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Ray Rice at Liberty convocation: Domestic violence 'uncovered the brutal truth' of my life

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

Former Ravens running back Ray Rice said Wednesday that the 2014 domestic-violence incident that cost him his NFL career "uncovered the brutal truth" of his life: that he had sacrificed his duties as a partner, father and Christian to become a better football player.

Speaking in Lynchburg, Va., at Liberty University's convocation, in one of his most public conversations about his experiences in the years since the release of footage showing him punching his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino elevator, Rice opened up about his lifelong encounters with violence and his reckoning with them.

"I had it all wrong," Rice said of his priorities. "I had football, family, then God. Reverse that order. It's supposed to be God, family and then whatever comes after."

Rice, 30, said his childhood did not excuse his misdeeds, but that it "definitely played a part" in who he became. His father was killed in a drive-by shooting when he was 1, and his mother's subsequent marriage was marred by verbal abuse, he said.

"I remember my mom basically becoming something that she wasn't," Rice said. So, sports became his "blanket," hiding him from problems at home and leading him to football stardom and a college scholarship at Rutgers.

Still, he now says he considers his childhood "lost."

 

" 'Man up' is a very cliche term," he said. "How can you be a man, and you never knew what it meant to be a boy?"

When Rice declared early for the NFL draft after his junior season with the Scarlet Knights, everything about his life changed. He recalled going back to New Rochelle, N.Y., during college and finding a home with no bed he could sleep in. When he turned pro, he said he had a balance of minus-$600 in his bank account.

But after signing with the Ravens, he had a six-figure bank account. Whenever he felt down, he thought retail therapy would help ease the pain. Even his girlfriend at the time, Janay Palmer, now his wife, whom he had known since high school, was moved to "the back-burner of things in my life," he said. "I'm just not proud of that, because she's the one who stuck with me through thick and thin."

Rice went on to play six seasons with the Ravens, making the Pro Bowl three times and winning Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. But he acknowledged that he spent more time "trying to be the man" and not enough trying to be "a man." Sports stars are too often mistaken for "godly figures," he said, and the deterioration of his public image after his Atlantic City incident forced him to realize that he wasn't "perfect."

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