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His highlight clips on YouTube have been seen nearly 200,000 times. And with such a bright future, Rainey's teammates initially didn't want to believe the news.
Rainey had told Ripper and another teammate, Greg McIntosh, that amputation would be necessary via text message the night before his operation. The football team was on a bus back to campus after a season-opening victory against Benedictine in Richmond.
McIntosh was stunned by the message, and went and found Ripper on the bus.
Ripper had worn Rainey's jersey in the victory. He and Rainey both transferred to Woodberry Forest from St. Anne's Belfield, a private school nearby.
"I figured that Jacob was just pulling some kind of sick joke on us all, so I texted Jacob and that's when he told me that all the tissue had died from lack of blood flow," Ripper said.
Once Rainey confirmed to Ripper that he wasn't joking, they told a few other teammates. McIntosh said he and Ripper "just sat the rest of the way back crying in each other's arms."
Back at school, coach Clint Alexander gathered the team in the gym and told them all.
"It was very emotional," Ripper said. "Most people were broken down and just sobbing and everyone else was just consoling those people. It was a pretty mournful time for everybody."
Suddenly, that narrow 16-13 opening victory meant little.
"Just everything stops," McIntosh said. "I just didn't think that that was something that could actually happen. I just felt that sinking feeling in my heart."
Rainey's recollections of his week in the hospital before the surgery are fuzzy, but there are some things he recalls.
"The doctors told me a couple times that I wasn't going to get amputated, so I was feeling pretty good until Friday," the athletic 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rainey said. "I don't remember a lot, but I just remember them telling me it was going to get amputated and I was just like, `All right, well, that sucks.'"
Doctors told Rainey he had developed compartment syndrome, a painful condition in which swelling cut off blood flow to certain areas, causing the muscles and the nerves to die.
"Once I got compartment syndrome, that changed everything," he said.
The amputation was performed at Fairfax Inova Hospital, and McIntosh, Ripper and several others made the 70-mile trip from Orange.
The trip was positive, for everybody.
"As soon as we walked in the room -- he was very out of it. He was doped up on pain killers, but he recognized us," McIntosh said. "His heart monitor was just doing normal beeps, but when he saw us, it jumped pretty high. He was pretty excited to see us."
Ripper said Rainey has lifted not only himself, but everyone around him.
"Just talking to him and realizing that he has the same personality and he's going to do everything he can to get better and get through this makes us all realize that he's still with us, and what could have happened," Ripper said. "With all that infection, he could not be with us anymore, so just having him around is just a reminder that things are going to be OK."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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