Jan. 23, 2009
Sometimes the storybook ending is almost too good to be true.
When Brian Raines was helped from the field in mid October, with his broken left arm immobilized and his football career apparently at a sudden end, no one could have imagined that two months later, that same arm would be helping him hoist the Texas Bowl trophy into the air in celebration of Rice's first bowl victory in 50 years.
An inspirational leader who was first elected as a captain as a sophomore, Raines has been equally influential to the scores of children he has visited at area schools over the last four years.
"The reason I volunteer to spend time with the kids is that someone did that for me," Raines said. "I know it made a big impact on my life to meet people who had a positive story to tell. I know it gives you hope for your future."
While most aspiring young athletes might list professional players as a role model, Raines took his inspiration from another visitor to his school.
"It wasn't athletes that made the impression on me, it was meeting businessmen," he recalled. "They had been in my shoes when they were younger, but to see the kind of lifestyle they had by making the right choices had a big impact on me."
Raines has built on that experience to always be ready to answer the call whenever the Owls are making a visit to a school. Given the hefty workload of both full-time football and full-time academics at Rice, there were times when he wondered if he should have left the volunteering to others.
"There were a couple of times I had signed up to go to a school when I just felt too tired, and was tempted to not show up," he admitted. "But it was always the same, once I got there, the way they treated you picked me right up. They ask you such great questions, and before you know it, you are bouncing around like a kid," Raines said.
While juggling his academics, football and his volunteer work, Raines has also always had his focus on life after football. He has lined up a variety of internships and summer work experiences to build a network of contacts with the aim of making the transition from the playing field into one of those businessmen he was impressed by as a youth.
As he enters his final semester of classes, Raines has allowed himself a moment to reflect on his decision to come to Rice and on the reaction of his friends when he pulled the Owls' Letter of Intent out of a pile of offers on signing day in 2004.
"It has been a great life for me here at Rice. I am a better person because of the time I have spent here," he said. "I have a lot of friends from this area that I met playing football in high school who all went off to school and who really gave me a bad time for picking Rice who now wish they had made the same choice.
"I have learned so much since I came to Rice. It allowed me to see the world through a new pair of eyes and I am excited to see where I will go on from here," Raines said.
With an eye on his future and a commitment to the next generation, Brian Raines is truly one of Tomorrow's Leaders.