If Rainey had known the not-too-distant future, and if he had felt like giving his former teammate a friendly jab, he could have said, "The end zone." It was Rainey's short touchdown run in the fourth quarter, right after his own 31-yard scamper down to the Miami one, that provided the go-ahead points in Tampa Bay's 22-19 win.
If it was Rainey's employers who were charged with answering Ellerbe's question, the answer would be simple: "Nowhere, not any time soon."
The Buccaneers suddenly need Rainey's services, much more than they imagined when they claimed him off waivers from the Cleveland Browns on October 21 to provide depth after an injury to starting RB
And Rainey needs this opportunity to prove the thing he has believed ever since he left Western Kentucky with 4,523 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns and sat in disbelief during the three days of the 2012 NFL Draft, three days in which he failed to hear his name called.
"I'm ready for any load that the coach is willing to give me," said Rainey. "I've prepared for it, and I'm ready for it. Basically, I came into the NFL with a chip on my shoulder because I didn't get drafted. I feel like I've got something to prove…not to everybody else, but to myself."
"They run the ball here, and that's great for me because I'm a running back and I love to run the ball," said Rainey with a wide grin.
He had to wait awhile to return to the thing he loves. He led the nation with 340 carries in 2010 and then logged another 369 in 2011 but didn't get a single one in 2012 after the preseason. But Rainey waited for his chance, and now it has apparently arrived.
"It has been tough [to stay patient], but I stayed down and stayed humble and prayed to the man above to give me the strength to be patient," he said. "That's a virtue in life, to be patient. That's something I've been battling throughout my career, being patient, so I'm going to continue to pray for the strength to be patient."
In fact, Rainey's whole life has become something of a whirlwind in the last three weeks. His claim by the Buccaneers meant a move down to Florida, and he just recently found a house he hopes to close on. Six days after the Bucs put in their claim, Rainey was back in Paducah, Kentucky witnessing the birth of his daughter, Kyvee. After his big game on Monday night, he went back to the locker room and found 36 congratulatory text messages on his phone. Prioritizing, he first called his fiancée in Kentucky and even spoke to his two-week-old daughter (a one-way conversation, of course). Then he called his mom, who said she was proud of him.
"I proved that I am able to play in this league, and I did my job like I was supposed to do it," said Rainey. "I was able to go out and do my job, and that resulted in us winning the game. The defense kept the Dolphins from scoring so that we could win the game, and I think I did my part."
In addition to giving credit to the defense, Rainey lauded the Buccaneers' offensive line, which for the second straight week opened up large seams for a rushing attack that gained a total of 345 yards against Seattle and Miami. And it's a good point – there's a good chance that Martin would be riding a hot streak of his own right now if the shoulder injury hadn't taken him out of play right before this O-Line resurgence. The Buccaneers would love to have Martin available, but at this point all they can do is ask player such as Rainey and Leonard to produce as Martin (or James) would have.
Rainey thinks he can do that. He even resembles Martin to some degree, in that both backs are short and compact but quick. Martin is listed at 5-9 and 215 pounds while Rainey comes in at 5-8 and 212. Rainey's height has often been thrown back at him as a reason why he wouldn't succeed at each new level of football, which has unsurprisingly helped drive him to defy that notion.
"I use it as motivation," said Rainey. "No man can tell another man what he can and cannot do. Anything is possible, and that's why I look forward to doing anything I want to do, as long as I put God first."