UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) – Sometimes our purpose in life is not clear.
At six-foot four, Matt Rice might not look like an underdog, but he’s played that role his entire life.
“You got to have something to figure out how to get past the odds that are already against you,” Rice said.
Growing up just outside Washington D.C., Rice had a calling, football.
“My crew was older than me, I was always the youngest guy, I always had to play tough, rough. My thing was getting people to fumble. I was the king of it,” Rice said.
But football wasn’t his only talent.
“I would draw different sketches or comic book characters,” Rice said.
An artist with skills.
“During that time not getting on the teacher’s nerves, that would also push me to get the work done as soon as I could have that time to draw,” Rice said.
Using his love of football, Rice descended upon Happy Valley, and quickly made a name for himself, finding confidence both on the field and in the art room.
“I could use my football skills to my peripheral that I could see what was going on on both ends with the students on the side, so I learned from watching other people do their work, how to clean brushes, what mixed with what,” Rice said.
After college, Rice bounced around four different NFL teams, including a stint in NFL Europe. However, just before his second season, everything changed.
“I woke up to my girlfriend crying as hard as I’ve ever seen her cry. I’m looking at her, tears pouring down, looking like a werewolf came and smacked her and it’s like, ‘Hey what’s going with you?’ And she’s like, ‘What’s going on with you?’” Rice said.
Rice had just had an epileptic seizure, and an MRI revealed a tumor on the frontal lobe of his brain, which is where artists get their abilities. Fortunately, the tumor was limited to the surface of his brain and doctors successfully removed it.
“This is a miracle I’m alive right now,” Rice said.
And then Rice made one of the hardest decisions of his life, to walk away from football.
“For me to say that to them, they thought I was insane, but if you actually have peace and you’re living your purpose. But you’re playing in the NFL, I’m like yeah but it’s slowly killing me,” Rice said.
Doctors also told Rice the tumor removal allowed his artistic talents to fully develop.
“I was able to focus on art without picking up a paint brush with a jammed finger or a busted knuckle. It’s just no limit to where I can take things and what I can do,” Rice said.
With his newfound creativity, Rice wanted to give back, so he began publishing art prints for non-profit companies and different charities.
“That’s like living my purpose, that’s bigger than me, the many things I can do that are bigger than me, that’s what I’m here for,” Rice said.
“To be able to be in a position to do more than I can imagine now, that’s everything and as far as art, I’m just beginning.”
Sometimes in life, our purpose is not clear, but for Matt Rice, he has no doubts.