The fast and furious: Rainey vs. Demps

The freshmen, being that they’re freshman and probably unfamiliar with the unwritten code of the fast and the furious, probably didn’t know about rules number one and two when they set up the 40-yard match race of the summer that took place behind the dorms where most of them live a few weeks ago. Rule number one: never race a street racer on the streets. Rule number two: pick and choose your distance carefully. If they only knew the rules then maybe they wouldn’t be trying to talk up a rematch between their chosen one, Jeffrey Demps, and the undisputed — depending on whose version of which story you choose to believe — king of the street race, Chris Rainey.

“It’s gonna be sooner or later … we’re gonna race again,” said Rainey Monday evening after the first football practice for the Florida Gators.

A redshirt freshman tailback from Lakeland, Rainey sounded like a reluctant gunslinger the way he talked about running 40-yard races. You know the type — never really looking for a race but if others insist, he does what he has to do and walks away without remorse.

The last race, the one that took place behind the dorms, was right after Demps got back to Gainesville from the Olympic Trials, where he ran a 10.01 100 meters in the quarter-finals. That time made Demps the fastest 18-year-old in history and since it’s better than any time LSU’s Trindon Holliday has ever done, it allowed him to lay claim to the title “Fastest Player in College Football” even though he hasn’t ever played in a game. At least yet.

Once Demps got on campus, the trash talk began. Rainey insists he had nothing to do with it.

“Same thing as Noel Devine,” said Rainey, his eyes rolling back in his head.

Back when Devine was becoming somewhat of a legend at North Fort Myers, Rainey was scoring spectacular breakaway touchdowns for Lakeland’s three-time state and two time mythical national champions. Both Devine and Rainey had their followings and both insisted their guy was not only the fastest but the best running back in the country.

The talk see-sawed back and forth until one hot summer night when Devine, now a sophomore tailback at West Virginia, made his way to Lakeland. Depending on whose version of this story you choose to believe, Devine came looking for Rainey.

The legend, which is probably better than the real story whatever that might be, is that Devine challenged Rainey the way one gunslinger would challenge the other. Rainey accepted and the two ran 40 yards barefoot in the parking lot of a Lakeland strip mall.

A fair number of Lakelanders, who all claim they were there to see it go down, say that Rainey blew Devine’s doors off. Devine has his followers who say it was close, not a fair start, not a good surface to run on and so on.

Nobody seems to dispute that Rainey won the race, however.

In the world of the fast and the furious, the Rainey-Devine race is ancient history. Once Demps arrived in Gainesville, Rainey says “his [Demps’] boys on his side” started “putting some stories out there” and they kept it up until they got the match race they wanted.

“The freshmen,” said Rainey, who said he has increased his weight to 182. “All the other teammates challenged and all that other kind of stuff.”

Challenge accepted, the race took place behind the dorms on the Florida campus on a hot summer evening. There are varying accounts of what happened. Demps has his supporters and you know who they think won the race. Tim Tebow and a number of Florida’s veterans say that Rainey won.

Rainey says matter of factly, “I beat him twice. The first one was like by a centimeter. The second one was by a step and a half.”

Which brings us to rules one and two of the unwritten code of the fast and the furious.

Rule 1: Never race a street racer on the streets. Translation: Demps can flat out fly on a track but Rainey rules on grass or pavement.

Rule 2: Pick and choose your distance carefully. Translation: Demps is the world record holder in his age group for 100 meters. Rainey is the 40-yard dash king.

Rainey admitted that he wouldn’t win against Demps in the longer distance.

“Not in the 100 but I know I’m faster than him in the 40 or 50 or something like that,” he said.

But with a shorter distance and a favorable place to run, Rainey thinks he’s got Demps’ number.

“I’m undefeated in the streets,” he said.

At least until Part Deux, coming at a time to be announced and a venue to be determined.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.