Troubled junior college linebacker Marcus Raines has committed to Southern Mississippi.
Raines went from top 15 linebacker prospect at Pasadena (Calif.) City College to pariah after word spread in recruiting circles about his role in the May 2000 death of a high school student in Palmdale, Calif. Raines originally was charged with second-degree murder after Christopher O'Leary died following a scuffle at a party. Instead of going to trial, Raines eventually accepted a plea bargain to involuntary manslaughter.
He served one year in a juvenile institution and two years in a boot camp. Raines has not signed with Southern Miss yet but told CBS SportsLine.com on Monday that the school has offered a scholarship and he intends to sign at some point. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
Raines saw all offers dry up after Kansas State publicly stopped recruiting him on Dec. 3. When that happened, Raines' past became more widely known among recruiters even though his situation had been widely covered in Los Angeles.
"They believed in my character and decided to scholarship me," Raines said of Southern Miss by phone Monday from Pasadena, where he is still attending junior college. "They asked me a lot of questions, but they believed in me."
|Marcus Raines said the right things to school officials. (Provided to SportsLine)|
"He didn't hide anything from us," said Southern Miss athletic director Richard Giannini. "He deserves a second opportunity. He's dedicated his life to being a positive mentor, helping people like him."
Raines' phone remained silent from Dec. 3 and as the Feb. 2 national signing day came and went. Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower began recruiting Raines in the past two months. At 6-feet-3, 230 pounds, Raines was considered one of the best junior-college linebackers in the country. Before Dec. 3, at least four schools were recruiting him -- Marshall, Arkansas, Washington State and K-State.
One East Coast coach who lost his entire linebacking corps told SportsLine.com he couldn't offer a scholarship because of Raines' history.
Frustrated, Raines' mother, Cynthia Evans of Sacramento, Calif., began writing schools to publicize her son.
"She's so excited, she's beside herself," Raines said. "The people at Southern Miss are outstanding. I had a chance to give my side of the story. People can do you any kind of way. They got it."
The details of the case have been debated since O'Leary died. Raines might have decided to plea bargain when O'Leary's former girlfriend testified that Raines kicked O'Leary in the head. That was after O'Leary reportedly had been punched and fallen to the ground.
In June, Raines lost a civil suit brought by O'Leary's family. The judgment was for $775,000.
It is believed that Raines will sign a scholarship agreement with Southern Miss that does not bind him to the school until he enrolls.