The headline says it all: Ray Rice was meant for the Super Bowl. Mike Dougherty is down in New Orleans this week and caught up with the former New Ro star. Here’s his story:
NEW ORLEANS — After he climbed onto the podium and took off the designer sunglasses, Ray Rice scanned the huddled masses for somebody to play with. He quickly took notice of a diminutive radio personality from back in Baltimore while spinning the cap off the omnipresent bottle of Gatorade.
“Coleman,” the former New Rochelle star yelled. “It’s good to see you. Glad you made the flight. Did you have to get a kiddie seat? Me and you, we can get discounts on our seats Coleman. We little guys, you know? … We need booster chairs at dinner and everything Coleman.”
Rice, who stands a mere 5-foot-6, may never grow into his personality.
The kid-in-a-candy-store approach to life played very well on the national stage Tuesday as Rice held court during Super Bowl XLVII Media Day at the Mercedes Superdome.
“I’m chillin’ today, but I’ll let it out a little bit,” said Rice, an elusive running back who led the Ravens with 1,621 yards from scrimmage this season. “I’m not shy with the media. If you want to joke a little bit I’ll get down with you.”
And there were some eye-popping questions.
Rice, 26, smiled through all of the nonsense and continually went beyond just being polite.
There might be a future in broadcasting.
A local chef was making the rounds asking the players whether they had any guilty offseason pleasures.
“Mom’s cooking,” Rice said. “I’m a little guy, but I have to keep my weight on so I can absorb some of these hits. I have to be the hammer, not the nail. Know what I’m saying?”
There are more than 5,000 members of the worldwide media coming for this week’s festivities, and Rice caught one double-dipping.
“You asked that question yesterday,” said Rice, who was asked to comment on the promotion that took Jim Caldwell from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. “We’re doing it again? … I’m just messing with you.”
Rice didn’t have any trouble filling the entire hour.
There was a lot of talk about controversial Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who is retiring after the Super Bowl.
He’s been a mentor to Rice, who set records at Rutgers before coming into the league six years ago and quickly learning what it means to be a professional. They walked into the Superdome practically in lock step. And when Lewis walks away, there isn’t likely to be a leadership void.
“I don’t mind taking on that vocal leadership now because I’ve been taught under the best,” Rice said before tossing a “Lion King’’ reference into the conversation. “We call him Moufassa. They call me Simba, so I guess, it’s being handed down.”
Rice plans to stay close to Lewis all week.
“He got the big suite, and you know how they have connecting rooms? My room is connected, so I made him keep the door open so I feel like my room’s got some space,” Rice said. “Ray got a living room, all that stuff. They gave me a little room. I know I’m little, but every man loves to have his feet on the coach. He got the couch, so I don’t care if he’s sleeping or whatever, I’m going to be on his nerves this week.”
The microphones also gave Rice a chance to promote his anti-bullying efforts.
“You know that saying, ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words should never hurt you’?” Rice said. “Man, words are killing people and it’s happening over the Web.”
Rice was asked where he likes to go on vacation, too.
“Atlantis in the Bahamas,” he said. “That place is pretty nice, and not because of the adult pool. I like the water slides.”
He will indeed be here all week.
Rice also got to replay the nearly miraculous fourth-and-29 conversion that helped the Ravens get a needed overtime win against the San Diego Chargers in November a dozen or so times.
“I’m going to be honest,” he said. “The most memorable part of that play was the chain measurement. If I don’t get the yards it would have just been a good effort, but since I got the first down, it was one of the most memorable plays of the year.”
As for the folks back home in New Rochelle, a number of them will be heading this way to share the spotlight with Rice.
“I’ve got a contingent of about 30 people coming,” Rice said. “I think I’m up to like 30 grand in tickets, but it’s all good. You can’t put a price on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”