Ray Rice delivers a stiff arm during the International Bowl on January 5, 2008.
There probably wasn't any "Pandemonium in Piscataway" when Rutgers RB Ray Rice announced that he will skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
"My heart felt like it was time for me to go to the next level," said the Scarlet Knights' career rushing leader.
Rice, a New Rochelle, N.Y., native, leaves RU after amassing 4,926 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns. His final collegiate performance was a masterpiece as he tore through Ball State at the International Bowl for a school-record 280 yards and four TDs.
"He will be a great NFL back," said head coach Greg Schiano.
The 5'9", 202-pounder figures to be selected somewhere from the second to the fourth round. He's a solid runner who hopes to impress scouts at the Indianapolis Combine.
"I think I just have to go out, work out. Obviously, I think I'm going to have to run a good 40 time," he said. "That's something I'm going to work on. That and catching the ball out of the backfield and showing I can do multiple things."
Rice joins a long list of underclassmen who have made their pro intentions known and the announcements will continue into next week. NFL scouts will add a number of players to their respective Big Boards in the days ahead and the list could included the following:
Vernon Ghoulston (DE/OLB, Ohio State), DeSean Jackson (WR, California), Tyson Jackson (DE, LSU), Malcolm Jenkins (CB, Ohio State), Felix Jones (RB, Arkansas), Darren McFadden (RB, Arkansas),James Laurinaitis (ILB, Ohio State), Michael Oher (T, Mississippi), Duke Robinson (G, Oklahoma) and Jonathan Stewart (RB, Oregon).
The soft deadline for players to file their paperwork with the league is next Tuesday, Jan. 15. But then the young men have a two-day window to contemplate their decisions and change their minds.
Last year Hawaii QB Colt Brennan put his pro dreams on hold after declaring.
"I don't think I prepared myself [for the NFL] yet," he said. "I have yet to prepare myself physically and mentally, get myself, my mind and my body ready."
The record-setting passer returned to Hawaii for his senior season and didn't hurt his 2008 draft stock. Brennan completed 70 percent of his attempts while throwing for 4,343 yards and 38 TDs and led the 12-1 Rainbows to a WAC championship and a BCS Sugar Bowl berth.
Next week, the NCAA has a deadline to withdraw the paperwork. Then by Jan. 19, the NFL will send an official list the of underclassmen (juniors and redshirt sophomores) who have entered in the selection process.
Last year the Jets traded up in the first round to select Pitt early entry Darrelle Revis. The cornerback, who was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award, became the Panthers' fifth underclassmen to declare early since 2002.
"I think I'm ready," Revis said last January. "This is another chapter in my life that I'm ready for, ready to fulfill. I'm not saying that I couldn't have come back for my senior year and helped the team out a little more, but there comes a time in a man's life where you've got to move to the next level."
Instead of helping Pitt, the Aliquippa, Pa., product came to New York and performed like a big man on campus. Even after a holdout, Revis started 16 games for the Green & White and finished second on the club with three interceptions.
Revis, now an NFL veteran, promises to have a quieter off-season. But for Ray Rice and many other underclassmen, their NFL journeys are just beginning.