By Aaron Webster
There was little doubt that Mesa Community College sophomore quarterback Rathen Ricedorff was one of the nations elite offensive players in the country and the NJCAA recognized him as the Spalding NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year.
Ricedorff commanded an offense that was one of the most efficient in the country. He led the NJCAA in total touchdown passes (42), pass completions (282), pass attempts (434), pass yards (3688) and ranked second in pass yards per game (335.3 YPG/11 games). He also connected on the longest touchdown pass of the season of 95 yards against Pima in the final regular season game.
For Ricedorff, the guy was born to quarterback. He was born to lead and push teams to victory. During the 2016 season, Mesa rattled off seven straight victories, with two of those victories coming against top ten ranked teams.
Ricedorff powered Mesa past Phoenix College in one of the more impressive individual performances in recent Mesa history. Ricedorff accounted for seven total touchdowns (six passing, one rush) with all six passing touchdowns being thrown to six different receivers. He accounted for more than 475 total yards (447 pass, 32 rush) in the T-Birds 58-13 rout of the Bears.
The game that stamped Ricedorff into Thunderbird folklore was Mesa's 48-42 double-overtime victory in the Valley of the Sun Bowl against Lackawanna College. It was Ricedorffs fifth and final 25 yard touchdown pass to Darius Aguirre in the corner of the endzone on the first play of the double-overtime that finalized the victory for the T-Birds.
During the 2016 season, Ricedorff twice earned NJCAA Offensive Player of the Week while claiming the Western States Football League Offensive Player of the Week three times.
"He was the most competitive guy I've ever coached," said Mesa Head Coach Ryan Felker, "He is probably the best true duel-threat quarterback I have seen."
The incredible part of the sophomore quarterbacks story is there's still a lingering question of what could have been?
After red-shirting at Arizona State University, Ricedorff transferred to Mesa looking for an opportunity to compete and show what he could do. He didn't make his first start till the third game of the 2015 season at Phoenix College. He led the T-Birds to an emotional 55-52 overtime victory.
He earned the start the next week against Pima but little did anyone know, in what can only be deemed a freak accident, Ricedorffs throwing hand was severely damaged by a metal gate just prior to coming onto the field for the opening kickoff. To the best of what the Mesa training staff could do, they bandaged him up.
With a thick bandage on his throwing hand, Ricedorff still threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more. Immediately following the game, Ricedorff had emergency surgery on his hand that subsequently finished his season.
Healthy and ready to win, Ricedorff started every game of the 2016 season.
In his two season with Mesa, Ricedorff compiled a 11-2 record, throwing 52 total touchdowns passes (school record), had 4542 total passing yards with a 63.2 percent pass completion mark. He also rushed for five touchdowns with 369 total rush yards.
"Rathen is an amazing leader, a high character kid," Felker said, "every player on this team loved him and would follow him."
Ricedorff has signed with the Boise State Broncos, a DI member of the Mountain West Conference.