Brandon Rice was an all-star wide receiver, first at Beverly Hills High School and then at UC Davis. He was drafted into the United Football League, but long-time knee issues ultimately ended his gridiron aspirations.
Patrick Hill was an award-winning fullback at the University of Miami and then played with the Tennessee Titans for two years before ultimately having his position cut from the team.
Both men were looking for new paths and ultimately gravitated to nursing. But they didn’t leave their football learnings on the ﬁeld.
Rice was in limbo following making the decision to move on from sports after years of suffering from tendonitis in his knee. “Every athlete goes through that once you decide you are done with the sport. Ten years of my life was dedicated to the sport. So then, I had to ask myself: should I use my major (exercise biology) or something else. I had no interest in physical therapy, as I had spent much of my football career in rehab, but I knew I wanted to be in the medical ﬁeld because I enjoy helping others. So that’s what interested me in learning about being a nurse.”
Hill added: “My aunt was a nurse and I found myself gravitating to volunteer in hospitals when I was in college so I had that interest. I had earned two degrees at Miami (bachelors in exercise physiology and a master’s in liberal arts with an emphasis in education) but wasn’t interested in pursuing either. When I applied to nursing school here, I had three footballs teams who had expressed interest in me. I have a chance to play and I have a chance to go to school. When my six-year old son realized that getting selected by the football team was not guaranteed and that he was not going on the road with me, he told me to choose nursing.”
Most athletes don’t think about what life will be like when sports is over.
“Education gets you so much farther,” said Rice. “It gives you so much more opportunities. And it is hard to focus on both, so for most athletes, academics is secondary. But there are a variety of circumstances that can happen so having a degree gives you a choice. Most athletes only play in the NFL for three years. Then what?”
Both said that their interactions with nurses before getting into school made the job look so easy! Rice shared: “So after football I started working in an assisted living facility and I really liked it. I was telling one of the residents that I was thinking about trying to go back to football and she said ‘no you need to become a nurse. You’re good at this.’ Then
I got a job as a unit secretary at Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital where I saw ﬁrsthand how the nurses worked. They made it look so easy. And it wasn’t until I got here that I found out how much knowledge is needed to perform the tasks to take care of patients. Getting in this program really gave me a new found respect for the intellect behind nursing.”
Hill added: “I thought that nurses were kind of like the water boys of football but I realized that nurses are the coordinators and they are really the ones that make sure the patient gets better. And if something isn’t working, they make the game play — they call the audible to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
Rice pointed out another football similarity: “The way that Peyton Manning commands the huddle is equivalent to a charge nurse on the ﬂoor; leading the team and making necessary changes throughout the game in efforts to attain a common, ultimate goal.”
Both say that the drive and initiative they put into sports is a beneﬁt to them in their nursing career. “I am applying the same hard work and dedication to nursing that I put into football,” said Rice. “And I know that if I put in the hard work and dedication, I will be working on the ﬂoor in two years.”
Surprisingly, both have found that their former pals on the ﬁeld applaud their decision. “One of my college teammates called me recently and asked a lot of questions about nursing school, because he is seriously thinking about applying,” said Hill. “And we’ll be happy to talk to any college athletes about nursing,” he added.
Following commencement, both are interested in working in the ICU. But neither one is planning on resting on their helmets. Both are looking at further nursing education, but when the time is right. In the meantime, they’ve hung up their jerseys and replaced the pads and cleats with scrubs and a stethoscope.