“There have been times when I’ve felt defenseless,” confesses Rice. “My back was against the wall because of the odds I was facing.”
Because of his smaller stature, Ray could have been a prime target to be bullied or disrespected on the football field, but his life experiences taught him to continue to work hard to achieve success.
The eldest of four, the New Rochelle, N.Y., native was forced to grow up quickly, suffering through some extreme tragedies at a young age.
Back in 1988, when Rice was only a year old, his father, Calvin Reed, was killed in a drive-by shooting. It was later discovered that Calvin wasn’t the target – he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Tragically, Ray never got to know his father.
In the succeeding years, Ray’s cousin, Myshaun Rice-Nichols, who was 10 years his senior, had become his father figure. The pair spent a good deal of time together, enjoying life and chasing dreams, until tragedy struck again.
Ten years after Ray lost his father, Myshaun and his fiancée were killed in a car accident. At the tender age of 11, Ray was once again without a male role model, and the loss of his cousin caused him extreme pain.
Rice became a first-time father in January of 2012 when his daughter, Rayven, was born. Drawing on experiences of growing up without a father, Ray has made it his duty to be ever-present in his Rayven’s life. While his fiancée, Janay, was in school last year, Ray spent a lot of time during the season with his little girl. It was a special bonding time for them.
“She’s in control and out of control at the same time,” Rice explains. “But, she’s truly a bundle of joy. We have so much fun together, and now, anytime she sees anything football-related, she thinks it’s me. It’s pretty cool.”
Ray’s mom, Janet Rice, has been ever-present in his life. Even to this day, the two talk on the phone every morning before Janet leaves for her job as a teacher’s aide for special needs middle school students.
As a single mother of four, Janet has always worked hard to give her children the best life she can give them. Ray has learned a lot from her, not only because of her hard work as a single mother, but because of the job she is driven to fulfill.
“I have a passion for working with special needs kids, just like Ray has a passion for football and his community,” explains Janet.
Rice asserts that his mom has taught him so much about being a good parent. His respect for how she raised him and his siblings is clearly evident, both in the way he fathers Rayven and the way he lives his life—both on and off the football field.
“As rough as life sometimes gets, she always gets up each morning and does her job,” says Ray. “It’s truly a blessing for her to go out and work with her special needs kids, and they truly have become her kids. I told her if she wanted to retire early, she could, but this is her calling.”
When Ray heard the story of Howard County’s Grace McComas, the 15-year-old who ended her life in 2012 after being bullied through social media, it really hit home for him. His little sister had recently dealt with bullying at her middle school in New Rochelle, and he had learned about other bullying stories that had been so destructive.
Already an active member in the community, Ray realized that with his unique platform, he had a special calling. He needed to do something to raise awareness for the ever-growing problem of youth bullying, particularly via social media.
“It’s something I’m very passionate about. The bullying is literally tearing down our young society,” laments Rice. “Kids feel defenseless. They feel cornered, and they either want to take their own life, or they’re taking others.
“That’s why I feel it’s such a big cause.”
Together with the McComas family, Rice held two anti-bullying rallies last year in April and May and then helped lead the charge with Maryland legislators to pass Grace’s Law, in honor of Grace, which states that cyberbullying is a criminal offense.
“I try to stay in contact with the McComas family as much as I can,” shares Rice. “That was the most tragic of incidents I’ve been a part of with bullying. The way that family handled it – wow. I have a lot of respect for them. They had my heart throughout the whole time. Anytime they needed me, I tried to be there for comfort and support to show them that there are people out there who do care.”
Now – as he has for so much of his life – Ray wakes up and makes a conscious effort to be positive and kind to others. He truly believes in positive reinforcement. When he enters the Ravens’ training facility every day with a smile, he wants to transfer his energy to those around him, knowing he is blessed to be in a special position.
“Everybody goes through stuff, and I think a good smile, staying positive and surrounding yourself with positive people definitely helps you deal with the situation you might be going through. And I believe that positivity is contagious.”
Rice has utilized powerful social media tools to help get his message out, using Facebook and Twitter to foster a greater awareness for the very prevalent issues of bullying in schools.
He also hosted another anti-bullying/pro kindness rally on Friday night at Towson University’s new SECU Arena and continues to show his support and make an impact in people’s lives.
“It means a lot to me that he is a leader for all of the young people both in Baltimore and here in New Rochelle,” says Janet. “Whenever my students hear that Ray will be visiting, they can’t wait until he comes, and then when they see him, they run up to him when he gets there.”
“When I give back to the community, I feel like it’s a tie that you’re supposed to have,” Ray explains. “I learned a long time ago that my calling was to help. Now that I have the means, I like to get my story out there to share that I’m a survivor.”
In five-plus NFL seasons, Ray Rice has not only survived, he’s made a huge impact on so many people, and he plans to continue that charge.