The Safety true story took place in 2006, when Ramon "Ray Ray" McElrathbey was a 19-year-old redshirt freshman (academic sophomore) at Clemson University. At the time, he was a special teams player on scholarship, and like in the Disney+ movie, he ended up taking temporary custody of his 11-year-old brother, Fahmarr McElrathbey. In real life, Ray Ray had six other siblings. He considered having his 16-year-old brother, Cornelius, stay with him as well, but he knew that taking care of one of his siblings would be an enormous challenge (The New York Times).
Yes. In the summer of 2006, Ray Ray's younger brother, Fahmarr, was living in Las Vegas with their mother, who was on the verge of coming back to Atlanta and entering rehab for drug addiction. Their father had been dealing with gambling problems and was not in the picture. Fahmarr came to visit Ray Ray at Clemson and asked if he could stay. If Ray Ray said no, he knew that his younger brother would end up in foster care, so he decided to let him stay. "I didn't want Fahmarr going through any of that any more," Ray Ray told The New York Times. "And when he came to visit me over the summer, he didn't want to go back home. And I didn't want him to." Ray Ray became Fahmarr's legal guardian prior to the start of the season. -The Clemson Insider
No, at least not like in the film. At first, Fahmarr was just visiting from Las Vegas, where he had been living with their mother, so there was no reason to hide him. It's true that like in the Disney Safety movie, Ray Ray didn't tell a lot of people about Fahmarr during the first few weeks after deciding to let him stay, which also meant that he didn't have a lot of help. They ended up living in an apartment just off campus (Forbes). "It was just being alone for the most part in my decision, that was the toughest part," says Ray Ray (The Clemson Insider).
McElrathbey told the Daily News that there were days he thought would never end. "When things got overwhelming, I would question why I decided to do this, because it was a choice I made, as opposed to something I had to do. But I prayed about it, and there were plenty of times I cried in the dark and I hoped for days like this one, where I have the opportunity to talk about something as great as a Disney movie made in my likeness."
The story of Ray Ray McElrathbey taking custody of his 11-year-old brother, Fahmarr, became national news in mid-August 2006. Not only were they the subject of newspaper articles across the country, Ray Ray was ABC News' Person of the Week and he and his younger brother were featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It was this national attention that provoked an outpouring of help from the community and beyond. People around the country wrote letters of encouragement and sent money. "It shows that humans out there care about other people and not just themselves," Ray Ray told the Times.
Yes. "Eventually, everyone was allowed to help, and my teammates were always there," McElrathbey said in a news conference. "They were always guys I could count on, and so, even through the tougher times, I had people I could lean on. And that was God's gift, I guess."
No, at least not directly. We found no evidence of a third-string kicker named Daniel Morelli playing for the Clemson Tigers. Hunter Sansone's character is mostly fictional. According to the real Ray Ray McElrathbey, Daniel is an amalgamation of the players who helped him. "Oh, well no," he told Esquire when asked if Daniel is real, "but the people were composites of individuals. Now, while I didn't have an Italian roommate, my roommate spoke to the character that that gentleman was."
Initially redshirted in 2005 for his freshman year, Ray Ray eventually played on special teams the following season, as well as the position of safety. He made his debut in the season opener against Florida Atlantic on September 3, 2006. He played in 12 games and had a total of eight tackles (Forbes). His playing career at Clemson was cut short prior to the 2007 season when he switched to running back and tore his ACL during training camp, which required surgery. Taking care of his younger brother and focusing on his studies became his primary concern. He graduated in three years, earning a sociology degree along with a minor in communications in 2008. Though he was still eligible to play, the Clemson Tigers did not renew his scholarship (Forbes). While he was angry at the time, he has since made peace with it.
Yes. The real Ray Ray McElrathbey was a consultant on the Disney+ film and was a regular presence on the set. He spent a great deal of time with actor Jay Reeves, who portrays him in Disney's Safety. The two worked out together to help Reeves get in shape for the role. "He's a great actor," says McElrathbey. "He's learning my dialect and speech patterns and all that, and it's weird to have somebody study you to portray, but also humbling." McElrathbey even got to review cuts of the film.
Actor Jay Reeves is a former high school football star in Los Angeles, playing slot receiver and free safety.
Yes. He has a cameo as a player on the football team named Raheem. The character is not based on a real person but was instead named after McElrathbey's father. -Daily News
Further explore the true story behind Safety by watching Oprah interview Ray Ray McElrathbey and his brother Fahmarr. Also, view the Disney+ movie's trailer.