DALLAS - Keaton Anderson and Jonathan Rice have spent the past five years despising each other's high school football team. Anderson, a former Florence Falcon signed with Alabama as a three-star linebacker recruit in 2015. Originally, Rice committed to Northwestern as a wide receiver from Bob Jones in Madison before eventually accepting a walk-on role with the Crimson Tide.
Florence and Bob Jones are natural rivals in class 7A, but now that these two true freshman are wearing Crimson, all hatred goes out the window.
"It doesn't matter what school school we came from, now we're here," Anderson said during Cotton Bowl media day at AT&T stadium in Arlington. "High school rivalries are out of the question, now we are all just good friends, good teammates, and enjoying it."
Rice shares a similar feeling about his new friendship from a place he never thought possible. "Once we got here and put on the same jersey. He's a good guy so if that was different we might still have the rivalry, but he's cool so we put it aside pretty easily."
The ability to move forward is helping both players with their football career. Anderson and Rice are red-shirting this season which allows for a chance to learn without having to be thrust into the spotlight right away. "Just watching them and seeing the amazing things they do, it's humbling but at the same time I'm still here. It's awesome to be in a place like this," Rice said.
Anderson realizes his chance will come if he watches how the current linebackers work every day. "I learn from some great linebackers like Reggie Ragland, Dillon Lee, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rueben Foster. Those guys are great. I'm part of a great team so red-shirting or not, I'm just blessed to be in this position."
Just because the two are friends now, it doesn't mean the rivalry is completely off limits. Bob Jones won its game over Florence this past season and don't think that went unnoticed. Anderson didn't want to comment on the most recent outcome. "I just take it back to my senior year where we won and that's all I care about."
"What was it, six years in a row that we won?" Rice said in response. "It's okay, ya'll got one."