Jacob Rainey is inspiring people throughout the sports world.
This Virginia prep quarterback who had to have part of his right leg amputated has moved the likes of Alabama coach Nick Saban, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.
A YouTube highlight film of Rainey shows why college coaches had taken notice. It shows this once-promising quarterback at Woodberry Forest School throwing a 40-yard dart for a touchdown, running into the line on a quarterback sneak, then emerging from the pile and sprinting 40 yards for a touchdown.
All that was taken away when he was tackled in a Sept. 3 scrimmage. He had a severe knee injury and a severed artery and part of his right leg had to be amputated. Now, his courage has people taking notice.
"What an amazing kid and what an amazing outlook that he has," Tebow said of 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rainey.
With football gone, Rainey is not sure what is next -- but he knows what is not: Moping around.
"I don't know why me," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I've never really asked myself that question. I think that would just make me feel sorry for myself, and that's the last thing I want to do."
A week after the injury -- and after several surgeries -- part of Rainey's right leg was amputated Sept. 10.
His high school teammates said they were worried until they talked to Rainey.
"I think talking to him right after surgery was when I really realized that everything was going to be OK because he was still joking and cutting up and kind of making everyone realize that he was still the same person," said Nathan Ripper, one of Rainey's closest friends on the team.
Rainey returned to school after Thanksgiving and said putting others at ease seemed like the right approach.
"I feel like if I was in their shoes, I'd feel awkward about it and stuff, like talking about it, so I kind of joke about it," Rainey said. "I mean, I can't change anything. There's no point [complaining] about it, so I think it makes everyone more comfortable about it if I just joke about it. "
Seeing his friend adapt has made Ripper realize things will only get better.
"He's the last person I ever would have wanted this to happen to, but, if I had to pick one person that I know could get through it, it would be him just because he's going to work hard to do rehab, work hard to get used to whatever has changed."
Rainey had 4.6 speed in the 40, a strong arm and was on the recruiting radar of several major schools. College recruiters would have determined this fall if he were a BCS-level prospect.
Rainey's recollections of his week before surgery are fuzzy.
"I just remember them telling me it was going to get amputated and I was just like, 'All right, well, that sucks.' "
But Ripper said Rainey has lifted himself and those around him.
"Just talking to him and realizing that he has the same personality and he's going to do everything he can to get better and get through this makes us all realize that he's still with us and what could have happened."
First Published December 26, 2011 5:00 AM