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Where Is Fahmarr Ray Mcelrathbey?

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Last updated on December 18th, 2021 at 07:06 pm

When Ray McElrathbey realized his life story would be made into a film, he was filled with emotion. He had to leave work because of it.

Ray, a former Clemson football player who took custody of his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr McElrathbey while a redshirt freshman in 2006, says, “I was in college in ’06 when I first heard that they wanted to produce a movie, and I was excited.”

Now 34, he tells PEOPLE that he expected the process to take three years.

So he was surprised and “elated” when he got the call 15 years later that the film would be made.

Ray was working at TOPICS, a homeless outreach agency in Los Angeles, as a family outreach expert and crisis coordinator.

“It had been a difficult day at work leading up to that point… Then I got an email from the movie’s producer, who said, ‘Ray, it’s a go.’ ‘Please contact me.’

He admits, “And I sobbed.”

“And I was crying at work, and my coworkers assumed I was having a bad day… I had no idea I’d gotten the finest news of my life.”

Safety, released on Friday, covers Ray’s time at the University of South Carolina when his mother Tonya McElrathbey’s drug addiction forced him to become Fahmarr’s guardian.

“I didn’t grow up in the best of circumstances, so I’ve learned to get by with the bare necessities,” Ray tells PEOPLE, noting that the accommodation and food he received as part of his Clemson athletic scholarship were luxury items for him.

It decided to take Fahmarr in relatively simple, he claims.

As the former running back explains, “There were times when food wasn’t always available, and then there were occasions when housing wasn’t always available.”

So, rather than keeping a human happy, like my brother, who was just thrilled to be at Clemson and in a better situation, I’ve tried to figure out how to get those things taken care of in my life.”

Though Ray (Jay Reeves) in the film hides Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson) for a while in his Clemson dorm room, the reality is a little different.

He wasn’t even trying to hide Fahmarr at the moment because his brother was visiting from Las Vegas, where he was living with family.

“Two weeks pass, three weeks pass, a month passes,” says the narrator. Except for his supportive housemates, Ray didn’t tell anyone else.

Ray sought counsel from his mentors on making the arrangement permanent, as they wanted to make sure Ray grasped “the gravity of the issue.”

He explains, “I was at an NCAA Division 1 [football] program, so it was much more stringent, and my schedule was more organized.”

“As a result, the amount of time I had to raise a child correctly was minimal.

He, on the other hand, jumped in headfirst. Ray and Fahmarr made front-page news after a local reporter heard about the story.

“And then my coaches realized that this is for genuine, and he’s not going anywhere.”

Ray and Fahmarr, like the characters in the film, moved off-campus and were helped by the Clemson community.

Per diem payments from other campuses across the country, notably Temple University in Pennsylvania, also contributed to supporting the McElrathbeys.

Regulated NCAA rules at the time forbade the brothers from getting ordinary favors such as rides or meals from their coaches’ spouses.

Ray and the school eventually submitted to the NCAA for a waiver allowing Fahmarr to receive transportation and establishing a trust fund to cover general living expenses, which was granted in a rare exception to the sports governing body’s extra benefits restriction.

According to the former athlete, other touching scenes in the film are based on similar scenarios that the brothers experienced in real life.

Fehmarn was allowed to attend team meetings, and his defense calls were named after him by the Clemson team.

Of course, the pressures of juggling everything got to Ray at times, but as he tells PEOPLE, “I took on the burden of being a dad, and as a parent, I needed to be a parent.” As a parent, there are no days off.”

Ray graduated from Clemson in 2008 after only three years and went on to Howard University in Washington, D.C., to pursue doctoral studies.

He went on to Mars Hill College in North Carolina for his senior year of football.

Ray has since founded Safety Freight, a trucking company, and he, Fahmarr, and his mother, who has been sober for years, collaborate on his foundation, Ray’s Safety Net Foundation.

“As a collective, we’re aiming to change the world,” Ray explains. “And we’re great at taking it all in.” There have been a plethora of emotional highs and lows.

Because being vulnerable while watching a part of your life play out in front of the world may make you doubt a lot of things.”

“But it’s been fulfilling, as much as any other experience I’ve had, because of the people’s reactions to my tale,” he continues.

There are so many people out there who have been in similar situations or are presently going through them, and it makes me pleased to watch someone else come out on the other side and be better. As a result, it’s both rewarding and humbling.”

Of course, Ray has seen Safety. He jokes that he has seen six different versions of it.

“I’m amazed at what they were able to do and the things that I was able to purvey through the messaging and the movie, in the amount of time that we use,” Ray continues, “but I’m amazed at what they were able to do and the things that I was able to purvey through the messaging and through the movie, in the amount of time that we use.” I’m looking forward to that.

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