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Matthew "Blu" Rice Gone But Never Forgotten

What's up beautiful people! I come to you today with a heavy heart. An old friend of mine has just transitioned to the afterlife. His name, Matthew Nathaniel Rice. He was from Baltimore Maryland and he was a former teammate of mine at Penn State. Everyone who knew him, called him by his nickname, Blu. Blu was born February 12, 1982 and transitioned March 17, 2023. He was 41 years old.

I am sharing a little bit of our history today because I do believe our experience can help someone out there that may be struggling in a friendship, which oftentimes is the bases for any type of relationship. Me and Blu came into Penn State together in 2001 along with some guys that will be my lifelong friends like Alan Zemaitis (we talk everyday to this day!), Charles Rush, EZ Smith, Tyler Reed, Lavon Chisley, Andrew Richardson and Anwar Philips just to name a few. We clicked damn near immediately as I can remember on Junior day for High Schoolers in 1999, we locked eyes and kinda had a mutual liking for how each other was operating so when we linked back up during the summer before our freshman preseason camp, it was all love! Actually the night before we had to report we found ourselves at a graduate students going away party with all her old friends! Lol. Lets just say me, Blu, Lavon and Anwar all felt like we were the big men on campus the next day when we reported to camp lol. That was in the summer of 2001. We spent freshman year in the ghetto (its what we called the freshmen part of the locker room) and then his locker was never more than a locker or two away because our last names, Robinson and Rice were close alphabetically so the locker room became therapy for us! If you know anything about our old ball coach, Joe Paterno, you would know Joe required freshmen to stay in the dorms with other college freshmen. He wanted us to be as close to a regular college student as possible! Our freshmen dorm was Shunk Hall. Yeah all my Pollock Commons people lemme hear you!!! Lol. Fun times! Blu and Anwar were roommates right next door to me a Lamar Stewart so there was a lot of time spent with each other and understanding how each other looks at life.

Blu was 6'5, 265lbs when he was fully healthy and happy. He always had a joke or something funny to say to you when first greeting you in the a.m.! He once told me it was because he had to go through so much to make it out of Baltimore, he never wanted to waste time being unhappy or ungrateful. Now we all know people have their days but that was the foundation of the big, tall, slow moving artist we all came to love in the incoming

freshman class of 2001. Blu always had my back! And I had his! I remember after a knee surgery I had back in early 2002, we had a problem with a few fraternity guys and got into a...lets just say heated, physical fellowship lol downtown State College, in the middle of College Avenue! One of the frat guys grabbed my surgically repaired leg and Blu yelled, "HOLD UP!" I swear to you, the entire street stopped while Blu forced the guy to let go of my leg! Lol. It was like a damn movie! As I we ran/limped our way back to Shunk Hall, I remember Blu yelling, "AINT NOBODY GONNA MESS WITH MY DAWG!" Crazy, immature times. I also remember an ice skating rink "situation" I found myself in for my 21st bday. SMH. Those who know, the entire situation started from me seeing Blu (who was wearing a bright green shirt) jump over a table to help his brother out. Lol. I ran to him and through all the chaos, we made it out! Now Blu got suspended from school for half a semester and I had to run at 4am for a month but I couldn't let my homie feel like he wasn't supported.

Fast forward to about 12 years ago (I could be off a bit with my years). Me, Blu and Alan Zemaitis were back at Penn State for Blue and White weekend, which is our annual spring scrimmage. We all were so excited to be back in town, especially as grown men, winning in life! Anyone who ever came into contact with Blu understands that he has a unique way about him. He can have a way of...making you wait on him! For EVERYTHING! I am sure some out there have friends who are like this and sometimes it can cause small fires in the relationship. This particular time, Blu was being his Blu-SELF and lets just say it ended up with my rental car window broken. Yes, I had to pay for it. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, I was PISSED! The next day I drove him back to Baltimore and we hadn't spoken directly since. I say directly because if it had not been for AZ, Alan Zemaitis, who is my best friend and a guy I speak to daily, I am not sure if my pride would have ever allowed me to have the strength to call Blu. I had not realized the void because AZ was updating me on how Blu was doing every time we talked. Alan just recently told me Blu and I asked about each other ever day as he spoke to both of us daily. I had known Blu for over a decade at the time. It's really not about how long we had been friends but more about that particular time in our lives. I met him when I was 18 years old and those 5 years of college was where we learned how to be men. It literally layed the foundation for how we saw the world in our adult lives.

So today, as I have shared some really personal stories of my homie with you, I ask that you resolve simple shit that maybe getting in the way of a healthy relationship in your life. You never know when it will be too late to have the conversation of resolve. I keep fighting the feelings of regret because I believe your environment influences your reality. Your friendship groups are a part of that environment and I believe my special ability is to recognize situations and try and help create the environment best for success. That is why one of my personal mantras is BE A THERMOSTAT NOT A THERMOMETER. How I interpret that phrase is to have dominion over your environment rather than be a slave to it. Create the energy in the environment you need for success rather than wait on the right or outside circumstances to be perfect for whatever you want to happen in life. In my ripe old age of 40, I now am starting to understand that everyone is not like I am and sometimes your friends need your skillset in their life. Not from a standpoint of taking my kindness for a weakness or anything like that but from a perspective of recognizing something special about a friend and having the knowledge of self to understand what you need to succeed. One time in college, coach Paterno told me he had a meeting with Blu's dad and pops told coach to always make Blu my roommate. Lol. Coach Paterno said he asked Mr. Rice why and Mr. Rice told him because Blu and I came from "similar backgrounds" and I "understood" Blu's struggle and would make sure he went to class and staying straight. When coach Paterno told me this story it was in the middle of me being chastised for doing something stupid and coach was reminding me of my responsibility as a leader. It was one of the first times outside of the football field I felt and knew exactly what my role was to my friendship group. Coach Paterno was giving me a masterclass in leadership that day and forced me to understand that leadership extends beyond the white lines and into the classroom and into your friendship group.

For that Blu, I apologize. I apologize for not being there for you during your sickness. I apologize for not resolving our issues earlier. I apologize for not being there when your daughter was born. I apologize for not being the teammate you needed when you needed THIS teammate the most. I am sorry I just didn't pick up the phone and call you bro and tell you how much you still meant to me. I am sure I will see you again one day and please tell Pam and Howard I said hello and love them. Love you too bro. Always.


Real Mike Rob

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