SI Vault
 
Father Figure
Lars Anderson
September 11, 2006
A Clemson cornerback gets a new roommate--his 11-year-old brother
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 11, 2006

Father Figure

A Clemson cornerback gets a new roommate--his 11-year-old brother

View CoverRead All Articles

A FEW HOURS after Ray Ray McElrathbey made three tackles in Clemson's 54--6 victory over Florida International last Saturday afternoon, he and his 11-year-old brother, Fahmarr, were shopping for frozen pizzas at a Bi-Lo near campus when a stranger approached. "Is this your brother everyone is talking about?" the wide-eyed fan asked. Told by Ray Ray that he was, the fan replied, "I'm really pulling for you two."

The McElrathbeys have a lot of people pulling for them now. Ray Ray, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman cornerback, assumed temporary custody of Fahmarr in August. Their mother has battled an addiction to crack cocaine for a decade, and they aren't in contact with their father. "With [my mom's] past problems we thought it would be better to have Fahmarr with me," says Ray Ray. "I'm still getting used to the whole parent thing, like being asked by teachers what my child's strengths and weaknesses are. But we're going to make it work."

After his final school bell rings, Fahmarr typically gets a ride--from one of Ray Ray's teammates or classmates--to the Clemson football office, where he does his homework before heading to the practice field. Then Fahmarr and Ray Ray, who makes sure his teammates don't curse in Fahmarr's presence, will hop on a motor scooter and head to their off-campus apartment, where they usually spend the evening together. "Everyone on our team treats Fahmarr like he's our own little brother," says Gaines Adams, a senior defensive end who has bought school supplies for Fahmarr. "We take him to the mall and watch movies with him. He's a great, great kid, and he's brought us closer together as a team."

After The Post and Courier of Charleston ran a story on Ray Ray and Fahmarr in August, the paper received many offers to help the McElrathbeys financially. But because Ray Ray is on scholarship, NCAA rules prevent the McElrathbeys from accepting any gifts or money. "Fahmarr, who goes to the same school as some of the coaches' kids, can't even get a ride to school by any of the coaches' wives because [the NCAA] thinks that's an extra benefit," says Ray Ray. "I think I should be able to start a trust fund for my brother."

Clemson has asked the NCAA to waive its extra-benefits rule, and Ray Ray is hoping for a favorable ruling later this week. The NCAA has a chance to do the right thing--just as Ray Ray is doing right now.

1