On May 21, 2018, Reece Rollins died in an auto accident while on a bear-hunting trip in Idaho. He was 22 years old.
Friday night, before Ridgeview and Ashland square off on the gridiron at Ridgeview High in Redmond, the school and team that Rollins once starred for will honor him by formally naming the football field after him.
“It’s not very often that you get to honor a student like Reece,” said Ridgeview principal Lee Loving. “It’s very humbling to be able to do it.”
Ridgeview’s 2013 Class 4A state championship team, of which Rollins was a member, will also be honored. As many as 31 of the 43 members of that team are expected to be in attendance to celebrate their achievements as well as pay tribute to their fallen teammate.
It took all of one play for Rollins, a junior running back and linebacker for the Ravens, to put his stamp on the Ridgeview football program. In 2012, on the first offensive play of the team’s inaugural season, Rollins rushed for a 65-yard touchdown, his first of two touchdowns in the Ravens’ 53-6 win over Medicine Hat High of Alberta, Canada.
As a senior, Rollins made the switch from running back to tight end when the Ravens found themselves needing help on the offensive front. Because of his toughness and strength, forged in the weight room, and because he was a quick learner, it was a natural move.
The move paid off: Rollins went on to be a first-team all-state tight end, helping Ridgeview to a 13-1 season that ended with a victory in the state championship game, in which he caught a touchdown pass.
“One of the most unselfish players,” said Guy Millington, then and still an assistant on the Ravens’ coaching staff. “The second year, we needed a tight end and he was 100% good with it. He was a player that would do anything to help the team.”
Honoring Rollins will extend further than naming the field after him. Rather than retire his jersey number, the team decided to start a new tradition.
Each year, the No. 18 jersey — the number Rollins wore in his two years playing for the Ravens — will be worn by the player who best exemplifies Rollins’ traits.
Rollins’ impact at Ridgeview went beyond the playing field. He was a gifted artist — recognized in particular for his work in ceramics — and was a respected leader at the newly opened school.
Loving recalled a time when a student accidentally dropped a piece of paper in the hallway. Rollins picked up the paper, chased down his schoolmate and asked if he needed the paper or if it could be thrown away.
“It was the little things,” the principal said.
When Ridgeview High opened its doors in fall 2012, building a positive culture was a high priority for administrators and staff. They wanted students to be enthusiastic, be proud, be invested and have character.
“He embodied those characteristics, especially being invested and having character,” Loving said of Rollins. “Uber-polite, the kind of kid you wanted in your class, in the hallways rubbing elbows with students.”
A ceremony is planned prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff between the Ravens and Grizzlies.
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