COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -Life in D.C. is not as laid back as Clemson. Ray Ray McElrathbey has had his car broken into twice. ``Then I got into an accident,'' he says.
But since arriving at Howard University in the nation's capital in August, McElrathbey again enjoys the football field, something that faded with the Tigers as he struggled at times to balance the sport with raising his little brother. That's in the past for the McElrathbeys, together and thriving on their latest shared adventure.
``I love it. It's exciting. I get to play,'' McElrathbey said by phone this week.
And McElrathbey, from Atlanta, can show that once again in South Carolina as his Howard Bison come to South Carolina State on Thursday night.
McElrathbey, 22, was the Clemson player who gained custody of his then-11-year-old brother two years ago. The move earned him appearances with Oprah Winfrey and national awards at a time in life when many of his college classmates focused on parties and friends.
to balance meetings, practices and weight training with raising a middle-schooler. He got help from Clemson coaches, their families and teammates - the NCAA granted a waiver of its extra benefits rule for the McElrathbey brothers - along with donations exceeding $100,000 from people touched by the story.
McElrathbey never made the onfield impact at Clemson. He was shifted from defense to offense months after Fahmarr arrived, then tore the ACL in his left knee the next summer to miss that season.
Last March, Clemson announced McElrathbey's scholarship would not be renewed.
He could've stayed at school away from football with a graduate assistantship. McElrathbey hadn't given up on the game so, armed with his Clemson degree, he transferred to Howard for his final two years of eligibility.
Slowly, McElrathbey says his game skills are returning. When he first took the field in Howard's second game, McElrathbey couldn't stop wondering if his surgically repaired knee would hold up. ``I was being cautious. I was thinking about cutting instead of cutting,'' McElrathbey said.
Those fears have subsided. McElrathbey has played in seven games and leads the Bison in all-purpose yards with 486. He's second in rushing and fourth in receiving with 22 catches. He's returning kickoffs and playing in the secondary.
`But I haven't ever lost this much.''
Alongside to cheer him up or get him going is McElrathbey's sidekick, Fahmarr, now 14. Fahmarr, who will be at the S.C. State game, attends a middle school on Howard's campus, making drop offs and pickups easier than when the two lived in Clemson.
Washington D.C. is an exciting place for an inquisitive teen and Fahmarr wants to tour the city's museums and monuments when football season's done. ``It's been pretty good living here,'' he said.
The McElrathbeys keep up with Clemson happenings. Ray Ray says he'll talk with Tiger receiver Jacoby Ford. ``Fahmarr probably talks to those guys more than I do,'' the elder McElrathbey said.
Because Clemson's traveling to Florida State this weekend, he doesn't expect his friends on the Tigers to make the three-plus hour trip to Orangeburg.
Ray Ray missed Clemson when he first arrived. He connected with an alumni group in the D.C.-northern Virginia area that made him feel at home. ``They told me when I first got there we were a family,'' McElrathbey said. ``I didn't realize it then, but now I know.''
McElrathbey was surprised by Clemson's season and its switch at coach when Tommy Bowden left last month and receiver coach Dabo Swinney took over. McElrathbey wished things had gone differently at Clemson but appreciates the help and care the brothers received from Bowden and his staff.
se days is mother, Tonya, whose drug addictions led Ray Ray to get Fahmarr out of there. When asked about her condition, McElrathbey says, ``Well, it's a struggle,'' without few details.
Between coursework for his health education/sociology of sports masters degree and coach Carey Bailey's 6 a.m. practices, McElrathbey's days are packed. Then there's dinner, Fahmarr's homework and studying.
``What a journey it's been,'' McElrathbey says. And one he expects to continue, hopefully, in the NFL or in broadcasting. Ray Ray says another year of college ball should increase his skills and raise his profile for pro teams. If not, he'll look for internships to help with a career in the media.
As always, the McElrathbeys will travel as a pair, content in a relationship that continues to grow. ``Right now, my main concern is Fahmarr,'' Ray Ray says, ``and he's doing great.''

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