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Rice Defies the Odds


To state the obvious, parents pass their genes on to their children.

At 4'11" it would surprise no one if Janet Rice's children never shopped at a Big and Tall store.

Certainly no one would bat an eye if none of her children played in the NFL, a league constantly boasting bigger, faster and stronger professional athletes.

But this diminutive mother of four is one of the main reasons why running back [Ray Riceinternal-link-placeholder-0] has enjoyed such enormous success both on a off the football field.

"My mother had a huge influence on me," said Rice. "No matter what, my mom was the one that taught me to never give up on anything."

Listed at a generous 5'8", Rice has defied all the skeptics who said he wasn't big enough to play in the NFL, and just this week was voted to his first Pro Bowl team in just his second season as a pro.

Rice is as quick to deflect credit for his success as he is at making defenders miss in the open field.

"It's a pleasure [being voted to the Pro Bowl], but I've got to give thanks to God, my teammates, coaches and everybody that helped me along the way throughout this whole thing," said Rice. "I never believed that one man's success is achieved alone."

But those spending an inordinate amount of time at the Ravens' facility know Rice's commitment to becoming a premier player is more than evident.

"Those of you guys who have been around in the offseason know the way he works with the game, and his impact is more than just stats," said offensive coordinator **Cam Cameron**. "This guy is dependable, this guy is consistent, this guy is tough, this guy is smart and he prepares."

The Ravens' other Ray knew the organization struck gold when they drafted Rice in the second round of the 2008 Draft.

"I kind of fell in love with his game when he was in college," said [Ray Lewisinternal-link-placeholder-0]. "And he's one of the most humble people around. And now I'm seeing him here with me fighting as a warrior. It's been exciting watching his progress and seeing where he wants to go. It's been a privilege."

The two Rays have established a close bond that transcends the game of football. Rice is quick to acknowledge No. 52 as a mentor and an example of how to truly commit to being a great player.

"[Lewis] is a guy that I watch the way he prepares," said Rice. "I watch the way he studies film. You watch the guy, the way he plays the game…if you take a little bit of what he does and the way he does it, how can you not be successful?"

The importance of setting goals was something the elder Ray reinforced in his younger protégé.

"Honestly, I had a specific individual goal this season," said Rice. "I said I wanted to eclipse 2,000 all-purpose yards. I thought that was a pretty lofty goal after my rookie season."

Rice finished with 727 total yards from scrimmage after his first year in the league.

"I had that one goal written down and I look at it every day," said Rice.

With one game remaining, Rice has amassed 1,952 total yards from scrimmage (ranked second in the NFL). He leads the Ravens' offense in both rushing yards (1,269) and number of receptions (74).

For Rice, a fierce dedication to the small stuff goes a long way in succeeding at such a high level.

"I think taking care of the little things – about being in the weight room, the training room, watching film – doing all those small things is so important," said Rice. "Being committed to the offseason program and not missing a single day is huge. All that little stuff means the world because it all adds up."

If it seems playing football is immensely important to Rice, it's because it is. Sports provided a safe haven for No. 27 who was raised in a violent neighborhood in New York.

"Sports were definitely an outlet," said Rice. "Without sports, I'm caught between a rock and hard place. I was raised in a tough environment growing up. I could've easily ended up with the wrong crowd. But sports were a way of staying away from that. I found a better family in sports."

Hardships hit Rice's immediate family very early in life. When he was only a year old, his father was killed in a shooting. Later, while in elementary school, his cousin, who had become a father figure, was killed in a car accident.

In high school, Rice found another family in football and hasn't once looked back.

"My high school coach was very much like a father to me," said Rice. "He told me that football was going to teach me more about just playing football. He said it could teach me about life and about growing up and becoming a man. And I definitely found that out to be true."

Through it all, Rice's devotion to the game of football has never wavered and is a prime reason for his accomplishments.

So what does he have planned for an encore?

"I will never be complacent," said Rice. "You have to go after higher and higher goals. Complacency is something that can ruin a person's career. It doesn't matter how small the goals are, but keep setting them higher. For next season, why don't I try to shoot for 2,200 or 2,300 yards from scrimmage? You just have to set them higher."

The single-season NFL record for yards gained from scrimmage is currently at 2,429 yards.

Anyone think Ray Rice doesn't have a bigger number written down somewhere?

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