I hate to say I told ya so, but I told ya so. Let’s talk a little about a player I have been touting since high school and one of the newest members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, running back/wide receiver Chris Rainey. He’s the Swiss Army knife of football players and how he got to the NFL, and the Steelers is pretty interesting and really gives you a sense of just how tremendous he can be as a pro.
I first heard about Rainey back in 2006 as his game became legend. He was the starting running back for the Lakeland High School Drednaughts and was doing ridiculous things. He finished that season with a third consecutive state title for his high school, a USA Today National Championship, over 2,400 yards rushing on the year with 32 touchdowns, and better than 7,000 career all purpose yards and a staggering 90 touchdowns. Just take those numbers in for a moment.
He headed off to the University of Florida where he was promising as both a football player and a track athlete. Another number I like. I his career with the Gators, Rainey gained just over 2,400 yards rushing, but with a gaudy 6.3 yards per carry. Never a feature back in former Head Coach Urban Meyer’s system, but made the most of his touches. You add in 795 receiving yards and 454 return yards during his career and the total of nearly 3,700 all purpose yards of offense was something that always impressed me. Rainey’s explosion and speed were amazing, but not entirely unique in college football. We’ve seen track athletes playing college football before. But I always felt like Rainey was as much a football player as he was track star. But make no mistake he is a burner.
Speaking of track, all Rainey did while a member of the Gators track team was win a national championship and be an All-American. Also let me add, being able to balance track and football shows a serious commitment and dedication, two things any NFL star needs.
I had given Rainey a firm 3rd round grade for the 2012 NFL Draft, but concerns about what position he’d play and his size pushed him to the 5th round and the Steelers were wise to snatch him up.
In the new Todd Haley offense, I knew they’d want to have a playmaker, ala Dexter McCluster who Haley raved about while the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. I honestly think in the final analysis Rainey is a better all around football player than McCluster, and with the players around him, could be far more dangerous.
One preseason game into the 2012 season and we’ve already seen what Rainey is capable of, taking a routine screen pass and runs away and through Philadelphia Eagles defenders for a 57 yard touchdown. Just a taste of what he’s capable of in the open field.
As much as I hope to see more of this from Rainey this preseason, I understand the importance of keeping a guy like him healthy, and so I expect Rainey to be used sparingly in the preseason and allowed to cut loose in the regular season. But have faith Black and Gold Nation, Chris Rainey is the real deal.