FILE - Indianapolis Colts cornerback Melvin Bullitt (33) tries to...

FILE - Indianapolis Colts cornerback Melvin Bullitt (33) tries to tackle Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) during the second half of an NFL divisional football playoff game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010. Credit: AP


By almost any measure, Ravens running back Ray Rice had a terrific season in 2009. With 1,339 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in only his second year, it was about as good as anyone could expect.

But good is simply not good enough for the New Rochelle native.

"My thing is you can't run away from greatness," Rice said after a training camp practice last week. "You always have to chase being great. If you don't, you'll always fall short, and you won't be what you want to be. So every day I come out here, you have to try to be great. Being good is the enemy of being great."

Words to live by for the 5-9, 195-pound tailback, a second-round pick in 2008 who looks as if he's destined for NFL stardom.

"For a player that's going into his third year and understands the value of conditioning and keeping his body in shape, Ray is way ahead of the curve," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Normally, it takes you until your fourth or fifth year. Your third year, you think, 'I can just play on natural talent.' But this guy has worked his butt off in the offseason and prepared himself to have a great season, barring a freak injury."

Rice was considered too short to be an elite running back when he came out of Rutgers in 2008, but Newsome thought he was worth a second-round pick. Looks as if that choice might turn into a steal.

"My whole life has been the story of, 'Oh, he's too short' or 'He's not big enough,' " Rice said. "It's always been about what I couldn't do, so I just have to go out there and keep proving it over and over again. That's what the greats do."

Credit teammate Ray Lewis with a big assist in Rice's development. The future Hall of Fame linebacker has taken Rice under his wing and offered plenty of advice.

"Being around a guy like Ray Lewis, who might be the best linebacker to ever play the game, has really helped me out," Rice said. "Ever since I was a rookie, he's been coaching me through my NFL career. More about life, about the game, about taking care of yourself. He's had a big influence on my career so far."

Oh, and just in case you haven't held your fantasy football league draft, go ahead and take Rice. Looks about as can't-miss as anyone this season.