TOWSON — Ray Rice bolted up field, sprinting away from imaginary defenders nipping at his heels.
During a workout at Towson University, Baltimore Ravens’ elusive running back displayed no signs of losing his old Pro Bowl form during the lengthy NFL lockout.
For Rice, the work stoppage hasn’t dimmed his enthusiasm for football or for his guidance of the youth of his hometown: New Rochelle, N.Y.
"Nah, I try to stay positive," Rice said. "A lot of things I’ve done during this lockout is impacting kids’ lives. I don’t even preach to them. I preach school. I preach daily life to them. Where I’m at in my career, obviously I’m able to impact kids’ lives."
In just three NFL seasons, Rice already ranks second in franchise history in career rushing yards.
Gaining 3,013 yards to rank behind Jamal Lewis’ 7,801 yards, Rice finished third in the league in yards from scrimmage with 1,776 yards last season.
And he led the Ravens last season with 1,220 rushing yards to go with five touchdowns.
Always smiling and upbeat, Rice is chasing more than records. His legacy, his family and his teammates are what matters to him most.
"If there was no more football, would I be in the Hall of Fame? No," Rice said. "Would I be in the record books? No. But will people know Ray Rice as a great person and a great football player? Yes. And I will use that opportunity to go out and impact kids’ lives and let them know you can go out and dream. I’m living my dream playing football, but obviously the dream can be taken away at any moment. I try to stick to that nature and obviously being around my teammates makes it that much more fun."
Compact and muscular at 5-foot-8, 212 pounds with softball-sized biceps, Rice had a lot of fun during offensive guard Ben Grubbs’ charity softball game.
The former Rutgers star volunteered to be the permanent pitcher for his squad. He intentionally allowed himself to be hit by a slow pitch so he could take first base. Then, he got into a track stance and pretended he was going to take off even though no stealing was allowed.
"I like to have fun," Rice said. "And this is for a great cause."
Rice’s production fell slightly last season after piling up 2,041 yards from scrimmage, 78 receptions and rushing for 1,339 yards during the 2009 campaign as he was named to his first Pro Bowl.
Although he rushed for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Ravens’ AFC divisional playoff loss and caught seven passes, he also lost a critical fumble as Baltimore squandered a 21-7 halftime lead.
Rice doesn’t dwell on the negatives, though.
And he spends a lot of time with his mother, Janet Rice, a special-education teacher.
"I’ve been giving moral support to the guys," Rice said. "I’ve been enjoying my family a little bit. It’s been an extremely good offseason. Obviously, I try to keep my nose clean, stay out of trouble and a lot of the things a rookie is going to have to do, time management. I like to say I balance mine out pretty well in New York and worked out twice a day. When people were going to work from 9 to 5, I was having my own 9 to 5."
And Rice said he looks forward to mentoring rookie running back Anthony Allen, a seventh-round draft pick from Georgia Tech.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder could wind up as Rice’s primary backup if the team cuts veteran Willis McGahee due to his $6 million base salary.
So far, Rice is impressed with the imposing Florida native.
"Anthony Allen, he’s definitely a big dude," Rice said. "He’s definitely a guy who I feel is worthy of playing running back on this team. Anybody that can counterpart with me, I’m willing to help."