Based on their efforts on the field during the 2012 season, Ray Rice and Torrey Smith are already “officially” champions.
However, they’ve been champions in the community ever since they showed up in Baltimore, and they proved that once again this past weekend.
Already working six days per week during the football season, these men spend their off days leveraging their celebrity to help make an impact on the community they now call home. These players are idolized by both children and adults alike, but one thing that commonly slips the minds of most Ravens fans are that both Smith (24) and Rice (26) aren’t far removed from their own childhoods.
“To see such a young person succeed so much in his life is amazing, fabulous and wonderful,” said Betsy Dean, the mother of Ashton (pictured below). “We’re so proud of him.”
Dean’s son suffers from a congenital brain malformation.When Rice met Ashton in March 2012, there was an instant connection and the two have had a strong bond ever since.
“It’s a part of our responsibility to give back to the community,” Smith said. “They support us and do anything for us, so we have to return the favor.
“The position that we’re in, we’re role models, whether you want to be or not. You have to be a positive one or you can be a negative one as people often see, but there are a lot of great guys in the league.”
Within the NFL-wide receiver spectrum, Smith can be considered on of the best role models in the league – a polar opposite of Titus Young, a current free agent who has been arrested three times within the past week.
Maintaining clean images is something that Rice and Smith have both been able to do despite less than ideal upbringings. Both players were primarily raised by their mothers, and helped out by working multiple jobs in an attempt to make ends meet. Rice worked at a barbershop, cleaning up hair from the floor and relying on tips. Smith helped raise his siblings from the age of seven. He did the laundry, helped bathe them, and even tucked them in at night.
If any parents in the crowd at the second annual Ray Rice Day were wondering how these young men could put on such an event, clearly their upbringings and display of maturity at a young age had a lot to do with it.
“When you come from the lifestyle that I came from, when you get in the position that I’m now in, you just want to give back,” Rice said while standing on the field with over 700 children participating in light football drills orchestrated by his foundation. “Me being able to give back my time and my efforts in this community is the most influential thing I can do in Baltimore – besides scoring touchdowns.”
Within the past year, both of these men have continued to grow as individuals just as much as football players. Rice welcomed his first child and has continued to watch her grow, while Smith has gotten engaged and will marry later this summer.
The popular opinion of football fans is that athletes are overpaid for simply playing a game. Last summer, Rice signed a $40 million contract extension with the Ravens and Smith’s payday is around the corner as he approaches the final year of his rookie deal. After standing on the field with these players and seeing the joy they’ve brought to the faces of children – ranging from those severely disabled to those with a perfect bill of health – you can only root for them to continue to succeed professionally. It’s obvious that professional success on their parts means more great days like Ray Rice day are in store for our community.