Bowden says McElrathbey has left Clemson

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson running back Ray Ray McElrathbey, who made national headlines two years ago for taking custody of his younger brother, has left the football team, Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said Saturday.

McElrathbey, a junior from Atlanta, missed all of the 2007 season because of a knee injury. He played in all 13 of the Tigers' games as a special teams player during the 2006 season.

Before the injury, McElrathbey had few opportunities on offense playing behind running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller.

Clemson athletic department spokesman Tim Bourret said McElrathbey was out of town Saturday and did not want to speak with the media until he made a decision.

"He's not playing this spring so he can get his classes in order so he can graduate in August," Bourret said.

McElrathbey, who is studying sociology, made the academic honor roll in the fall semester while taking 21 hours of classes, the school said. That's a turnaround from spring 2007, when he was suspended from the team for at least four practices because of academic concerns.

"The injuries really hurt him," Bowden said. "We've got two pretty good running backs playing ahead of him. I think he's going to transfer somewhere else to play or might go right into graduate school."

McElrathbey gained attention off the field when he took custody of his younger brother, Fahmarr, because of their mother's drug addiction. He received several humanitarian awards for his efforts, including the 2006 FedEx Orange Bowl-Football Writers' Association of America Courage Award.

After McElrathbey gained custody of his brother, Clemson applied for a waiver from the NCAA to set up a trust fund to cover the brothers' living expenses. The NCAA granted the request and the school raised more than $100,000 for the brothers. The NCAA also allowed Clemson's coaches and their families to provide Fahmarr with rides to and from school.

Davis, who is a close friend of McElrathbey, said his former teammate is scheduled to graduate from Clemson this summer.

"I think he's just in a tough situation," Davis said. "Once he graduates, everything will be done. I told him getting his degree needs to be his first priority. If going to another place is going to make him happy, that's what he needs to do."

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.