Reporters -- and most fans -- wanted to know if the diminutive All-American
was going to stay at Rutgers to play one more year of college football in 2008
or if he was going to leave school early to enter the National Football League
draft in April. Rutgers supporters in the stands during the third and fourth
quarter of Saturday's rout chanted "one more year" to get RU's star
athlete to return. Also, RU head coach Greg Schiano took a penalty for an illegal
substitution with 2:04 remaining in the fourth quarter so Rice could leave to
a standing ovation.
"As for my career, coach is going to sit me down in a few days," Rice -- welling with tears -- told the crowd as he accepted his award as most valuable player of the International Bowl.
Rice became the 13th player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards
in a season, finishing the campaign with 2,012 yards and 24 touchdowns on the
ground. That yardage was the most in school history and Big East history.
"When you go over 2,000 yards in a football season, not a lot of guys have done that," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano.
Rice originally set those rushing records last year with 1,794 yards. He also set a new school record in the International Bowl for consecutive 100-yard games, notching his eighth-straight game with 100 yards and surpassing the record he previously shared with JJ Jennings.
"He really ran the way he has his whole career," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. "I've been around some great, great running backs. . . . This guy, what he did today is second to none"
Rice has achieved heights unprecedented in Rutgers history. He set a school record for single-game yardage against Army on Nov. 9 with 243 yards and shattered that in the International Bowl, setting a new school and bowl standard with 280 yards.
Rice was emotional on the bowl game awards stage as he accepted the MVP award,
which he passed around to his offensive linemen and to his mother, Janet Rice,
all of whom joined him on the platform.
"I was on a recruiting visit, and Jeremy Zuttah was my host, Now he's my big brother," Rice told reporters following the game, referring to Rutgers' senior offensive tackle.
Rutgers players are already forced to consider life without their standout player.
"More than just a football player, he's my best friend," said redshirt junior Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel.
Said true junior receiver Tiquan Underwood: "We're going to get an answer from him, and we'll go from there. . . . Even if Ray's there or not, you're going to have to watch out for our passing game next year."
Rice said Rutgers fans have approached him asking the New Rochelle, N.Y., product
to stay at Rutgers. He said he tries to handle the situation with grace and
appreciates the sentiment.
"It's pretty remarkable to know that fans really care about you," said Rice. "I definitely have a big decision to make."
Schiano would not indicate whether Rice was leaning toward the NFL draft or returning to Rutgers for one more season. But he said he will talk in the coming weeks with Rice and his family to make the best decision for everyone involved.
"As I've said before, this guy is as special as they come -- how he lives, how he leads," said Schiano. "Whatever's best for this guy and his family is best for everybody. (Rice), we all owe (him) a lot, starting with me."