Rainey rushed for 227 yards and scored three touchdowns on Nov. 26 to lead the Hilltoppers to a 41-18 victory over Troy University to become the school’s single-season and all-time leading rusher. He currently has 1,695 yards rushing and not only is he at the top of the charts at WKU, Rainey is actually leading the nation in rushing in Division 1-A, 73 yards ahead of Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (1,622). His career rushing yards at WKU stand at 4,542, passing the former record-holder Lerron Moore, who had 4,396 and his current head coach Willie Taggart, who’s now third on the list with 3,997.
“Coach Taggart was cool about it when I passed him up,” Rainey said, laughing. “He always told me that he would love for me to pass him and break the rushing record. He’s always been supportive of me.”
Rainey, who’s 5-foot-8 and 204 pounds, is just the eighth Division 1-A (or FBS) player since 2000 to rack up back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons, amassing 1,649 last year. That list includes current NFL running backs LaDanian Tomlinson (TCU), Ray Rice (Rutgers), DeAngelo Williams (Memphis), Darren McFadden (Arkansas) and Steven Jackson (Oregon State).
“It is great to know that I’ve accomplished so much since I’ve been here at WKU and that my name will go down in history,” Rainey said. “I’ve first got to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without Him, none of this would be possible.”
Rainey said it was an honor to be mentioned with the above backs who were outstanding runners and accomplished in their own right. He can remember watching them all on TV growing up and he’s ecstatic to hear his name amongst their names.
“To hear my name mentioned in the same sentence with Bo Jackson, Eric Dickerson and LaDanian and others is great,” Rainey said. “But to be honest, the fact that we’re winning is better than anything I’ve accomplished. I love the wins a lot more.”
Rainey remembers the dark days of WKU football in 2008, the first year the program became a D-1 school and how tough it was on him, the players, the coaches and the fans. Western went 0-12 that year and 0-12 the next season, getting hammered along the way. On top of that, Rainey barely touched the ball those two seasons: He rushed for 240 total yards on 35 carries in 2008 and 939 yards on 144 carries in 2009.
“Those two years were real tough on me for sure,” Rainey said. “I’m used to winning. I came from a winning program at Griffin High and I couldn’t fathom going winless in a season. Those were rough times.”
Things blossomed for Rainey when Taggart became the head coach in 2010. The record improved — slightly — to 2-10, but Taggart gave Rainey the chance he was looking for and the Griffin native took advantage of it, rushing for 1,649 yards on 340 carries and leading the nation in rushing over Oregon’s LaMichael James heading into the bowl games. Unfortunately for Rainey, James participated in a bowl game and Rainey had to just sit and watch James run past him in the BCS National Championship Game.
“LaMichael beat me by 30 yards,” Rainey said. “He beat me because he played in a bowl game and we didn’t. But I could see good things for WKU on the horizon.”
And he was right. WKU went 7-5 this season and Rainey broke his marks from last year, rushing for 100-plus yards in every game this year except for two — an 86-yard effort against Arkansas State on Oct. 1 and an 85-yard effort at top-ranked LSU on Nov. 12. And he should’ve had 100 yards against LSU, he said.
“I had 102 yards rushing against the Tigers. We ran a play where I was supposed to throw a halfback pass, but my guy was covered and I had to bring the ball down,” said Rainey. “I broke a few tackles trying to run, but I ended up losing 17 yards on the play. I should’ve thrown the ball away.”
Griffin High head football coach Steve DeVoursney said he is very proud of his former running back and marveled at how popular he is at the school. He went to watch Rainey and WKU play Troy (which featured another former Bear, freshman Chandler Worthy) and was impressed.
"The fans were chanting Bobby's name during the game and posters of him are all over the stadium. When Bobby broke the record, they stopped the game and gave him the game ball," DeVoursney said. "I know one thing: Anyone's who's ever coached against him or coached him has become a Bobby Rainey fan. He's a great player, a great person. He deserves every accolade he's gotten."
DeVoursney said Rainey has always persevered through adversity.
"People said he was too short and not fast enough to compete in college and he proved them wrong while he was at WKU," DeVoursney said. "I am hopeful he will prove how good he is to the NFL scouts."
For right now, Rainey will see if WKU will head to a bowl game and if he will be invited to the Senior Bowl next month. He’s slated to graduate on Dec. 12 and will head to Florida to start training for possible invites to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. He feels he’ll be ready for either one or both.
“It’s all about your mentality. I prefer to be a winner over a loser,” he said. “I’ve put up the numbers and I’ve gotten better at pass protection. I even threw for two TDs this year. All I need is a chance.”