Mack signs with Pembroke
Rick Mack had to go about things a bit differently on the football field. He didn’t have the physical size many players at his positions have.
But he didn’t let that deter him. He was determined to excel at the high school level and now, after a standout career at Southwest Guilford and High Point Christian, has signed to continue at the NCAA Division II level with UNC Pembroke.
“It's a blessing,” says Mack, the son of Tracy and Steve of High Point. “I just want to thank everybody who helped me. It was a long journey. It's just unbelievable how it's turned out like this.”
Mack, who also played basketball throughout his high school career and dabbled in baseball through middle school, started playing pee-wee football when he was 8 years old growing up in Baltimore, Maryland.
As he went through middle school and into high school, he started having more success and attracting more attention from coaches and schools. So, he started focusing more and more on football and working on the things necessary to improve.
“Anything having to do with football I liked doing it,” he says. “Working out early in the morning, practicing before and after school, working out during the hot days of the summer – I just had to have that work ethic.”
Some of that came from him not having the size many other players had. So, he realized he had to hone his skills differently and work that much harder at becoming a better football player.
“Not many colleges are going to take a 5-foot-7, 160-pound running back/receiver,” he says. “I had to do things that 6-foot receivers wouldn't be able to do, like work on speed and strength. I didn't weight train seriously until junior year. Then, I just got stronger and that really helped.”
At High Point Christian, Mack, a running back, receiver and defensive back, helped build a young program into one that reached the playoffs for the first time his junior year, during which he totaled nine interceptions on defense and 2,150 all-purpose yards.
Then, after transferring prior to his senior year, he became a focal point for Southwest Guilford as it transitioned under first-year coach Eric Rainey. With his speed and strength, he thrived in helping the Cowboys compete in the rugged Piedmont Triad 4A Conference.
“I just felt like an elite player on the field,” he says. “Coaches from other teams were telling me, 'You're a great player,' and how they'd scout against me. I was really struck by that. … I kind of liked the attention. But if you're going to be a great player, you've got to show it too. And I think I showed it this season."
After earning all-conference as a junior at HPCA, he was again chosen all-conference as a senior at Southwest and earned the Rotary Club of Greensboro's Bob Sawyer Guilford County Offensive Player of the Year award after totaling 2,010 all-purpose yards.
Following the season, Mack weighed his college options, which also included Fayetteville State, Carson-Newman and Campbell. He talked with the coaches at Pembroke and set up a visit. And when it was time to make a choice, he decided he wanted to join the Braves.
“From when I first stepped foot on campus, it just felt like it was a good spot for me,” says Mack, who wants to study criminal justice or business. “The offensive coach said they need a small guy like me to help them, because they have a lot of bigger guys. So, it's just a good fit for me.”