Rice weighed his options with Head Coach Greg Schiano and his family following
the International Bowl victory, but decided in the end the best decision for
him at this time is to take the next step into the NFL.
"I am always going to be grateful for what I have done here at Rutgers and what Rutgers has done for me," Rice said. "Rutgers has really made me into a man and I am proud to be able to say that. I am humbled here to say that I will always be apart of the Scarlet Knight family."
Rice is the greatest running back in Rutgers school history and had he decided to stay for his senior season, Rice could have been the greatest running back statically in NCAA history.
The all-time rushing leader for a four-year career is Ron Dayne with 6397 yards.
Through three seasons, Rice gained 4926 yards. This season alone, Rice rushed
for over 2000 yards and would only needs 1472 yards to eclipse Dayne's mark.
Despite the on the field success, the questions have always been there about how well Rice projects at the next level. He was not highly recruited out of high school and even now, people have speculated that Rice lacks the breakaway speed to be a big time running back in the NFL.
Schiano did his homework to help Rice make the best decision and talked to
between 10 and 12 teams to gather as much information as possible for Rice to
make his decision. While Rice or Schiano would not specifically comment on where
they expected Rice to be taken, they are sure it will be in spot that Rice is
comfortable with. Currently, Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. has Rice listed as a
second round draft pick.
"You have to feel it in your heart," Rice said. "After talking to Coach Schiano and him gather everything he needed to gather my heart felt it was time to go to the next level."
Rutgers had been to one bowl game before Rice showed up "On the Banks." However, in all three years Rice has suited up for the Scarlet Knights, Rutgers has been to a bowl game.
Rice helped RU take the final steps of transition from a 1-11 team in 2002 to a football program that expects to make bowl games. He is also the first player under Schiano at Rutgers to leave school early to enter the NFL Draft.
Despite Rice not playing all four years, Schiano realizes how lucky he was
to find a diamond in the rough like Rice to play for him for three.
"Not only am I grateful for what he has done for Rutgers, but for what he has done for me personally," Schiano said. "Would we have had the success? It is hard to say you would if Ray is not the guy playing at tailback and I thanked him for that."
During the 32-minute press conference, Rice was gracious and thanked the media present for putting a positive spotlight on him and allowing people to learn what type of a player he is.
Rice said he expects Rutgers to do well next season and that he has a special
bond with Kordell Young and Mason Robinson, the two players that will likely
split time to fill the gap left by Rice.
"Those two guys are special people to me," Rice said. "They both want to learn and they want to get better everyday and as a running back, you have to want to learn. We have coaches that have so many years of experience that you have to take what they have and give it to you, because it is only going to take your game to another level."
The decision to leave Rutgers made sense on a lot of levels, but perhaps the
most important component was that Rice was achieving his lifelong goal.
"I always dreamed of playing in the NFL, that is something I dreamed of as a child and the opportunity came knocking," Rice said.