Ray Rice returned to his roots Saturday, watching a football game at his New York high school with his wife and their infant daughter days after video of him punching his wife led to his indefinite suspension from the NFL.
Even after New Rochelle High School removed Rice's jersey from its wall of fame and took down a placard honoring him, his former coach came forward Saturday to praise Rice's character.
"I’ve known Ray Rice since he’s in eighth grade. And he’s had one misstep in the years that I’ve known him," Louis DeRienzo said..
"He made a mistake, and he made a very terrible mistake. But I know the character of the man and he will rise from this, and the mistake he made will be erased by the good deeds he will continue to do," DeRienzo said.
It was the running back's first public appearance since he was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL after video of him punching his wife was released last week. Previously, Rice had been suspended two games by the league and the Ravens organization had announced its support for him.
In the video, his then-fiancee appears to spit at Rice right before he throws a brutal punch in a casino elevator. After she collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff.
The case has put the NFL in an uncomfortable spotlight as it faces criticism for how it handles cases in which players are accused of domestic violence.
The Superintendent of Schools for New Rochelle, Brian Osborne, said in a statement emailed on Thursday that "our community stands united in the belief that physical violence to settle differences cannot be condoned."
But DeRienzo told reporters that the school would always be Rice's home, and even spoke optimistically about Rice's future.
"Do I think his football career is over?" he asked. "That decision is not mine, but somebody’s going to get a hell of a running back if he does enter the NFL."