- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2011

Jacob Rainey is inspiring people all across the sports world.

The 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 highlight film of Rainey on YouTube shows why college coaches had taken notice. It shows the 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 TD. There is also of clip of him running a draw for another 35-yard score.

All that was taken away, without warning when he was tackled during a scrimmage on Sept. 3. He suffered a severe knee injury and a severed artery and part of his right leg had to be amputated.

Now it’s his courage that has people taking notice.

Saban has sent Rainey a Crimson Tide jersey with his name and number on it, along with a note encouraging him to “keep fighting.” Matthews sent him an autographed jersey and Tebow will meet him this weekend.

The Denver quarterback’s foundation is flying Rainey and his family to Buffalo this weekend “to hang out with me before and after” the Broncos-Bills game, Tebow said. The foundation has brought a child and his family to every Broncos game this season.

“What an amazing kid and what an amazing outlook that he has,” Tebow said of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rainey, whose playing style was frequently compared to Tebow. “I’m so proud to have the opportunity to spend time with him and his family. We’re very excited about that.”

With football gone, Rainey isn’t sure what’s next _ but he knows what isn’t: 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 he suffered the injury _ and after several surgeries _ part of Rainey’s right leg was amputated on Sept. 10.

His high school teammates say 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 break having missed the entire first trimester, and said putting others at ease about his situation seems like the right approach to take.

“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, it is what it is. 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 like it’s alright. That’s how it’s always been.”

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