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Original Issue

Father Figure

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

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

The McElrathbeyshave a lot of people pulling for them now. Ray Ray, a 19-year-old redshirtfreshman cornerback, assumed temporary custody of Fahmarr in August. Theirmother has battled an addiction to crack cocaine for a decade, and they aren'tin contact with their father. "With [my mom's] past problems we thought itwould be better to have Fahmarr with me," says Ray Ray. "I'm stillgetting used to the whole parent thing, like being asked by teachers what mychild's strengths and weaknesses are. But we're going to make it work."

After his finalschool bell rings, Fahmarr typically gets a ride--from one of Ray Ray'steammates or classmates--to the Clemson football office, where he does hishomework before heading to the practice field. Then Fahmarr and Ray Ray, whomakes sure his teammates don't curse in Fahmarr's presence, will hop on a motorscooter and head to their off-campus apartment, where they usually spend theevening together. "Everyone on our team treats Fahmarr like he's our ownlittle brother," says Gaines Adams, a senior defensive end who has boughtschool supplies for Fahmarr. "We take him to the mall and watch movies withhim. He's a great, great kid, and he's brought us closer together as ateam."

After The Post andCourier of Charleston ran a story on Ray Ray and Fahmarr in August, the paperreceived many offers to help the McElrathbeys financially. But because Ray Rayis on scholarship, NCAA rules prevent the McElrathbeys from accepting any giftsor 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 [theNCAA] thinks that's an extra benefit," says Ray Ray. "I think I shouldbe able to start a trust fund for my brother."

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



BROTHERLY LOVE Since Ray Ray took in Fahmarr, the McElrathbey boys have been inseparable.