TAMPA, Fla. — Bobby Rainey's never lacked confidence in himself. All he wants is an opportunity to show he can play in the NFL.
"That's my motivation, when people tell me what I can and cannot do," the diminutive running back said Sunday after rushing for 163 yards and scoring three touchdowns to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominate the Atlanta Falcons 41-28.
Picked up on the waiver wire last month, Rainey is playing for his third team in less than two seasons. This performance came six days after he carried the ball for the first time with the Bucs and played a key role in helping them get their first win.
"To come back and do it again today was huge," said Rainey, who starred in college at Western Kentucky.
The 5-foot-8, 212-pounder whose lack of size hurt his chances of being drafted is making his mark while filling in for the injured Doug Martin and Mike James.
Rainey scored on first-half runs of 43 and 3 yards, then caught a 4-yard TD pass from Mike Glennon in the third quarter to help the Bucs (2-8) win for the second straight time following an 0-8 start.
The previous week, he rushed for 45 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown in a 22-19 victory over Miami. He began the season as a kick returner and backup running back with the Cleveland Browns.
"He's stepped up. We put a lot on his plate, but he's handled it well," receiver Vincent Jackson said.
"He's being very coachable. He's taking in everything that's being asked of him, doing a great job in the passing game as well, picking up blocks," he said. "I see the kid being successful the rest of this year. We put guys in position to be successful. Hats off to our coaches for working with him, putting the time in so he can go out there and compete."
Glennon completed 20 of 23 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Jackson caught a 3-yard TD pass and finished with 10 receptions for 165 yards.
Rainey entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Baltimore after leaving Western Kentucky as the Hilltoppers' career rushing leader. He was released once, re-signed to the Ravens' practice squad and eventually wound up on the active roster before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Baltimore went on to win the Super Bowl, and Rainey received a championship ring despite not appearing in a regular-season game as a rookie.
"I think preparation meets opportunity. ... He's not lucky. This guy worked his tail off, he trained to do all the right things, and here come his chance and he's ready for it," Bucs Coach Greg Schiano said. "So good for us, good for him."