GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There is no such thing as TMI in an NFL scout’s world. The more they know about a player, the more prepared they feel come draft time.
Here is what everyone on the planet seems to know about former Gators running back Chris Rainey: a) Rainey will be among the fastest – if not the fastest – player at the NFL combine this week in Indianapolis, and b) he had a much-publicized incident with a former girlfriend that involved a threatening text message in September 2010.
Rainey served a suspension in the middle of his junior season and returned without incident as a senior, earning team MVP honors and the respect of Florida’s new coaching staff for the way he approached the game and his positive influence in the locker room.
With his career at UF finished, Rainey is now running toward a future in the NFL.
Rainey played in the Senior Bowl last month, meeting with several different teams and answering questions about his past, primarily the arrest that continues to be the first link that pops up on Google when you search “Chris Rainey.”
“They all ask me about that,’’ Rainey said. “That’s all they want to know in the interviews.”
While the storyline will be rehashed leading up to the draft whenever Rainey’s name is involved, it’s one those who know Rainey best put to bed a long time ago.
Rainey certainly has moved on, sounding very confident on Wednesday that any questions about his past were answered during team interviews at the Senior Bowl.
“As long as I prove to them [I can play], that’s all I’ve got to do. I’m good,’’ he said during a visit back to campus. Rainey has been working out in Orlando since the Senior Bowl. “You just have to do your thing out there. That’s it. The interview is going to be basically the same thing as at the Senior Bowl.”
Rainey is leaving early Thursday morning for Indianapolis and has a busy schedule the next few days, including more personal interviews.
For a glimpse at an NFL prospect’s stay at the combine, here is Rainey’s schedule through Sunday: Thursday – Travel to Indianapolis, registration, hospital pre-exam and X-rays, orientation and interviews; Friday – measurements, medical examinations, media session, psychological testing and interviews; Saturday – NFLPA meeting, psychological testing, interviews; Sunday – On-field workout (timing, stations, skill drills), departure from Indianapolis.
Rainey is most looking forward to running the 40-yard dash. That could be his shining moment.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, Rainey’s personal-best 40 time is 4.25 seconds, which if he ran in Indy would be the second-fastest 40 time since the combine went to electronic timing in 1999.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and former Eastern Kentucky receiver Rondel Melendez share the fastest 40 (4.24 seconds) in the age of electronic timing at the combine, so Rainey’s previous best is not only in the same neighborhood but living next door.
“I’m going to shock a lot of eyes,” Rainey said playfully of his goal to run a sub-4.2 time in Indy. “I feel super fast. I’m going for it.”
Regardless of his 40 time at the combine, Rainey’s combination of speed, versatility and football instincts have most analysts projected him to go in the top three or four rounds.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was impressed by Rainey’s football IQ at the Senior Bowl.
“He picked things up quickly,’’ Shanahan told reporters.
Rainey was used at slot receiver for the South team and had just one rush for five yards. However, he returned a punt 17 yards and three kickoffs for 60 yards, showing the versatility that Florida fans were accustomed to the past four seasons.
Listed at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, Rainey isn’t concerned his small stature will negatively impact his draft status. He has resisted any temptation to get caught up in what the so-called experts are saying during the countless hours of analysis leading up to the combine.
“I try not to hear anything,’’ he said. “I don’t want worry about nothing because I don’t want it to get in my head and all that stuff. I just want to focus and just be ready when it’s time for the draft.”
And if he is drafted by an NFL team more as a receiver than running back, Rainey is fine with that prospect. He caught 31 passes last season for the Gators.
“I knew it was going to happen eventually because I know they definitely love running backs that have a receiver’s hands,’’ Rainey said. “I was ready for it and prepared. I’m going to do receiver at Pro Day [at UF in March] but I’m going to work as a running back in Indy.”