When a shoulder injury forced Super Bowl champion Simeon Rice into an early retirement, he thought his days of competitive play were over.
But more than five years after the three-time Pro Bowler left the NFL, he is challenging himself again by playing a sport he has enjoyed his entire life — basketball.
Rice, who played for five NFL teams from 1996 to 2007, will be on the Davie (0-1) roster Thursday night at 7 when the Stars host the Fort Lauderdale Sharks (0-0) in an American Basketball League game.
Rice’s road back to competitive play did take a little detour after he stopped playing football. He pursued a film career and graduated from the New York Film Academy in 2009, which led to the premiere of his original film, ‘When I was King’ in 2011.
After getting this degree and making a movie, Rice did some traveling, but his competitive juices were beginning to boil once again.
“I took a trip around the world,” said Rice, who finished his NFL career with 122 sacks. “I visited all these beautiful countries and the whole time I was there, all I was thinking about was competing.”
But he was not thinking about football. He was thinking about transitioning his skills to the court.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was a kid,” said Rice, who played pick-up games during the NFL offseason. “The more I played pick-up games on the streets, the better my game got.”
And his play sparked a big curiosity.
“I’m the type of guy who takes on challenges,” Rice said. “I wanted to test myself athletically and locate a league where I could compete at my talent level to find out what I’m made of.”
Little did he know, that league existed right in his backyard.
He found the 12-team ABL, a developmental basketball league.
“When I learned about the league and found out it was located in Florida [six teams play in Florida and six teams play in Texas], I thought OK, I can do this,” Rice said. “And the rest is history.”
But at the age of 38, Rice’s motives for joining the league are a little different than his teammates.
“Most of the guys in this league are kids looking to get a second chance at the game,” Rice said. “Me, it’s just a way of challenging myself. That’s it.”
As the first American professional basketball league to play under the rules of the International Basketball Federation, Davie Stars coach Scott Adubato said it opens up more playing opportunities.
“This league serves as a resume builder to help American teams understand international basketball rules,” Adubato said.
But Rice has a different perspective.
“After the first game I said to myself ‘mission accomplished,’ ” he said. “I got my answer, can play at a high level. Now I can go home and be at peace.”
So why come back? He said it was for the team.
“At the end of the game Coach said the team needed me,” Rice said. “It was a different challenge. I bought into the team concept.”
Adubato said the team needed Rice.
“His athleticism was there from the start,” said Adubato, speaking of Rice’s speed, power and quickness. “He proved he had the basketball skillset. But it is his natural leadership abilities that makes him such a positive influence on this team.”
Rice stresses the importance of everything from having a high level of intensity at every practice to becoming active role models in the community.
“Now that I know I can play at this level, it’s a different type of challenge,” Rice said. “It’s now understanding the game well enough to help this team to win a championship.”
The teams will play at Davie PAL Gym, 4300 S.W. 57 Terrace, Davie.
Tickets prices are $7 for adults and $5 for seniors, kids and military personnel.