The game plan off the field
By Larry Sullivan II

Paris High School football coach Tyquan Rice talks to varsity and elementary football players after practice. "As a coach I want to inspire. There's a lot of absent dads, so when I coach players it's more about the message than the tone because I know they have more to give than what they're giving."

In the early hours of Thursday morning with the football field illuminated only by the field lights, Paris High School Head Football Coach Tyquan Rice, 36, arrives at Blanton Collier Stadium with two of his sons, Donovan, 15, and King, 14, to set up for the Sunrise Breakfast. The breakfast is a tradition where the seniors on the team eat a meal together with their families and coaches the day before their last home game.

While the breakfast is a celebration for the seniors, it is also a celebration of the team having the best season it has had since 2015. With an 8-1 record, the team hopes to close out the season Friday night with a win for the seniors in their final regular-season home game. While Tyquan wants to lead his team to a state championship, he is far more concerned with being a positive light for his players.

Growing up in Paris wasn't easy for Tyquan. His father was absent and he spent three years in foster care. "It was wild," he says. "I grew up in the middle of the hood ... but you appreciate things more when you grow up like that."

In his mid-20s Tyquan worked in the corrections system where he saw young men who could have avoided their mistakes if they had just a little bit of guidance.

"I felt reactive, like you react to the things these young men have done, so I decided to be proactive and make an impact before those mistakes happen," Tyquan says. His less-than-optimal childhood and his work in the corrections system drives Tyquan to be an active presence in kids' lives.

Throughout the school day kids come into Tyquan's classroom just to say hello and tell him they love him. "Love you, too," he responds.

In the off-season Tyquan runs a lawn care business. To help kids, he offers them the opportunity to work with him and be paid. One of them is Caden Morris. Tyquan is helping Caden save up for a truck and is teaching him how to drive.

Tyquan also has gone to extraordinary lengths to help another of his players, Donovan Griggs. When Tyquan received a call that Donovan might be going into the foster care system, he didn't hesitate to step in and provide him with a place to live. Donovan has lived with Tyquan for 15 months on and off over a couple of years and Tyquan is planning to officially adopt him.

"He changed my life," Donovan says. "Before him I was going down the wrong path, but since I've moved in with him everything has changed."

The Paris-Bourbon County Chamber of Commerce named Tyquan its Citizen of the Year in 2019 and Community Person of the Year in 2020. But he doesn't do what he does for the awards.

"I don't do it for the recognition. If the job paid zero dollars, I would be fine. I think it's sad to be awarded for doing something you're supposed to do."

After the Greyhounds defeat the Ludlow Panthers on Friday night 50-26 to finish the season with a 9-1 record, Tyquan addresses the team on the field.

"Hell of a season, good and bad," he says. "Hell of a season. . . I love y'all."

Tyquan drives by his childhood home where he lived after leaving foster care when he was in elementary school. He says the early adversity he faced has made him a better father and coach.

In Tyquan's truck hangs a photo of Chaynce, a 13-year-old football player who took his own life. "I've lost players before, but not like that," Tyquan says. "Mental health is such a mystery; there's just not a lot of answers."

Tyquan embraces his horse, Chaynce, named for the 13-year-old football player who took his own life. Tyquan says the stables are his place of peace. The horse is "a therapy animal, something to take my mind off of it. He came at a sad time and helped us get through."

At the Sunrise Breakfast on the football field, the senior football players, their families and coaches pray together before the meal. "Football is a family, a brotherhood. It's hard, but it's nurturing," Tyquan says.

The Sunrise Breakfast is a tradition where seniors and their families gather on the football field to share a meal the day before their final regular season home game.

Tyquan smiles as he finds out two of his players received an offer to play college football. "It felt like Christmas morning," he says. "That's what it's all about. I want every kid to be offered. Football is a tool that can change lives like generational wealth and free school."

While walking through the high school Tyquan saw a student sitting in the office and immediately went over to talk to him. "You can't find anyone better than him," Cayla Ison, a long-time friend says. "He's not just a coach; he invests in the kids."

Tyquan takes a selfie with his nephew Damien, 5, in the middle of a parade at Paris Elementary School. Damien was the foster child of Tyquan's sister, Danielle. Even though Damien has returned to his family, he still calls Tyquan his uncle.

The Paris High School football team warms up before their final regular final season home game. The team hopes to finish the season 9-1, which hasn't happened since 2015.

Tyquan coaches a player during a timeout. When he first started coaching at Paris High School the team had only eight players so he used three trash cans to stand in for three players in order to have all 11 positions filled.

Taquan talks to quarterback Tray Murrell during a timeout. Outside the team's locker room hangs a plaque that reads: "Every youngster needs a light by which he may find the way."

Tyquan and the Greyhounds defeated the Ludlow Panthers 50-26 to end the regular season with a record of 9-1. "I want to play at Kroger field, but it's up to you guys to get us there." Tyquan tells his team. Kroger Field at the University of Kentucky is where the championship will be played.