Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rainey has a fairy-tale rise for Bucs

TAMPA — One day, when Disney does the Bobby Rainey story, it will have to begin with the happily ever after.

How many fairy tales start like this? An undrafted, unheralded, undersized (5 feet 8) running back is claimed off waivers by his third NFL team on a Monday. His fiance delivers a baby girl six days later.

In two weeks, he gets his first carries for his new team and, after a season-ending fractured ankle to Mike James, produces the there­tofore longest offensive play of the Bucs' season, a 32-yard burst that sets up his winning touchdown one play later.

But Rainey isn't done.

The next week, he buys a house. And on Nov. 17, with his family watching, he rushes for 163 yards and scores three touchdowns to earn NFC offensive player of the week honors.

Who needs Chapter 2?

Standing outside Raymond James Stadium after the game, fans strain their necks to sneak a peek at the new star, no doubt thinking and whispering to their sons, "He's the football player? If he can make it, so can you."

"Our house is filled with boxes right now," fiance Kareema Roach, a member of the track team at Western Kentucky where she met Bobby, said of their castle in a Westchase subdivision.

"I hope Tampa is finally home for him," his mother, Janice Davis, said.

Davis said she knew when Bobby was born, weighing a promising 8 pounds, 15 ounces, she had a future star: "The nurse said, 'You have yourself a little football player.' "

Rainey was raised in Griffin, Ga., about 30 driving minutes from Atlanta, and played basketball, baseball and football there. What he lacked in size, he made up for in heart and hustle.

"I know how hard he always worked because I was always right there beside him," Rays infielder Tim Beckham said. Together, they attended Griffin High, which has pumped out major talent, including Hall of Fame offensive tackle Rayfield Wright and Olympian and NFL receiver Willie Gault.

"He has some heart. He's not lacking for that. He deserves this."

Rainey was overlooked by some of the bigger schools. He got an offer from Georgia Tech. But his SAT scores weren't quite high enough, so he ended up at Western Kentucky.

"I'd never seen a high school back break tackles like he did," said Stu Holt, his former running backs coach at Western Kentucky who has the same position on coach Willie Taggart's staff at USF. "Everybody knew he was getting the ball, and they couldn't stop him."

Rainey thrived in his last two seasons with the Hilltoppers, which also were Taggart's first two there as head coach. In Taggart's power running attack, Rainey rushed for 1,649 and 15 touchdowns in 2010 and 1,695 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011.

Meanwhile, when Roach met Rainey, she knew he was the one.

"He was very sarcastic," she said. "He teased me a lot. But he was so sweet. When we were in college, I always told my friends, even before he asked, that I was going to marry him."

Small in stature, Rainey didn't measure up in the eyes of pro scouts. After going undrafted, he signed with the Ravens. He finished his rookie season on injured reserve but earned a Super Bowl ring. He was released this past training camp and signed by the Browns as a backup to Trent Richardson.

With Doug Martin out with a torn labrum in his shoulder, the Bucs searched the waiver wire and found Rainey on Oct. 21.

Roach, pregnant back in Kentucky, was supposed to be induced the day after her fiance was claimed by the Bucs. But Rainey was told he couldn't have the day off, so she waited until he came home the weekend following the Oct. 24 game against Carolina and willed herself to deliver.

"I told him, 'If you come this weekend, I'll make sure I have her,' " Roach said. "He said, 'You'd better.' I wasn't induced. I did some major walking."

Kyvee Jolie has her daddy's wide smile.

"I knew he was going to be a great dad," Roach said.

On Nov. 17, Janice went inside the club area at RJS to escape the heat. Her son broke a long run for a touchdown.

"I was yelling, 'Go, Man! Go Man!' People probably thought I was crazy," she said. "He hates it when I call him Bobby. I always have called him Man.

"I hope this is the place for him. I like the atmosphere in Tampa. I like the fans. They were very friendly. I didn't feel comfortable in Baltimore. Maybe it's just up-north people. I want him to be here a long time."

Once upon a time.

   
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