South Carolina’s football program added more than a talented football player to its 2012 recruiting class last week.
When Yulee (Fla.) tight end Kelvin Rainey committed to the Gamecocks, USC also gained a feel-good story that seems to epitomize everything that’s right about athletics.
Growing up in the Jacksonville suburbs, it was unlikely that the 6-foot-3, 212-pounder would ever make it long enough in life to accept a scholarship offer.
Rainey received a firsthand education in the realities of the street. He was shot at by his stepfather and shot in the thigh by another child before the age of 10. Unable to avoid danger during a move to Alabama, Rainey and his family members settled in Yulee and accepted that they might never lead normal lives.
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“It was terrible," Rainey told Jacksonville’s WAWS-TV of his childhood last fall. “If I wasn't here right now, I’d probably be locked up somewhere.”
But he was saved, much like Michael Oher in “The Blind Side,” by another family. After becoming friends with Zach Camp in elementary school, Rainey eventually moved in with Camp and his family, giving him a chance to maintain some sense of normalcy and develop as both a student and football player.
Years later, Rainey is now ranked as the nation’s 11th-best tight end by Rivals. Scout ranks him 17th at his position.
Rainey plays both sides of the ball for Yulee. Though he’s listed as a tight end, he’ll play some receiver to create size mismatches on the perimeter and he’ll also line up as an H-back in the backfield. Defensively, he played strongside linebacker in 2010 but will move to free safety this season.
“He’s a big physical kid, so when he gets the ball in the open field, he’s tough to bring down,” Yulee coach Bobby Ramsay said. “For a kid his size, he’s got good feet and good balance. He makes some pretty difficult catches. Defensively, he runs well and covers a lot of space. He’s got long arms and makes a lot of plays off the edge for us.”
Some schools - Rainey had more than 20 scholarship offers - were recruiting him as an outside linebacker, but Rainey’s future is likely on offense. The Gamecocks recruited him as a versatile tight end, Ramsay said.
Much like Class of 2011 USC signees Rory Anderson, Drew Owens and Jerell Adams, Rainey isn’t your prototypical 6-foot-3, 250-pounder. However, they all will give Steve Spurrier same added athleticism at the position, allowing him to move them around freely in an effort to create mismatches.
“Physically he’s a good looking kid,” Ramsay said. “The big-play ability, the ability to separate from defenders and the ability to go up in traffic [is what coaches like]. He’s a big target, and they see potential with the weight he could add and the mismatches he could create in the passing game. People are going to have a tough time accounting for him.”