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."
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
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.