Championship football teams often start with a successful running game, and the Baltimore Ravens have exactly that. Over the past five years, running back Ray Rice has proven to be one of the NFL’s most elusive backs, averaging five yards every time he takes a handoff and reeling in 60+ passes a year. He has all the intangibles for Baltimore fans that love smash-mouth football.
Before he was drafted by the Ravens in the 2008 NFL Draft, Rice was an All-American standout at Rutgers University. During his junior year in 2007, Rice was widely considered to be a finalist for the Maxwell Award and Heisman Trophy. He went on to break a handful of Rutgers school records, including single-season rushing yardage, single-game rushing yardage, and all-time rushing touchdowns. With his rise into the collegiate spotlight, Rice quickly learned to distribute his success into the community.
“We not only play football, but we get out to the community,” says Rice. “That comes from being at school, when I was at Rutgers with Coach Schiano, we gave back to our community. Everything you see now is just a token of where we came from.”
In 2005, with contributions from Rice, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano helped turn in the first winning season at the University since 1990. As a freshman, Ray worked his way into the starting lineup during a campaign that energized the campus, and finished the season with 1,120 yards and five touchdowns. Today, Schiano coaches the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and will reunite with Rice during the first week of this year’s NFL Preseason.
“I’m sure he’ll have a game plan,” said Rice. “We have tremendous respect for one another, and when the game’s over, there’s nothing like going over to your old coach and hugging him, and saying thank you.”
Since entering into the NFL five years ago, Rice has been an active member within his community. He has given back and funded a handful of charitable foundations and events to help prevent bullying, while sustaining a proactive learning environment within the schools.
“I have my Ray Rice days, one in New York and one in Baltimore,” said Rice. “We’re doing anti-bullying and Links of Kindness, and we’re still raising money for charities to give back. Obviously there’s a lot going on with bullying, so anything else we can to do we’re glad to help out.”
In 2012, many NFL critics believed that the Baltimore Ravens window to win a Super Bowl was closing due to its aging defensive roster. More responsibility was shouldered by an explosive offense led by Rice. The highlight of the year, not only for Rice but also perhaps for the NFL, came in a November game against the Chargers in San Diego. Trailing with two minutes left and the score 13–10, the Ravens faced a 4th-and-29. Quarterback Joe Flacco sent four receivers deep into the secondary, but couldn’t find an open man. He took his only remaining option and dumped the ball off to Rice. Ray danced around six defenders for the first down to set up a game-tying and game-winning field goal.
The Ravens would go on to win the AFC East division, and defeat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
“Greatest experience I’ve had as a pro,” exclaimed Rice. “You put all of your individual accolades aside for one goal, to win a Super Bowl. It’s something no one can take away from me. I’ll take all of my individual accolades and throw them out for that one Super Bowl. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. We weren’t a losing team, we just faced adversity. Once we put it all together, and noticed we could become strong, that’s when we put it all together. It was a truly remarkable experience because it wasn’t a one man show, it was a team effort, everybody contributed. That was the greatest part about winning the Super Bowl, I won it with a great football team.”
Heading into his sixth year in the NFL, Rice can reflect on an already accomplished career. He has already compiled over 5,500 rushing yards, 39 total touchdowns, 3 Pro Bowl selections, and a Super Bowl ring. Nevertheless, he is always looking ahead into the future.
“I want to live a life of a guy that’s not stereotypical who comes into the NFL and five years out he’s broke,” says Rice. “I want to show guys that the NFL is a tool. After you leave the NFL, it’s the biggest marketing opportunity you can have to go out into the real world to do something. But guys fall behind because they’re focused on playing, that they forget there’s real world after the NFL. Coming into the league at 21, I had to figure out what I’d be doing at 31. Football is just an opportunity, and I have to take advantage. I’m looking forward to branching out into other things."