PISCATAWAY, N.J. – It is as if Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has a “Mini-Me.”
Six years ago, it was Rice who ran Rutgers to relevancy, rushing for what was then a program record 1,794 yards (he broke his own record the next year) and 20 touchdowns in 2006. He was the standout performer and the rising star during an 11-2 season in which the Scarlet Knights finished No. 12 in the polls.
This season, Rutgers is in the Russell Athletic Bowl preparing to face Virginia Tech on the back of its latest talented running back, Jawan Jamison.
A workhorse, Jamison is the biggest component of an efficient - if somewhat predictably bland - offense. It is not unlike the offense Rice was a part of at Rutgers in 2006, a season before he jumped to the NFL and went on to become a three-time Pro Bowler.
In fact, Rice and Jamison talk frequently and the NFL star sees plenty of himself in Jamison, who had 1,054 yards this season.
"He reminds me a lot of myself with his patience, vision, his burst. I think he has a little bit more moves than me," Rice told Yahoo! Sports. "That spin move in the open field this year was pretty amazing. I definitely see a younger me in him."
Based on that potential, sources tell Yahoo! Sports that the redshirt sophomore could make the move to the NFL after this season. Jamison, at 5-8 and 200 pounds, is built like Rice and he has that rare mix of a battering ram back who can make a big play. He accounted for more than 33 percent of Rutgers’ total offense during the regular season, running strong and showing that he can consistently catch passes out of the backfield.
And Rutgers can thank Rice and his success at Rutgers (Rice was twice a finalist for the Maxwell Award) and now in the NFL for helping to land Jamison.
"He was a big reason why I came here. I remember watching him here at Rutgers when I was growing up and that helped me learn about the school," Jamison said. "I saw what he did and how he runs and I knew I could benefit from that system. I saw myself fitting in to the type of backs they like and utilize here."
Rice helped usher in an era for Rutgers players starting to get serious looks from NFL teams. Since he left for the league following his junior season in 2007, three Rutgers players have been taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Prior to Rice declaring for the draft, no Scarlet Knight had ever been taken in the first round. Rice himself was a second-round pick.
Jamison could benefit the most from Rice’s reputation around the league. The two players do communicate frequently as friends and there is mentorship and guidance from the NFL star to a potential future one.
“I’ve been telling him that if you take care of yourself and the game, you should be fine. He definitely has the qualities to play in this league,” Rice said. “They always talk about us little guys not making it but I’m always a fan of the short backs because we just keep proving it over and over that we do belong in this league as well. You don’t have to be the biggest of guys to do this.”
The similarities between the two are clear as day. As would be expected, Jamison is humbled by the comparisons to Rice, to the point that he really doesn’t have much to say about it. Or perhaps he simply doesn’t know what to say.
“It’s flattering,” Jamison said with a smile, looking down at the floor. “But I’m just happy to do whatever the team needs me to do, no matter what.”
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