In the last few years, we have seen a cavalcade of pro-ready talent emerge from University of Florida’s football program. Players like tight-end Aaron Hernandez and wide-receiver Percy Harvin, just to name two, look like they’ll be Pro Bowl candidates for years to come. Perhaps Tim Tebow, despite his often-discussed flaws, has another opportunity ahead of him.
Arguably, the most talented recent ex-Gator skill player, though, is running-back Chris Rainey. For all of his talent, however, character issues have never fully gone away — and they’re center stage again.
On Jan. 10, Rainey — who just concluded an up-and-down rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers — was in Gainesville, which has been a place of highs and lows for the speedy scatback for a few years. Rainey made news for a fight with a girlfriend a couple of years ago, during which he texted her a series of irate messages, culminating with a not-so-veiled threat: “Time to die.”
For obvious reasons, this shocked many who heard about it — even though the recipient of the texts declined to press charges, and the charges were pled down to “misdemeanor stalking.” Rainey was suspended for five games, a penalty that didn’t help his draft status, which went from a likely first-round selection to a fifth-round pick for the Steelers.
The former track star’s ability was never an issue. His judgment? Another matter, but the risk was worth it for the Steelers, who can always use more running backs, considering the nature of their offense, especially when the cold wind whips through Pittsburgh as autumn turns to winter.
Rainey’s speed advantage was not quite as obvious on the pro level as it had been in the SEC, so he accomplished little on the field this season: 100 rushing yards with two touchdowns. For some players, that’s a quarter; for Rainey, it was a season. Despite this underachievement, there wasn’t any reason to think Pittsburgh would let him go after signing him … More