OGDEN — Rathen Ricedorff is a quarterback at Weber State, but until last week, he was likely under the radar for many fans.
The road to Ricedorff’s senior season was long, arduous and filled with adversity. But he finally got some payoff as the Wildcats closed the regular season a week ago in Pocatello, Idaho.
With his team leading 9-0 in the second quarter, Ricedorff took over for sophomore Jake Constantine at the Idaho State 4-yard line with a play-call that was just for him: a quarterback run, no contingencies.
Fullback Brady May was lined up to the right, just offset from the offensive line. At the snap, linemen Ben Bos and Ty Whitworth pulled right and were joined by running back Clay Moss, who rushed up into the blocking scheme.
Ricedorff tucked away the shotgun snap at the 10 and sprinted to the right side where his teammates were plowing the road. He met no resistance until he reached the goal line, where ISU linebackers Christian Holland and Kody Graves were waiting.
“I just read it out, saw a guy in front of me and decided to try and take it over the top. It was fun,” Ricedorff said.
There was no hesitation. Ricedorff lifted off, jumped and flipped over the would-be tacklers into the end zone.
After two years as a Wildcat, the senior QB had a touchdown to his name. He hopped off the field amid plenty of congratulations from teammates. Freshman receiver Devon Cooley looked like he could have thrown out his shoulder after crow-hopping into a massive, celebratory fist-pump.
“It was awesome. I can’t really put into words how exciting it was,” Ricedorff said. “Coming off to the sideline and being able to celebrate with my teammates, just seeing how excited they were for me and for our team scoring, it was a good experience.”
For now, the play was the high point in a long journey.
Ricedorff walked on to Arizona State out of high school in Show Low, Arizona, where he led his high school team to a state title and redshirted the 2014 season after returning from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Seeking playing time, he transferred to Mesa Community College and fashioned himself into one of the country’s best quarterbacks. As a sophomore in 2016, he threw for 3,688 yards and 42 touchdowns and was named the national junior college offensive player of the year.
That drew the attention of schools like Boise State, where Ricedorff committed to finish his college career.
But after spring camp in 2017, Boise said Ricedorff had “rendered himself ineligible for the entire 2017 football season due to an NCAA rules violation, and is no longer part of the Boise State football team.”
The Idaho Statesman later reported he had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The momentum from his stellar junior-college career came screeching to a halt.
The penalty for the violation required Ricedorff to lose a year of eligibility, leaving him with, hopefully, one more year to play.
“It was a long process and I honestly didn’t know if it was ever going to come to an end,” he said. “I didn’t know if I’d have a year to play.”
He reconnected with Weber State, one of his offers out of junior college, and joined the team in 2017 but was not eligible to compete.
With the graduation of Stefan Cantwell after the 2017 season, Weber State’s quarterback position was wide-open. Ricedorff, now eligible, entered 2018 fall camp as a frontrunner for the job along with freshman Kaden Jenks and sophomore transfer Constantine.
Early in camp, Ricedorff appeared to be getting plenty of No. 1 reps and, at times, looked the most-ready prospect.
Then he pulled his hamstring.
“He’s gone through a lot and his whole career has been up and down,” quarterbacks coach Kelly Bills said. But despite the setback, Bills said Ricedorff “stayed dialed in” and was “one of the sharpest ones in meetings.”
Fast forward to Oct. 20 when Jenks lost his season to a horrific leg injury. Suddenly, Ricedorff was moved into the No. 2 role. While Constantine has smoothed out his efficiency, Ricedorff saw spot duty against North Dakota and Sacramento State before the TD against Idaho State.
“Things haven’t necessarily gone how I pictured them going my senior year, but I just do what I can to help the team — be here, work hard and do everything I can to be prepared,” he said. “That’s one of our biggest things at Weber, to out-prepare our opponent. So that’s probably my biggest job, and being ready for whenever my number is called in whatever circumstance.”
His dual-threat capabilities allow Weber to keep the change-up offense it sometimes used with Jenks.
“We’ve created a really good package for him, which makes it hard on defenses … it’s difficult for defenses to prepare for Jake and him,” Bills said.
BEING A WILDCAT
While Ricedorff surely wanted more playing time in his final college season, he said he’s grateful for how things have played out.
“I’ve loved my time here. The coaching staff, the athletic director, everyone who’s part of this program is incredible and it shows with how we’re playing this year. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” he said.
“I’ve been through adversity and they’ve been with me every step of the way. It’s been a neat experience watching them support me in everything I’ve been through.”
Editor's Note: The original version of this story mislabeled Ricedorff's 2017 season in which he was not eligible to compete. This story has been updated to remove the error.