Ray Ray McELrathbey sounds like a proud father bragging about his son when he talks about the 11-year-old in his life, but the Clemson University football player isn't Fahmarr's dad: He's his brother.
"The adjustment from being a 19-year-old student to taking care of an 11-year-old, you've just got to realize your priority is not you," McELrathbey said. "Because it's all about the child. You should think about him first."
The cornerback came to that rather mature realization this summer when he sought and was granted custody of his little brother because his parents were not able to care for Fahmarr.
"My mother is a recovering addict. Well, she's trying to recover," McELrathbey said. "She was addicted to crack cocaine, and my father has a few gambling problems of his own."
Fahmarr visited his older brother during the summer, and would have had to return to a foster home when he left -- something his older brother objected to, knowing how hard foster care can be from his own experience.
For Fahmarr, the choice of moving in with his older brother was simple.
"I knew that I was going to be with somebody that loves me a lot and takes care of me no matter what," Fahmarr said.
Off to College
The boys now live in an apartment near the Clemson campus in South Carolina and survive on McELrathbey's scholarship stipend, with some extra money that he earns washing cars and mowing lawns.
With no car, they have to rely on rides from friends.
McELrathbey said his brother is thriving in his new campus environment.
"He's like an unofficial mascot," McELrathbey said. "He's more like an unofficial player. … He runs around with us a lot. He loves my teammates and my teammates love him. … [He's] kind of famous now actually."
He describes his brother as a "fun loving" kid.
"He likes to play a lot. He's very silly," McELrathbey said. "Real smart kid, too. He's kind of like me. He just always likes to see the greater good, and he's very optimistic."
The Clemson community took a step this week to alleviate some of its financial burdens. While National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes are not allowed to accept gifts, monetary or otherwise, McELrathbey has received a rare waiver that will allow him to accept offers of free babysitting, clothing and food.
"I just hope he sees the college life and wants to get his education," McELrathbey said. "He won't have to rely on things like an NCAA waiver or someone else to take care of him. I just want him to be able to take care of himself, to become a respectable God-fearing young man."
For a 19-year-old thrust into the role of parent, McELrathbey seems to have the right perspective.
"I would consider myself a learning parent. I wouldn't say I'm a great parent, as yet. But I'm striving to be the best parent I can be," he said. "I just try to make him feel more comfortable, just make him feel loved."