SAN ANTONIO, TX — Sunday morning Chris Rainey was over in Tampa, just having some fun when the got the call from the administrators of the US Army All-American Bowl. Rainey was supposed to be in this game but a glitch in the paperwork had apparently cost him his spot, but all that was resolved with one phone call.
“I was just over in Tampa, chillin’ and my mom called and said ‘you’re in the Army game’ and I said what?” said Rainey with a big grin Sunday evening when he arrived at the team hotel in San Antonio. “She said yeah, I was in so I came home, got some stuff together and here I am.”
The 5-9, 164-pound tailback from Lakeland led the Dreadnaughts to 45 straight wins, three straight state championships and two straight national high school championships. He gained 2,478 yards and scored 32 touchdowns this past season, leading Lakeland to its third straight 15-0 mark. For his career, he had more than 7,000 yards and 90 touchdowns.
The Florida commitment fulfilled just about every dream he had while he was in high school except one. He wanted to play in the US Army All-American Bowl.
“When I was there last year for the combine, I decided this is the game I wanted to play,” said Rainey. “Michael and Maurkice (Pouncey) wanted me to play in the game with them in Orlando, but I said, no, this is my dream. This is where I want to play.”
Rainey had been told a few days ago that he wasn’t going to be in the Army game because of a paperwork problem. He admits he was angered and frustrated but said he got soothing words from Florida Coach Urban Meyer.
“He told me not to worry about it, just focus in on what I’ll do as a Gator,” said Rainey. “He was pretty cool about it and let me know that everything is cool, just focus on Florida and finishing up high school, then come here [Gainesville] and show them why they were wrong.
“I was okay with that and then they [Army game administrators] called me today. Well, everything works out, doesn’t it?”
At the Army game, he knows there is a chance he will be teamed at times in the same backfield with Noel Devine, the electric tailback from North Fort Myers, who put up similarly astonishing statistics during his high school career. Devine is rated the number one running back prospect in the nation by Scout.com while Rainey is rated number seven.
“I hope that they put me and Devine in the backfield at the same time,” said Rainey. “Somebody’s gonna go crazy if that happens. One of us will break something big. Man, that would be crazy to have us in the backfield together.”
The Rainey-Devine possibilities remind him of the possibilities he sees at Florida when he will have the chance to be on the field with Percy Harvin, the 2006 Southeastern Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year. Harvin brings game-breaking potential to the field and every time he touches the ball it’s an adventure. Rainey, who had 15 touchdown runs of 50 yards or more in 2006 plus another 20 runs of more than 50 yards called back because of penalties, brings that same electricity to the field.
“I can’t wait until it’s me and Percy Harvin on the field same time,” Rainey said. “Who you going to double? You double me and he’ll kill you. Double him and I’ve got the ball. Then you got [Tim] Tebow. He doesn’t want to make anybody miss. He wants to hit somebody. I wonder about him. But, the three of us, that’s the three-headed monster. Florida’s gonna be dangerous.”
Rainey is the younger brother of Rod Smart, a running back for the Oakland Raiders, better known for his year in the defunct XFL when he wore the jersey “He Hate Me.” Rainey and his brother are close and Rainey’s hoping to follow in Rod’s footsteps in one particular way.
“He was smaller than I am out of high school,” he said. Smart, too small for Division I, went to Division I-AA Western Kentucky where he put on quite a growth spurt. He is now 5-11 and a rock solid 205 pounds.
“He grew after he was 18,” said Rainey. “My grandma says all the boys in the family grow after 18. We get bigger but we don’t lose our speed. Rod got faster. We both ran 4.29 at Lakeland and that’s the all-time record at the school but he’s faster than that now. He smoked me last time we ran and he was wearing regular pants and shoes. He said I’ll get faster when I get bigger and stronger, too.”