Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice Inspires Somers on Football, Life and Family
Last Thursday, Ray Rice brought his lofty status as a two time Pro Bowler to the high school to talk a little football. Before an audience of about 200 parents and young football players, the running back arrived not much taller or assuming than all the children struck in awe of his stardom. But hopefully they understood a larger message in which elevating as a man is the ceiling they should always be reaching for.
The New Rochelle Grad set just that tone by making sure
Of course, the children knowing full well from sitting on the ground could not resist the invitation and spontaneously surrounded Rice at his feet. Nonetheless, they'd have to wait a bit longer before their hero took the podium.
Jerry Horowitz, of the NFL's High School Player Development System, furthered the discussion on safety and the league's commitment to players from top to bottom. "Knowledge is power," he said, and parents should challenge any youth coach who doesn't put safety first - especially in light of new medical studies, proper tackling techniques, and most importantly, the initiative to keep the head out of football.
At the same time, Horowitz felt compelled to highlight that the rewards far outweigh the risks - especially when safety is put first. Teamwork, confidence, mental toughness and overcoming adversity, he said, "these aren't just phrases, they are values that will apply all through your life."
All well and good, but the time for the superstar was calling. Still, staying on point was not going to be lost just because the anticipation was finally realized. "All the kids, give your parents a round of applause," said the self described 'mama's boy' from the Baltimore Ravens.
Acknowledging that he's gotten to live his dream, the formula did not involve a straight line from Pop Warner to the Pros. "Respecting my parents was where I started, then came taking care of my school work and working as hard as possible," said the Rutgers alum.
But he cautioned the young audience how easily a dream can be deferred. "One or two bad decisions and it can quickly turn into a nightmare," he said.
That aside, he highlighted the lifetime bonds football builds and what the 'WAWG' inked on his arm means. "We all we got," he revealed, and that not only refers to brothers on the field but community, coaches and family.
He then turned to the main issue at hand - safety. "You don't have to prove your tough by playing injured," he said. "Playing football proves that already."
He added that kids have to be honest with themselves, their coaches and their parents when the inevitable bumps and bruises occur, and make sure they don't confuse playing hurt for the danger of playing injured.
Going interactive, the discussion turned much more serious off a question from the audience. "I didn't say you had to be a mama's boy to be a great football player," he playfully addressed the concern of one young questioner, "I just said I was one."
Everything put back as ease, it was inevitable he receive a question on what Ray Lewis is like. As a rookie in practice, faced with the 13 time Probowler and an end run, the prodigy cut the corner and danced away for 17 yards. But Ray Lewis put a punctuation mark the end of the gain that Ray Rice would not soon forget.
"All I see is this big number 52," he said, "it was the hardest hit I've ever experienced. Afterwards, he was instructed that you don't go east to west in this league, you go north to south.
The impact up to this point has been obvious, but the future Hall of Famer doesn't confine the lessons to the field. Following the missed field goal that kept the Ravens from the Superbowl, the locker room was in complete turmoil. Ray Lewis silenced the situation with a little perspective. "There are real people in the world who are suffering," Rice recalled the speech, "and we're talking about a field goal. That's not what we're about."
It's likely from what was seen here that Ray Rice had a pretty good sense of the bigger picture before the captain addressed his teammates. And even if the Ravens make the trip to the Superbowl someday, Ray Rice is secure in the accolade he holds most dear. Every time the 4000 yard career rusher returns to New Rochelle, his old coach reminds him he saw him come in as a boy and leave as a man. "That's my biggest honor," concluded Rice.
Harrison Track Zaid Al Doori