Ray Rice on Huggins: "He's got raw ability"

NEW YORK -- Rutgers all-time leading rusher and NFL star running back Ray Rice attended the charity event of ex-teammate Brian Leonard on Tuesday to benefit Embrace Kids, and during it he spoke about the marquee member of Rutgers' 2011 class in five-star running back Savon Huggins. Rice said he watched tape of Huggins, and he spoke about what Scarlet Knights fans, as well as Huggins, can expect.

NEW YORK -- Ray Rice carried the ball 910 times in three years at Rutgers, and in the process he helped carry the Scarlet Knights to unprecedented success.

He thinks St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) five-star running back Savon Huggins, who signed with the Scarlet Knights last month, can have a similar impact when he arrives on campus.

"I've seen him on tape. I just think he's got raw ability," said Rice, a three-year NFL veteran with the Baltimore Ravens. "It looks like the guy is a hard worker. He's one of the guys that, if it's the fourth quarter, you know you've got somebody special …you've gotta get the ball in the hands of a special player."

Rice spoke during an appearance at former Rutgers running back "Brian Leonard's Rally at Ally," charity event, which benefits New Brunswick, N.J.,-based Embrace Kids, a non-profit organization helping children with cancer and blood disorders.

"Coach (Greg) Schiano knew any time it was third-and-1, fourth-and-1, it didn't matter. I'd get a yard," Rice said. "He always said I had the uncanny ability to make a bad play into a good play. That's the kind of ability Savon Huggins has.

"As a running back, you always have to make the first (guy) miss. A bad play can be a 2-yard run, but you almost got stopped in the backfield. He has that ability, that uncanny ability to make a play like that, and I think that's big for a running back."

Rice, who is 5-foot-8, left Rutgers for the NFL after three seasons. He ran for school records of 4,926 yards and 49 touchdowns, and took that success to the Ravens. He ran for more than 1,200 yards in each of the last two seasons.

Huggins is a bigger back, measuring 6-foot, 200 pounds, but both are downhill runners with the speed to get to the corner. And both work extremely hard in the weight room.

And Rice believes Rutgers' decision to return to a power running game with new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will accentuate Huggins' skills.

"I always tell a guy like (Huggins), ‘Take the gift you've been given and apply it to everything you do in life,' " Rice said. "Workout hard. When I got to Rutgers I was only 195, but I left at 208.

"I think they're going to get back to running the ball, with the offensive line blocking at the point of attack. He'll be dangerous."

Rice knows Huggins will experience pressure to perform because of the visibility of his recruitment, and starting as a freshman, which Rice did, is no easy task.

"No matter where you're at, it's going to be a challenge," Rice said. "I'm not even talking about football. Football takes care of itself, but it's going to be a different pace than high school. Once he catches up to the pace, everything will be fine. Everything else – family, school, study hall – that's the stuff that separates the boys from the men.

"As a man, you have to take care of the responsibilities, and (Schiano) does a great job of making sure everything is being taken care of."

Rice added he considered reaching out to Huggins during the recruiting process, but not to sell him on Rutgers or answer questions about any other school.

Instead, Rice had a bigger picture in mind.

"One thing I tell guys growing up, when you're deciding on a college, your mother, your father, nobody can live that for you," he said. "I understand parents want to play a pivotal part in wanting to see their child succeed, but they shouldn't be the one making your decision because they aren't the one who has to go to class.

"They don't have to wake up for 5 a.m. workouts. They don't have to do any of that, so why are they telling you where to go to school? I was wanting to tell him that."

When Rice elected to leave Rutgers early for the NFL, he didn't let anyone outside of his immediate family factor into his decision.

And when Huggins elected to remain in-state, Rice viewed it as a big moment in Huggins' growth.

"(Huggins) making a decision of staying home," Rice said, "that was a big decision in growing up."

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