Ray McElrathbey's Clemson Coach Speaks out 12 Years After Cutting 'Safety' Inspiration

Former Clemson football player Ray McElrathbey is the inspiration behind the Disney+ film Safety. And while McElrathbey's story is one to remember, as he became the caretaker of his younger brother while he was still on the team, his career at Clemson didn't have a happy ending — as Tommy Bowden, Clemson's head coach at the time, decided not to renew his scholarship for the 2008 season. Bowden recently spoke to The Post and Courier and said he's open to having a conversation with McElrathbey.

"I talk to players from 25-30 years ago all the time. That's something I'm accustomed to doing," Bowden said. "I would have no reservations about having a discussion with him, or any player. It would be no different than any other player I've had and had conversations with. "He seems to be doing really, really well. If he really needed that encouragement I wouldn't hesitate, but it seems like he's made some really good decisions without me."

When Bowden made the decision to not renew McElrathbey's scholarship, the former Clemson player was a running back. One of the reasons McElrathbey was let go was the team had enough running backs on the roster. "We're pretty good at running back right now," Bowden said in 2008 via SB Nation. As many schools do, Clemson signed 25 players this year which pushed it above the NCAA mandated 85 scholarship limit. That means somebody has to go."

McElrathbey transferred to Howard shortly after he was cut by Clemson. In 2011, McElrathbey told The Post and Courier: "When I first left Clemson I had ill feelings not toward the university but people in the university because of the scholarship situation. But that wasn't but two people: (former Tigers offensive coordinator) Rob Spence and Tommy Bowden. It wasn't a Clemson thing, it was an individual person thing."


Bowden was fired as Clemson's head coach midway through the 2008 season and replaced by assistant head coach/wide receiver coach Dabo Swinney, who is still the head coach today and has led Clemson to two national titles. Bowden, who has been taking care of his father after testing positive for COVID-19, said he hasn't talked to McElrathbey since leaving Clemson but wasn't aware of his feelings. Bowden also said he hasn't watched Safety yet but plans to do so very soon.