NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Ray Rice shed a few tears Saturday when his hometown New Rochelle High School joined residents, family, friends, city officials and hundreds of Ray Rice Day football campers to retire his high school football jersey, No. 5.
“I dedicated this to my cousin Shaun (Myshaun Rice-Nichols) and everyone, my mother, family and coaches who helped me along the way,” Rice said in his remarks after being presented the jersey by New Rochelle Coach Lou DiRienzo. “They say it takes the whole village to raise a child and so many people helped me.”
Rice, the lead running back for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, led the Huguenots to a New York State Class AA title in 2003 before moving on to set rushing and scoring records at Rutgers University. Several of Rice’s former Rutgers teammates, including former New Rochelle High teammate Courtney Greene, a defensive back for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, were on hand to work the football clinic.
“Ray Rice is one of those people who really relates to young people on their level,” Scott said. “It’s very important for young people to have role models who know where they come from, who they are and what they are experiencing. Ray has that special connection because the kids know he has lived the same life and been successful.”
Janet Rice moved through the morning clinic, meeting the youngsters who were learning skills from her son and the other coaches and smiled when asked about Rice’s success. She stood with family friend and another of Rice’s early mentors, the Rev. Dr. Fetson Leak, after the ceremony.
“It’s wonderful to be here with Ray and all the young people today,” Janet Rice said. “He is an example of what can happen when you work hard and have faith in yourself and those who care about you. Dreams come true – if you believe it, it shall come to be. But nothing happens if you don’t apply yourself and earn that dream. People like Rev. Fetson were there for Ray, and we are so thankful for that.”
Leak, a pastor with two Long Island congregations who works as a youth volunteer in New Rochelle, said Rice is leaving footprints for other young people to follow.
“God uses us to be mentors and I have always tried to be there for any young person who needs me,” Leak said. “The idea is to see the potential of a young person and keep them grounded. We are called to fill a void when young people need us. When Ray was young and everyone was telling him he was special, we told him that he had to prove himself with success in school before he could go on and be successful. He did and was prepared to go on to what he is doing now. He is leaving great footprints for the next generation.”
As for Rice, he recalled losing his role model, cousin Shaun, who was killed along with his wife in a car accident in 1998. Shaun was a standout basketball player at New Rochelle and wore the No. 5.
“I’m a little emotional now and wish Shaun could be here to see this today,” Rice said.