Ray Rice could’ve become one of the best short running backs in NFL history along with Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren Sproles.
Instead, Rice’s name is forever shrouded in controversy.
The diminutive 5’8″ Rice broke several school records with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights before embarking on a pro football career with the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice racked up four straight 1,000-yard seasons and earned three Pro Bowl nods and two Second-Team All-Pro selections in six seasons in the Charm City.
He also helped the Ravens win their second Super Bowl title following the 2012 NFL season.
Just when Rice reached the pinnacle of his pro football career, things quickly took a turn for the worse when he was embroiled in a domestic assault case in February 2014.
Rice never played another down in the National Football League since then. It’s unfortunate his scandal has had more questions than answers since it first made headlines almost a decade ago.
Raymell Mourice Rice was born to parents Calvin and Janet in New Rochelle, NY on January 22, 1987. He has three siblings: his brothers, Markell and Durell, and their sister, Durasia.
Ray couldn’t wait to get out of his mother’s womb. Janet Rice told ESPN’s David Picker in the fall of 2011 that he always kicked her. She also referred to Ray as her “Blizzard Baby.”
Janet went into labor during the blizzard of 1987. It was so bad she barely made it to the hospital. When Ray finally came out, he was born six weeks early.
Rice and his family resided in an apartment in a part of the city known as “The Hollows.” They relied on welfare to get by.
He had a tough childhood. When he was just one year old, an assailant gunned down his biological father Calvin Reed in a drive-by shooting in Mount Vernon, NY, per BaltimoreRavens.com’s Ryan Mink (via BaltimoreBeatdown.com’s Zachary Beard).
When a judge sent the killer to prison three years later, Rice’s family discovered Reed wasn’t the intended target. It was a case of mistaken identity.
The Man of the House
After Rice’s father died, his mother Janet told him he became the man of the house. It was a responsibility Ray Rice never took for granted.
When Ray Rice was three years old, he remembered trying to wake up his grandfather John, to no avail. He had passed away while he was sleeping in their apartment at The Hollows.
Rice told The Baltimore Sun’s Jamison Hensley in 2009 that he began playing running back when he was seven years old.
One year later, he began sweeping hair at a local barbershop and washed dishes at a catering hall to help make ends meet.
Rice looked up to his cousin Myshaun Rice-Nichols as his surrogate father after his biological dad Calvin Reed passed away. Rice-Nichols was ten years Rice’s senior. The former lived with Ray and his mother after his own mother passed away due to brain cancer.
Rice and his cousin became inseparable. They played sports and sang rap songs together.
Rice-Nichols’s musical influence on his younger cousin wasn’t surprising. He was a rap artist known as S.U.P.E. (“Spiritually Uplifting People Everywhere”). His songs revolved around motivating people despite their tough circumstances.
Former New Rochelle/NFL star Ray Rice is here to support Lou DiRienzo. pic.twitter.com/VKReDwhr1w
— Varsity Insider (@lohudinsider) November 14, 2019
Myshaun constantly motivated Ray to pursue his dreams. A 21-year-old Rice-Nichols eventually signed his first record deal and brought his fiancée and two young daughters to the West Coast.
Sadly, tragedy struck again when Rice-Nichols and his fiancée perished in a car accident on St. Patrick’s Day 1998. Ray Rice was just eleven years old.
Ray had “S.U.P.E” tattooed on his right bicep several years later as a tribute to his late cousin.
“He didn’t get a chance to finish his dream,” Rice told the Ravens’ official website (via BaltimoreBeatdown.com) in 2011. “I want to finish my dream.”
Janet and Ray dealt with the ordeal the only way they knew how—through hard work and determination. Janet took on several jobs while Ray continued sweeping floors at the local barbershop.
According to the New York Post’s Brian Lewis, Ray Rice grew up attending St. Paul FBH Church where his Aunt Denise is a pastor. The church was Rice’s refuge whenever the burdens of life weighed heavily on him.
Pursuing His Dream
Ray Rice attended New Rochelle High School in his hometown. He played point guard for the New Rochelle Huguenots’ basketball team. With Rice directing the flow of the offense, he led them to the state title in the 2003–04 season.
Rice starred at running back for Huguenots’ head football coach, Lou DiRienzo.
Rice became an explosive running back when he entered the National Football League in 2008. He knew he was cut for the gridiron rather than on the basketball court because of one major factor: his height.
When Rice was in eighth grade, he stood 5’7″. He grew just one more inch by the time he reached adulthood. He knew deep inside playing basketball would hurt his chances of becoming a star athlete.
“I knew it would hurt me playing basketball,” Rice told Hensley some eight years later. “But I never questioned playing football. It’s just something that comes natural. Size doesn’t matter.”
It was around this time when Ray Rice worked as a summer camp counselor to help his mother Janet with their monthly expenses.
Rice remembered the time when he gave $150 to his mother at the end of the week—the fruit of his hard work. He learned about manly responsibilities years before he reached adulthood.
“He was so proud,” Janet Rice told Mink (via BaltimoreBeatdown.com). “Ray stepped into some big shoes at a very early age. He was a man before he was a boy.”
Ray Rice met his future wife Janay Palmer when he was 15 years old. During the peak of Rice’s high school football career, he typically woke up at five in the morning and run up and down the stairs at The Hollows to train, per NYMag.com’s Steve Fishman.
When Rice was in high school, he came home one day and saw his mother crying. It turned out her manager fired her from her job at a daycare center because she asked for a raise.
Rice told ESPN seeing his mother break down had a profound impact on him. However, he never resorted to fast money or the streets to make a living.
Instead, Ray Rice promised his mother, Janet, that he would play in the National Football League one day and take care of her financial needs. His premonition came true some five years later.
After scoring 31 touchdowns during his senior year at New Rochelle High, he earned Madison Square Garden All-Heisman Team honors.
Choosing a College
Unfortunately, college football recruiters had reservations about Rice because of his diminutive stature. Rice ultimately chose Rutgers University because he had a chance to shine on offense.
Rice told Fishman in the spring of 2014 that he felt he had an opportunity with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights despite their ineptitude in recent years.
“My goal when I went there was for people to say ‘Ray Rice’ and ‘Rutgers football’ in one sentence,” Rice told NYMag.com.
Ray Rice took one major step toward accomplishing his dream of playing in the National Football League. Before that materialized, he made a name for himself with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the collegiate level.
College Days with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Ray Rice attended Rutgers University from 2005 to 2007. He became the Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ No. 1 running back under head football coach Greg Schiano.
Rice also helped put Rutgers football on the map during his three-year tenure.
Despite Rice’s 5’8″ stature, he proved to everyone he belonged in the college football ranks. He had a combined 412 yards on the ground against the Connecticut Huskies and Cincinnati Bearcats as a true freshman in 2005.
Rice finished his first year on the college gridiron with 1,120 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Rutgers won seven games in the 2005 NCAA season but lost to the Arizona State Sun Devils in the 2005 Insight Bowl, 45-40.
Ray Rice took his play to the next level during his memorable sophomore season at Rutgers.
He had an incredible 1,794 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns in the 2006 NCAA season. To nobody’s surprise, he became a Maxwell Award finalist and placed seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting that year.
With Rice clicking on all cylinders, the Scarlet Knights matched a team record eleven wins in 2006. He had 170 rushing yards and one touchdown in Rutgers’s stirring 37-10 triumph over the Kansas State Wildcats in the 2006 Texas Bowl—the first bowl win in Scarlet Knights’ football program history.
Ray Rice punctuated his memorable sophomore campaign by earning 2006 Texas Bowl MVP honors.
At one point, Rice toyed with the idea of declaring for the 2007 NFL Draft but decided to remain with Rutgers for his junior season.
Rutgers (2006) running weak quick flip to Ray Rice out of the offset-I pic.twitter.com/m6jvRUdNQS
— Last of the Fullbacks (@TheLastFullback) May 3, 2022
Rice upped the ante as a junior with 2,012 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns and led the Scarlet Knights to an eight-win season in 2007.
Ray set a school record with 280 rushing yards and four touchdowns in Rutgers’s 52-30 win over the Ball State Cardinals in the 2007 International Bowl.
He earned his second straight First-Team All-Big East nod and became a First-Team All-American following the 2007 NCAA season.
Ray Rice decided to forgo his senior season at Rutgers and declared for the 2008 NFL Draft.
To this day, Rice holds several records in Rutgers Scarlet Knights football history, including:
- Career rushing yards (4,926)
- Rushing attempts (910)
- Career touchdowns (49)
- Touchdowns, single season (24)
- Consecutive 100-yard games (eight)
- Career 100-yard games (25)
- Career 200-yard games (six)
- Rushing yards, single season (2,012)
- Rushing yards, game (280)
Ray Rice, the best running back in Rutgers Scarlet Knights football history, would take his act to the National Football League.
Rice eventually made a significant impact with the Baltimore Ravens in a pro football career marred by plenty of controversy.
Pro Football Career
The Baltimore Ravens made Ray Rice the 55th overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Rice signed a four-year, $2.8 million rookie contract with the Ravens. He immediately made good on his promise to take care of his mother, Janet. Ray bought her a new apartment near the one where he had grown up, per ESPN.
He also bought her two cars—an Acura and Lexus—in the next two years.
Janet was a middle school teacher when Ray started his pro football career with the Ravens. Mother and son had a habit of calling each other at eight in the morning for five to ten minutes to catch up on each other’s lives.
Ray typically passed his phone to his Ravens teammates such as Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis who hollered “Mama’s boy” with Janet on the other end.
When Rice made it to the NFL, his Aunt Denise, the pastor of the church he attended during his formative years in New York, talked to him weekly. She also prayed for him before he took the field every Sunday.
A Good Beginning
Rice’s NFL career got off to a decent start in 2008. He had 819 all-purpose yards as the Ravens won eleven games under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco that year.
Unfortunately, they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2008 AFC Championship Game, 23-14.
When Rice won the job as the Ravens’ starting running back in 2009, his career took off by leaps and bounds.
In honor of it being Chargers week for the Ravens, here’s “Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle” pic.twitter.com/zgpgvPZWVs
— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) October 12, 2021
Aside from Rice, there were only four other No. 1 running backs shorter than 5’10” in the National Football League in 2009: the San Francisco 49ers’ Frank Gore (5’9″), Jacksonville Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew (5’7″), Houston Texans’ Steve Slaton (5’9″), and Carolina Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams (5’9″), per The Baltimore Sun.
The diminutive Rice racked up four consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons from 2009 to 2012. He averaged eight rushing touchdowns per year including a career-high 12 in 2011.
Rice also emerged as a pass-catching threat with a combined 2,440 receiving yards during the aforementioned four-year stretch.
Ray Rice earned several accolades during the peak of his NFL career, including three Pro Bowl berths, and two Second-Team All-Pro honors.
He had 78 all-purpose yards in the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Rice earned his first and only Super Bowl ring. He dedicated the victory to his high school coach, Lou DiRienzo, his college football coach, Greg Schiano, and retiring Ravens linebacker, Ray Lewis.
Rice told USA TODAY Sports‘ Gary Ahern in the aftermath of Baltimore’s second Super Bowl win he credited Lewis with teaching him how to act as a professional.
A Family of Pranksters
Rice’s mother, Janet, admitted to ESPN she was a prankster her entire life. It was apparent that her son Ray inherited that trait from the get-go. He first pranked her when he came out of her womb six weeks early.
Fast forward twenty-four years later, Rice pranked his mother again. This time around, he tackled his mom in front of several kids from his hometown whom he invited for a tour of Baltimore’s training facility. Janet Rice burst out laughing after her son tackled her.
When Ray took his mother and three siblings to the Bahamas for a vacation in the summer of 2011, he smothered her face with baby powder while she was sleeping. Not content with his misdeed, Rice took photos of her face and showed them to his family members.
When Picker asked Rice why he loved pranking his mother so much, he had a straightforward answer.
“Because she does it to me,” Rice told ESPN in 2011. “I’m very proud to say I’m a mother’s boy. I am a certified mother’s boy with a check on it.”
For the Children
During Ray Rice’s pro football career, he hosted an annual spring football clinic for kids in his hometown of New Rochelle, NY. He also donated equipment to the New Rochelle Huguenots, his high school football team, per the New York Post.
Rice and Palmer welcomed their first child Rayven—named after himself and the Baltimore Ravens—in 2012.
Rayven was a fussy baby who kept Janay up most nights. She resented the fact she was carrying most of the parenting load by herself. Janay told Ray in no uncertain terms that he had to change more diapers, per Fishman.
On the other hand, Ray was busy even off the gridiron. His days off were packed with charity events that sapped his energy by day’s end. Since he had to go to practice the following day, he just went to bed when he got home in the evening.
That trend eventually changed several years later when Rice became more active in child care since they didn’t have a nanny.
A Regrettable Mistake
Janay Palmer told NYMag.com she wanted to spend Valentine’s Day alone with Ray in February 2014.
Instead, Rice brought along his half-brother, his girlfriend, and another couple from Baltimore to a getaway in Atlantic City, NJ that month. An annoyed Palmer didn’t let Rice know she was stewing during their three-hour trip from Baltimore to New Jersey, per NYMag.com.
Alas, things eventually reached a boiling point that ultimately decided Ray Rice’s fate in the National Football League.
TMZ Sports obtained a video of Ray Rice apparently dragging Palmer from an elevator in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, NJ on February 15, 2014.
New Jersey police arrested both Rice and Palmer for assault after they told TMZ Sports they have footage that proves they attacked each other.
The Baltimore Ravens released Rice while the National Football League suspended him indefinitely on September 9, 2014.
The Associated Press obtained a video from Atlantic City, NJ police showing the couple screaming obscenities at one another that same week. The surveillance video shows Palmer apparently spitting at Rice’s face before he strikes her unconscious.
Rice and Palmer settled their differences and got married several weeks after their controversial altercation.
Rice also underwent therapy with Dr. Paul Ball, a pastor who told NYMag.com the former Ravens running back “was in a very dark place” and was sorry for his actions.
Ray Rice appealed his indefinite suspension seven months after the unfortunate incident. The league overturned the suspension in the fall of 2014, per ESPN’s Jane McManus.
Unfortunately, no NFL team signed Ray Rice. The 27-year-old Baltimore Ravens running back had played in his final down in the pro football ranks.
Done with Football
Rice came close to playing in the National Football League again. Browns head coach Mike Pettine, a former Ravens outside linebackers coach, expressed interest in giving Rice a tryout in 2015.
Alas, Cleveland demurred, and Ray was in limbo yet again. The trend happened several times during his infamous fallout from the NFL. Several coaches sent feelers to Rice only for team management to overrule them.
Rice told McManus in 2017 that he understood the process and respected the decisions higher management made.
Rice proclaimed he was officially done with football in December 2018.
“I’ll be the first one to say it—I don’t have to retire to tell you I’m done with football,” Rice told “CBS This Morning” (via People.com’s Maura Hohman). “The pressure I was under of being a star—that was the person I hated the most.”
Ray Rice had 6,180 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns on 1,430 carries during his six-year NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens.
Ray Rice, his wife Janay, and their kids, Rayven and Jaylen, currently reside in Stamford, CT. The family moved back from Maryland in 2016, per McManus.
The Rice family has two dogs: an Italian mastiff named Queenie and a smaller dog named Lady.
Janay Rice told ESPN in 2017 that she and her family live a simple life that revolves around her two kids. She and Ray watch their tones whenever they converse, so a potential disagreement doesn’t last longer than it should. The Rices also promised each other they’d resolve a conflict before they go to sleep at night.
In the years following the controversial ending to Rice’s pro football career, he worked as a volunteer for the New Rochelle Huguenots. He commuted twenty minutes three times weekly for his new job.
Instead of moping on the decision that cost Rice his NFL career, he has used it as a valuable teaching tool for mentoring young aspiring football players.
“I made the worst split-second decision of my life that I’ll be paying for a long time,” a remorseful Rice told McManus in the spring of 2017. “I try to teach about it now, and make sure that these young adults and young men, you know, never put themselves in that position.”
Keeping Fit and a Quiet Life
Ray Rice has made fitness a commitment since he last played in the National Football League in 2014. According to McManus, Rice does regular strength and cardiovascular strength training. He rides his Peloton bike in his basement, does yoga regularly, and pays attention to his diet.
Ray Rice has lived a fairly quiet life since his controversial domestic life made headlines in 2014. He owes it all to his wife Janay who has remained by his side all these years. He cannot imagine living the life he has now without her.
“I think my life would be in shambles,” Rice told ESPN three years after the infamous video leaked out. “I’d be in a very dark place.”