Sept. 9, 2009
What: Lobos vs. Tulsa
When/Where: 6:06 p.m. Saturday, University Stadium
TV: The Mtn (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Radio: 770-AM KKOB; Lobo Radio Network
Online: GameTracker, results on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
You could say Johnathan Rainey had two choices when it came to expressing his physical nature in a controlled, competitive environment featuring whistles and men in striped shirts.
He could have continued to play basketball and spent a whole lot of time on the pine nursing a foul or four. He could switch to a game where contact is not only appreciated, it is a necessity -- a means of survival.
So Rainey made the switch. He left behind the hard court after his junior year in high school, and he jumped all-out into the smash-mouth game of football. Not only did Rainey slide willingly into the game of pads, he went straight into the trenches which is a dog-eat-dog world of semi-controlled and legal battery.
"I love it in the trenches," said the University of New Mexico defensive end. "Every play in the trenches, you are in a fight."
Rainey actually loved football before basketball. But in the eighth grade a finger got snapped on the football team and Rainey took a hard look at basketball. He had some size and strength. He had quick feet. He did just fine.
But there was that itch to be scratched; maybe a forearm to be thrown.
"When I broke my finger in football, I decided I didn't want anymore broken fingers," he said. "So, I strayed from the game and went to basketball.
"I liked basketball, but I was getting frustrated. They wouldn't let you touch anyone in basketball. I like to get physical. I like the physical nature of football. You get to go out there and hit someone and keep doing it over and over."
And in football, you don't get called for fouls that often. So, in his junior year of high school, Rainey returned to the game that encouraged hitting.
Rainey is pretty good at hitting people and also pretty good at grabbing people and tossing them to the turf. Lobo coach Mike Locksley said Rainey was one of the top grading defenders in UNM's 41-6 loss at Texas A&M on Saturday. Rainey was in on seven tackles and was the only Lobo to record a sack against the Aggies.
That probably doesn't come as too big a surprise since Rainey has been clocked in the 40 at 4.82 and is the fastest lineman on the team.
"I've always been fast," said Rainey, a 6-foot-2, 242-pound defensive end. "When I was younger, I was a chunky kid, but I could move."
Rainey gives UNM another explosive weapon on the D-line. His size makes him a defensive end in a linebacker's body, but this Lobo is happy with the trenches. "I've been tried as a linebacker and I probably could do it," he said. "But I like to get in there and mix it up."
Rainey is one of those Lobos who dots the UNM practices with a lot of smiles and positive encouragement. The sophomore might not flash as many teeth as fellow defensive end, Jaymar Latchison, but it's close.
"Johnathan is easy going, laid back and likes to have fun like me," said Latchison. "But he works hard and has lots of talent. I can't wait for next season when we are both No. 1 on both ends because I know something is going to happen when he is out there and that gets me excited."
Rainey said there is an excitement building up on the Lobo defense this week heading into the Tulsa game. The Lobos gave up 56 points and 606 yards to Tulsa last year.
It's kind of a make-up-for-last-year kind of game. It's also a make-up-for-last-week kind of opportunity. The Lobos gave up 41 points and 606 yards to Texas A&M.
"I can't wait to get out there," said Rainey. "Emotionally, we want to get back out there and hit somebody. But we also know we have to come out and play harder and smarter and not make so many mistakes."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.