too big to solve. I love to be challenged. I don’t like to be comfortable. I want to provide the best care possible to my athletes.” Rice said.
Rice describes a top moment in his career back in 2021, Michigan State is preparing to play their rival in football, University of Michigan. This game is one of the biggest games of the year, and several key players are returning to the field after recovering from injury. Rice describes the intense emotions for the week and how hard they worked during their bye week to get these players back to 100% for the big game. “During the first half, we are down a good number of points, but after halftime, we came back and won. The atmosphere went crazy, and we had players coming up to me and the whole athletic training staff hugging us, thanking us for taking care of them. It was a huge deal for them because this put the team in a big post-season game to win a ring,” Rice said.
Rice has worked with many individuals in his career that he looks up to, but two individuals left a lasting impact on him: North Carolina State's Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, Dan Bellamy and Head Football Athletic Trainer at Michigan State, Rod Scott. Bellamy was Rice’s previous boss at UTSA. Rice admires Bellamy because he watched him lay out a blueprint of how to improve sports medicine at the collegiate level. Rice had the ability to learn from him how to run an athletic training room and how to push for the best resources to provide for student-athletes. Scott is Rice’s current boss at Michigan State. Scott stands out to Rice because he is the one who helped him get into the NFL and brought him in as a seasonal intern for the Jaguars. “He taught me early on how to be an athletic trainer overall, by having the personality and people connections. He also helped me grow as a man. It’s been a real blessing.” Rice said.
At Kinematic Company, we design our products to make the jobs of athletic trainers convenient as possible. We designed our SidelinER to provide a calm environment away from the crowds. Rice loves the SidelinER because “it provides privacy on the sideline. When the cameras are all around and we need that one-on-one time to make a decision, the SidelinER provides that privacy and that is big.” Rice loves the convenience of the AT Table because it folds into a dolly to help transport all his gear to the sidelines. Rice says the HydratER plays a huge role during the hot days of training camp to quickly provide water sources for all the athletes.
Here at Kinematic, we value how important athletic trainers are to the health and safety of all athletes. It’s encouraging and enriching to see how interconnected and passionate the athletic training community is about caring for their athletes. Lionel is one of the many dedicated, passionate, authentic, and exceptional athletic trainers working hard to spread awareness of this growing field.
Written by Allison Ragland