CANAL WINCHESTER, Ohio (WCMH) – Rayne McCann, 17, loves football. He loves it so much that nothing was going to stop him from playing or being part of a team.
What he didn’t know was that being part of Canal Winchester’s team would change his life.
“Being under the lights is the best feeling I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Rayne McCann said. “The best.”
Rayne McCann has a special appreciation for moments of normalcy. Having 25 surgeries due to arthrogryposis will do that.
“It’s like clubbed hands and feet, but it’s all of my joints, so all of my joints are contracted,” he said.
“We didn’t know before he was born, and so it was a surprise for everyone,” his mother, Leslie McCann, said.
It was the first of many surprises in Rayne’s life. After learning to walk at 8 years old, Rayne decided he would be a football player.
“It was definitely a change,” he said. “Like, I went from not really doing anything physical to playing football in a very short span. It was just like, ‘Oh, I want to do this,’ and I did it.”
“For him to be included in a program that is school-based, it’s not based on the disability,” Leslie McCann said. “It’s based on Rayne’s ability.”
While Rayne transitioned to athlete life, he was going through a personal transition as well.
“I never wore women’s clothes, ever,” Rayne McCann said. “I just never liked girly things.”
“I knew, I knew at a very young age that Rayne didn’t want to be a female,” Leslie McCann said. “I support his disability; there is no reason I wouldn’t support him being transgender.”
“That was probably an easier decision than to play football, to be honest with you,” Rayne McCann added.
Through his transition, football stayed Rayne’s constant, and instead of judgment and doubt, he found support and community on the field.
“And the fact that they accept that portion of Rayne’s life is heartwarming,” Leslie McCann said.
“It’s definitely something I didn’t expect to happen, but, at the same time, if it didn’t happen, I was not going to quit playing the sport that I love,” Rayne McCann said.
“They treat him as a teammate,” said Canal Winchester head football coach Jake Kuhner. “Football culture, they accept those people who are willing to put in the work and come on a daily basis and do the same thing that everybody else is doing. And that’s what I love about sports.”
Rayne admits his life’s journey so far hasn’t been all touchdowns and celebrations.
“People are always going to have something to say, whether it be about my disability or transgender,” Rayne McCann said.
But being part of those touchdowns and celebrations has shown him that acceptance can happen.
“What do you see your future as you to be in this world?” NBC4’s Whitney Harding asked Rayne.
“Hopefully, somewhat what it’s like right now,” he replied. “Because it’s enjoyable right now.”