KITTITAS — It wasn’t all that long ago when 2018 Ellensburg graduate Trevor Rice thought of himself as a bean sprout. At 6-foot-3 and a-buck-70, let’s just say he had some filling out to do.

But a little work here, a growth spurt there and a chance run-in with Eastern Washington Coyotes player-coach Scott Millenbach at the gym opened the door to something he never thought possible — a football career.

Rice played basketball in high school, never did play Bulldog football. But now as a 6-foot-4, 230-pound, 20-year-old, he has the opportunity to play organized football for the first time with the Eastern Washington Coyotes of the Washington State Football League.

It’s not the Kingdome, but the up-start Coyotes are hosting the King County Predators in the WSFL championship game at 4 p.m. on Aug. 3 at Kittitas Secondary School.

“This is going up against full-grown men, there isn’t any taking it easy on the young guy,” said Rice, who plays defensive end and special teams.

They call him Bambi because he’s the youngest player on the roster that includes 15 former players from the Yakima Mavericks (Greater Northwest Football Association) along with former Central Washington University players Daniel Gannon and Coy Chittenden.

“I get schooled every day in practice, learning the proper footwork and technique,” the first-year defensive end said. “I’d never even heard of a three-point stance or the proper hand work, but it’s better to learn it in practice than by trial-and-error in a game.”

They call it semi-pro football. Most of the players have played competitive football for years, maybe looking to extend their post-collegiate careers for as long as possible. Ages on the Coyotes range from 20 to 40, so for a guy who ha never played football, there are some challenges, but it’s still a lot of fun, he said.

“It’s definitely serious. These guys have played college somewhere,” Rice said. “Honestly, when I first stated I was living on natural instinct. But once I started learning all the techniques it started making sense. I like the contact, the competition, going against guys that are bigger, more experienced than I am.”

He’s not exactly Bambi sprawling across the ice like the first time the Disney character took a step on a frozen pond, but the football learning curve comes with some contact that has sent him elbow over tea kettle a time or two.

“It’s not like a pick-up basketball game. It’s going against full-grown men. They just happen to be truck drivers or law enforcement or have some other day job,” Rice said. “They can play and they hit hard.

“It’s been a lot of fun and it’s definitely something I think I’d like to do for awhile.”


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