Carolina Still Home To Country Music Star Chase Rice


Life on tour for a musician can be a lonely one. Although you play in front of sold out crowds around the country, you can get homesick pretty quickly on the road. Luckily, for country music star Chase Rice, he will always have a home to come back to: Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina.

Rice was a linebacker at UNC from 2004 to 2008, recording 56 tackles throughout his career after coming out of high school ranked as one of the Top-25 players in North Carolina. He had his sights set on the NFL until an injury in his junior season derailed those hopes. He then turned to singing and has made quite the name for himself on the country music scene. Rice co-wrote the Florida Georgia Line hit “Cruise,” which sold more than five million copies. His single, “Ready Set Roll,” is a certified gold track, and his new album “Ignite the Night” is set to come out on August 19th. Rice has also recently teamed up with Snagajob to find an opening act for an upcoming concert as part of the Hourly Gig. He has accomplished all this in a few short years since late 2010, when Rice moved to Nashville.

“One day we’re going to come around and do NFL tours, you guys better still be playing. It might take me a minute but I’m going to come to your city.”-Chase Rice to NFL-bound teammates while at UNC

Rice says his music career started in Chapel Hill, playing guitar and singing for his teammates on the football team. Rice adds, “I was in Granville Towers, my sophomore summer. I learned to play guitar right there in Granville. I remember late nights with the guys with the football team and the basketball team and it would usually end with me on the guitar, jamming.”

He is still jamming now, just in front of large crowds of not just friends but of thrilled country music aficionados. Wherever he sings, however, he can spot the Carolina blue among the throngs of fans. “It could be Seattle, Washington, or Wyoming. I saw someone wearing a Carolina hat, and every time I see it I point to them, give them a nod, you know. I’m a Tar Heel, I always will be.”

He even outlines a time playing in Raleigh, the heart of Wolfpack country, and still finding the Carolina blue among the sea of faces. “I wore my Tar Heel baseball jersey. I went to the baseball game earlier that day, and I’m on stage rocking my Tar Heel blue. The coolest part about that was I was expecting some boos but there were all Tar Heels in the house.”

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At first, some of his teammates playfully picked on the hard-nosed linebacker who had taken up singing. But eventually, he won his teammates over with that same voice and charm that he displays on his tracks now. “It turned into a thing where I think those guys saw it turned from making fun of me to, ‘I think this is a real thing going.’ Now a lot of those same Carolina buddies come to my shows.”

Carolina immediately felt like home to Rice, who grew up in Florida before moving to North Carolina in high school. Rice grew up a Gator fan, but said of UNC, “Its unbelievable there. It has a feel on that campus that I couldn’t find anywhere else. It just felt like home.”

He redshirted his first year at Carolina before recording four tackles his freshman season in 2005. His junior year, he was penciled in to start at linebacker, but he tore a tendon in left ankle in the season opening game against James Madison and was out for most of the year. He would come back his senior year to record 20 tackles, including 11 solo stops. A majority of those came in his best game in his senior season against Duke, when he had a career high 10 tackles on the way to a 28-20 UNC victory.

Rice recalls the victory over Miami in 2004 and the two basketball National Championships in 2005 and 2009 as some of his best memories at North Carolina. However, Rice says, there was no single memory that he loves the most. “I spent five years there and I wouldn’t trade those five years for anything.”

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Rice learned a lot from all of his coaches, from John Bunting to Butch Davis to Chuck Pagano, current head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Rice offers nothing but praise for those coaches and the University that molded him for five years. “The football program was on the rise, and it still is, Coach Fedora is doing a great job there now. Butch Davis was awesome to me, John Bunting was awesome to me, I got to play under Chuck Pagano, head coach of the Colts, and with some of the top players in the world. You really can’t beat the experience than what I had there in Chapel Hill.”

Although Rice has accomplished a lot in his country music career, bigger things are on the horizon for the former Survivor contestant and NASCAR pit-crew member. He has big plans of an NFL tour one day, going around to meet up with his former Tar Heel teammates and having some fun while doing it. “I remember walking around the locker room in Kenan and I’m telling all the guys, Bruce Carter, T.J. Yates, you know, all the NFL guys, Hakeem Nicks, I was like, ‘I’m telling y’all boys, one day we’re going to come around and do NFL tours, you guys better still be playing. It might take me a minute but I’m going to come to your city.’”

Another dream of his involves the place that he fell in love with on recruiting trips as a teenager. “Chapel Hill is still in me today and hopefully one of my best memories hasn’t happened yet. I’m trying to work it out one day playing Kenan Stadium and sell that place out.” No matter how far Rice travels in his singing career, or how many miles he logs on tour, he will always want to return to that special place he calls home.