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Seeing his friend adapt has made Ripper realize that 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,” he said, noting that he and Rainey spent a good deal of time together over the summer, working to get ready for the football season.

Rainey had 4.6 speed in the 40, and “a cannon for an arm,” Ripper said. Rainey was on the recruiting radar of several major schools, and this season was going to be important. He had drawn the attention of college recruiters, who were likely going to watch him closer this season to determine if he was a BCS-level prospect.

His highlight clips on YouTube have been seen nearly 200,000 times. And with such a bright future, Rainey’s teammates initially didn’t want to believe the news.

Rainey had told Ripper and another teammate, Greg McIntosh, that amputation would be necessary via text message the night before his operation. The football team was on a bus back to campus after a season-opening victory against Benedictine in Richmond.

McIntosh was stunned by the message, and went and found Ripper on the bus.

Ripper had worn Rainey’s jersey in the victory. He and Rainey both transferred to Woodberry Forest from St. Anne’s Belfield, a private school nearby.

“I figured that Jacob was just pulling some kind of sick joke on us all, so I texted Jacob and that’s when he told me that all the tissue had died from lack of blood flow,” Ripper said.

Once Rainey confirmed to Ripper that he wasn’t joking, they told a few other teammates. McIntosh said he and Ripper “just sat the rest of the way back crying in each other’s arms.”

Back at school, coach Clint Alexander gathered the team in the gym and told them all.

“It was very emotional,” Ripper said. “Most people were broken down and just sobbing and everyone else was just consoling those people. It was a pretty mournful time for everybody.”

Suddenly, that narrow 16-13 opening victory meant little.

“Just everything stops,” McIntosh said. “I just didn’t think that that was something that could actually happen. I just felt that sinking feeling in my heart.”

Rainey’s recollections of his week in the hospital before the surgery are fuzzy, but there are some things he recalls.

“The doctors told me a couple times that I wasn’t going to get amputated, so I was feeling pretty good until Friday,” the athletic 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rainey said. “I don’t remember a lot, but I just remember them telling me it was going to get amputated and I was just like, `All right, well, that sucks.’”

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