Rainey fulfilling defensive potential


Senior George Rainey (46) tackles a Broncos player Nov. 26 during NIU’s game against Western Michigan.

By Frank Gogola

George Rainey, redshirt senior defensive end, only has two games remaining in an NIU football uniform, but for the first-year starter, that’s two more games to continue to improve and show how far he’s come.

Rainey, out of South Division High School in Milwaukee, Wis., redshirted his first year at NIU and didn’t start during the following three seasons. He has since played in all 12 games this season and started in 11 of them, taking advantage of every opportunity he has had on the field.

The 6-foot-2, 222-pound defensive end has been a disruptive force starting on the defensive line in his final season. But head coach Rod Carey said he has been impressed with Rainey since the 2011 season, when Carey was the Huskies’ offensive line coach.

As a then-redshirt sophomore special teamer and defensive end on the scout team, Rainey gave fits to then-redshirt senior left tackle Trevor Olson, who was named to the 2011 All-MAC first team, and then-redshirt senior right tackle Keith Otis.

“I’ve been impressed with him because he is long and rangy and … they had problems with him,” Carey said. “I was like, ‘This guy is a pain.’ He doesn’t look like he should be able to make those plays, but he does. Now, his technique’s caught up with his ranginess. [I’m] just really proud. [He’s a] senior playing like a senior.”

Coming into this season, Rainey saw action in 24 games on special teams his first two seasons and played in 13 games as the seventh or eighth defensive lineman last season. He saw more time on the field toward the end of last season, and he said the increased playing time was beneficial for him.

“It helped me a lot,” Rainey said. “It built up a lot of confidence for me. Going into the season last year, I knew I could play. But as far as the end of the season, when I started getting sacks and stuff in big games, it just built my confidence a lot. It just took me over the top going into this season.”

In his senior campaign, Rainey leads the team in a number of key stats. He has made big plays, setting the tone for the defense early in games and executing in key situations.

On Nov. 13 against Ball State, he sacked Cardinals quarterback Keith Wenning on the first play of the game. Later in the game, with the Huskies leading 27-24, he stuffed running back Jahwan Edwards for a tackle for loss on third-and-goal from the one-yard line, forcing a field goal.

On Nov. 20 at Toledo, he forced a fumble while sacking Rockets quarterback Terrance Owens on the game’s first play and recovered the ball for NIU. The turnover led to a NIU touchdown.

In the regular season finale against Western Michigan on Nov. 26, he blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half. The block kept NIU ahead 20-7 going into the half.

“I feel like George is a good asset to the defense,” said redshirt sophomore cornerback Paris Logan. “He’s pretty fast on D-line getting by the lineman and offensive guys. He’s quick. He knows what he’s doing. He knows his assignment. He watches a lot of film. I feel like he’s a good leader for our defense, and he makes a lot of big plays.”

Even while making some of the flashiest of plays on the field, Rainey said he’s more concerned about improving his play and doing his part for the team.

“For me, I feel like the big deal is just always working hard, trying to get better,” Rainey said. “Even when you’re playing good, there’s always something that you can get better at. I just want to keep on getting better and better every week. As long as we’re winning, that’s the important thing.”