“He was destined to be here,” adds his mom Janet, who often proudly dons her son’s No. 27 at most games. “My sister says he was born with a purpose, and for a purpose, and that’s to do what he’s doing now — play ball. God has given him a gift.’’
But it’s one Ray Rice prides himself on sharing with others. All his generosity is known to extend far beyond the confines of the brick-level home and the high-end vehicles he’s purchased for family.
Every spring, he hosts a football clinic for kids in New Rochelle where he personally drops by with gifts for all and to donate much-needed equipment to his old high school team. “Ray’s very big in this town,’’ said Lou DiRienzo, his former high school coach. “Ray has tremendous personality and a smile that fills up a room. People are endeared to him. From when he was little, he’s a fun guy people like being around. … What he means is a role model.’’
During NFL season, on any given Monday DiRienzo might wander into his office and find Rice already there— not to mention the likes of Ravens’ star quarterback and Rice teammate Joe Flacco.
“It gives kids a sense of hope, that with hard work you can make it,” 31-year-old Jermaine Hollis, who has known Rice since they were young, told the Post. “He’s always motivated kids to do well. He always comes back and shows love.”
Showing love and displaying commitment, it’s part of the reason why even now, caught up in the wave of emotion that is Hall of Fame bound teammates Ray Lewis’ “last ride,” many observers look for Rice to spell the difference come Sunday.
“Ray Rice is the heart and soul of the Ravens’ offense, said former Pro Bowl back and current Yahoo! sports radio analyst announcer Eddie George. “He doesn’t get enough credit for what he means to that team.”
Nor the strife he’s had to endure and overcome just to still be in the game.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.