Bobby Rainey Has Fought Doubters Forever


Bobby Rainey still remembers his profile.

He remembers having friends want to see his high school highlights, then stumbling over scouting reports saying Rainey was too small along the way.

Too small to play Division I football. Certainly too small to play in the NFL. That's what he's always heard.

As of Friday night, the 5-foot-8, 205-pound running back finally proved all his doubters wrong. The undrafted rookie free agent overcame the odds to make the Ravens' 53-man roster.

"I've been battling naysayers my whole life," Rainey said. "I've had a chip on my shoulder for my whole football career."

Rainey hails from the small town of Griffin, Ga., and got an offer from Georgia Tech, but the school pulled away when his SAT scores weren't up to their standards. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers continued to pursue him. They were at practice every day, Rainey said, banging down the door for the productive back.

Western Kentucky was moving up to the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), which would allow Rainey to still play some of the top Division I schools despite not being able to land at one. Rainey took it; he wanted a crack at proving himself against the best.

"Western Kentucky, there aren't many people who know who that is," Rainey said.

"It put me on the edge to keep striving, keep striving. There's nobody in the world that can tell you what you can do except for yourself. If you tell me what I can't do, I want to do it even more. That's what I've been doing my whole life is proving people wrong."

Rainey piled up gigantic college numbers, even against top competition.

He scored a touchdown against Tennessee and now Chiefs safety Eric Berry his sophomore year. He put up 155 yards against Nebraska as a junior. He piled up 131 yards and two touchdowns versus Navy as a senior.

Rainey finished his senior year ranked second in the nation with 1,695 rushing yards. He became just the 10th player in the past 15 years to post back-to-back 1,500-yard rushing seasons, joining now Ravens teammate Ray Rice.

But while Rice was taken in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Rainey didn't even get an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine.

Still, Rainey thought that he was "hands down" going to get drafted. After all, he'd had massive seasons not just once, but twice. He stopped watching the draft when he name wasn't called by the sixth round.

"I saw a guy get picked up that I knew for a fact wasn't better than me," he said. "When I saw that, I stopped watching."

That player was Alfred Morris, who played at Florida Atlantic University and in the same conference as Rainey. Morris was taken with the third pick of the sixth round. He hadn't put up numbers even close to Rainey's – but he was two inches taller.

The Redskins still wanted Rainey after the draft ended. He spurned them to go to Baltimore, despite the fact that he would be behind Rice, second-year tailbacks Anthony Allen and Damien Berry and third-round pick Bernard Pierce. Rainey had an uphill climb to make the roster to say the least.

But he kept making plays in practice, breaking off long gains, showing great hands in the passing game and standing up pass rushers despite his small frame. Coaches and reporters were both excited to see what he would do in games.

Rainey continued to shine. He broke out with 12 carries for 36 yards and three catches for 28 yards, including a weaving 18-yard score, near his hometown and in front of his family in Atlanta. Rainey scored a 48-yard touchdown on a swing pass against Jacksonville two weeks later.

"I'm stunned that he wasn't drafted," Ravens Running Backs Coach Wilbert Montgomery said. "[He's] a guy that has punt return, kick return ability, that can run routes out of the backfield, catch the ball out of the backfield … and he does have that uncanny ability to run in between the tackles as well as outside."

Baltimore also likes Rainey's pass protection, and even let him pick up third-down rushers with quarterback Joe Flacco in the game, a sign of their faith that he'll protect their starter.

In essence, Rainey can do it all.

It's reminiscent of the other diminutive runner in Baltimore's backfield – Rice. Teammates have nicknamed Rainey "Mini Rice," which is funny because the two tailbacks are listed as being the same exact size. Rainey claims he's a smidge taller.

Rice took Rainey under his wing from the start. He taught him how to be a professional, how to study in the classroom and how to work hard on the practice field. He picks Rainey up when he needs a ride anywhere. When he can't pick him up, he lets Rainey borrow his car.

"He's gone through the same things I've gone through," Rice said. "I've got to show him the ropes."

"He looks out for me," Rainey added. "When I look at Ray, I look at myself. We're both short, we both have the mindset of proving people wrong. I just try to soak up as much as I can from him."

Generally, teams like to have backup running backs of different styles and sizes from their starter. It's a change-of-pace back who fills a different role. The 6-foot, 218-pound Pierce does that, but Rainey does not. He's a Rice clone.

That didn't matter to Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron. While many have overlooked Rainey, the Ravens coaching staff saw something it couldn't let go.

Finally, Rainey isn't being punished for his size. His game and his drive won him a job.

"Great players – good players – come in all shapes and sizes," Cameron said. "I don't know what the measurable is for a running back anymore. How do you measure a guy's heart? How do you measure a guy's mind? You measure Ray's [Rice] mind, you measure his heart. You don't even think about what his height is. And, this [Rainey] kid may be the same way."

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