Disney’s safety may just go down as this generations’ “Rudy” or “Remember the Titans” as one of the greatest football stories ever told. The movie is based on the real life story of former Clemson University football player Ray “Ray Ray” McElrathbey and his on and off the field trials and tribulations. McElrathbey was recruited to play Division I college football at Clemons by coach Tommy Bowden. McElrathbey came from the hard streets of Atlanta Georgia. His father skipped out on him and his father and his mother was a drug addict in and out of the Georgia public correctional system.
After starting college as a freshman, McElrathbey learned that his mother had been arrested for drug possession and his younger brother Fahmarr was getting caught up in his mother’s lifestyle. Instead of letting Fahmarr get put into a group home, McElrathbey violated NCAA and university rules by sneaking Fahmarr in his dorm room. Juggling his aggressive class schedule, division I football and keeping his brother’s presence on campus was too much for McElrathbey. Eventually he was caught by the coach and the NCAA. The NCAA was on the verge of disqualifying McElrathbey for accepting assistance for his brother, against the NCAA guidelines, but in the end, the community rallied behind him and the NCAA granted him a waiver.
The story mixes the real life story of family struggles faced by many urban collegiate players and a love story between McElrathbey and journalism student Kacey Stone, who wrote a story in the college paper about McElrathbey’s effort. While the story caused the local community and alumni to rally behind Ray Ray, it drew the ire of the college, his coaches and the NCAA.
The story, after the events in the movie had a mixed-ended for Ray Ray. After being drafted as a safety by the Bowden in 2006, he eventually was turned into a running back after recovering from a torn ACL in 2007. Bowden revoked McElrathbey’s scholarship after his 2007 season and he finished his degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Today, McElrathbey works as a family outreach specialist and crisis coordinator in Los Angeles. He never made it to the NFL, but he now operates a charity called “Ray Ray’s Safety Net Foundation“.