Forrest Rhyne made a name for himself as a dominating linebacker for the Waynesboro Indians varsity football team.
He’s doing the same thing at an even higher level with the Villanova Wildcats. Rhyne, a two-time All State defensive player at Waynesboro, was named the Colonial Athletic Association Football Defensive Player of the Year.
The senior became only the fourth player in team history to earn Defensive POY honors, and, while the regular season is in the books, Rhyne and his teammates and coaches aren’t done playing yet.
Villanova (9-2) hosts Holy Cross in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs Friday. The Wildcats are the fifth seed in the 24-team tournament field. Villanova also made the postseason in 2019.
“I think it’s definitely a good feeling for sure,” Rhyne said of the individual recognition he received from the award. “Just to see the hard work I put in; it’s also recognition for those who invested in me: my mom, my brothers, my coaches along the way, the coaches and players on the team, friends who supported me. It’s really a recognition for everyone.”
You only have to look at Rhyne’s numbers to see why he not only made the short list but why he was named Player of the Year. The big number is tackles. He had 112 of them in 11 games. More than that was his presence on the field and the attention he received from offenses, which created opportunities for other defensive players to make plays.
Rhyne, a three-time CAA First Team Defense honoree, has been looked upon as a team leader. He was named team captain as a junior, a rare honor bestowed on a player who is not a senior. His field awareness is second to none, and, one of his best games came on national television against Penn State. He had 11 tackles in that game and drew the admiration of commentator and former Penn Stater Matt Millen.
“That was a surreal moment,” Rhyne said of playing at Beaver Stadium. “Walking on to Beaver Stadium is something I will always remember.
“Each win has meant so much to me this year. I have the potential to play more in the future. You never know when your last football game is. This is my last year of eligibility. It’s been my dream since I was a kid to play in the NFL and take care of my family financially. Is there more? What more can I get out of myself? I can’t be complacent.”
Rhyne is a graduate student, having already received his bachelor’s degree in communications.
A lot has happened to the second of four brothers in the Rhyne family in just the past week. Last week, the Wildcats won the Colonial Athletic Association championship and earned an automatic berth in the FCS playoffs. Then, Rhyne was named Defensive Player of the Year.
And, in a subject Rhyne addressed but didn’t dwell on because of the playoffs, there is the matter of Rhyne’s potential career in the pro game.
“We’ve had all 32 teams come in, sit down and talk with a couple team members, including myself,” Rhyne said. “We’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks. Right now my focus is on Holy Cross.”