NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - New Rochelle will turn its eyes to New Orleans on Feb. 3 when hometown hero Ray Rice and his Baltimore Ravens meet the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Rice was born, raised, attended public schools, played his youth football and led New Rochelle High School to a state championship as a junior in 2003. He went on to set rushing and scoring records at Rutgers University before joining the Ravens in 2008. Rice celebrated his 26th birthday Tuesday.
New Rochelle High School football coach Lou DiRienzo, who coached Rice through his varsity career, coordinates the annual Ray Rice Day youth football event.
"Ray Rice Day is not meant to be celebration for Ray, but a commitment from Ray to the young people in New Rochelle," DiRienzo said. "He is out there with the kids, teaching and coaching and inspiring them. Ray is always working. He is a gifted athlete who truly cares about his community."
New Rochelle High School senior quarterback Khalil Edney followed in Rice's footsteps all the way to the 2012 Class AA state championship, the first for the Huguenots since Rice and DiRienzo won their title. Edney will be one of thousands of hometown fans glued to the television to watch Rice play in the Super Bowl.
"Ray Rice means a lot to us young guys because we watched him since he was in high school and college," Edney said "He always said, 'stay in school and don't stop chasing your dream", and for him to win the Super Bowl would be great, especially since we won states this year."
DiRienzo will be making the trip to New Orleans with several of Rice's former coaches to watch Rice on the big stage.
"The thing that makes Ray special as a player is his determination to always be better at everything he does," DiRienzo said. "He's the same runner he was in high school and at Rutgers. He gets two yards, three yards, five, 10, then breaks a run for 20. They say Ray is a small running back, but he's not. He's a big running back in a small frame."
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said the New Rochelle business community, its residents and sports fans will enjoy the spirit of the Super Bowl event with added interest because of their native son.
"I'm not sure if there are many athletes who attain the level Ray has who are as determined to remember their roots in the community," Bramson said. "The fact that he is so present in New Rochelle and as a role model is a better demonstration of his character than anything he might do on the field. We'll all be rooting for Ray."