Clemson University

Tigers' McElrathbey leaving for Howard

Clemson cornerback Ray Ray McElrathbey, right, plays catch with his then-11-year-old brother, Fahmarr, following football practice in 2006. McElrathbey, who has legal custody of Fahmarr, is transferring to Howard.
Clemson cornerback Ray Ray McElrathbey, right, plays catch with his then-11-year-old brother, Fahmarr, following football practice in 2006. McElrathbey, who has legal custody of Fahmarr, is transferring to Howard.

COLUMBIA -- Ray Ray McElrathbey just wants to play football.

The Clemson running back who earned awards for raising his younger brother said Monday he plans to resume his injury-halted football career at Howard. Alongside, as always, will be McElrathbey's 13-year-old brother, Fahmarr.

"My sidekick," the older McElrathbey said by phone Monday. "I won't go anywhere without him."

Clemson said in March that McElrathbey, 22, would not play next fall. He was offered a graduate assistantship with the athletic department that would have paid for his schooling, but McElrathbey wasn't ready to give up the game.

McElrathbey has two years of eligibility left and could play immediately since Howard is part of the NCAA division formerly known as I-AA. "I'm going to try and make up four years in two, God-willing," he said.

McElrathbey said he learned about Howard through friends, then went to visit coach Carey Bailey's program. What McElrathbey found was a young group seeking experienced leaders and hungry to win in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

"They're revamping," McElrathbey said. "The guys I did see, I liked."

The Bison finished 4-7 overall and 2-6 in the MEAC. Reached Monda, Bailey said he was prohibited from commenting because of NCAA rules governoring pending transfers.

McElrathbey came to Clemson out of Atlanta's Mays High School in 2005. McElrathbey became one of college football's most-heartwarming stories the following season when he was granted custody of Fahmarr because of his mother's struggle with drugs. The brothers shared an off-campus apartment.

The NCAA allowed Clemson coaches and staff to help with routine duties like giving Fahmarr rides to and from school. The governing body also allowed Clemson to start up a fund for donations to help with the teen's care.

Ray Ray McElrathbey earned several awards and the brothers appeared on television with Oprah Winfrey, among others.

On the field, though, things were not as rewarding. Then a defensive back, he played mostly on special teams in 2006 before being moved to running back before Clemson's appearance in the Music City Bowl.

McElrathbey's attempt to gain footing in the backfield ended last August when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament during fall camp. He says the knee is improving and expects to be ready to practice this summer.

Even at 100 percent, it was unclear how often McElrathbey would've gotten to carry the ball for the Tigers. Clemson's two star rushers, James "Thunder" Davis and C.J. "Lightning" Spiller, are back. The incoming class included highly regarded tailbacks Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington.

"Regardless of the situation, I don't look at this as a negative," McElrathbey said.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden did not immediately return a phone message.

McElrathbey said he expects to remain at running back for Howard, along with getting action on special teams and in the return game. If they'll let him, McElrathbey would love to play some defensive back, too.

"My goal is to never come off the field," he said.

McElrathbey said his brother is excited about the move, having spent parts of his life in major cities like Atlanta and Las Vegas. The elder McElrathbey is to graduate from Clemson on Aug. 9. He plans to pursue a masters' degree in mass communication with an eye on a broadcast journalism career.

McElrathbey thanked Clemson fans and friends who have supported him and his brother the past few years.

"This is home," he said. "You'll hear from me."

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