Gophers gain commitment from Virginia prep safety Zahir Rainer — son of former NFL player Wali Rainer

The Richmond, Virginia, product had more than 30 scholarship offers, but picked the Gophers over his father’s alma mater

Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck  leads his team onto the field at the start of the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Nov. 19, 2022.
Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck leads his team onto the field at the start of the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Nov. 19, 2022.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Gophers football program added Virginia prep safety Zahir Rainer to its 2024 recruiting class Thursday.

Rainer, who plays at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia, has pedigree and received plenty of interest from colleges.

Rainer had more than 30 scholarship offers and this week narrowed it down to seven schools — Minnesota and also Virginia, Stanford, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Duke. Rainer, who has received a three-star rating, had his latest visit to Minnesota two weeks ago, followed by UNC and Stanford.

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“Getting an opportunity to play with some of the best people in the world,” Rainer said of his commitment on the 247sports recruiting show. “Coach (P.J.) Fleck’s culture at Minnesota is amazing. Coach (Joe) Rossi and coach (Danny) Collins, I know under their tutelage I can be the best player I can be on and off the field.”

Rainer’s father Wali played at Virginia in the 1990s and then in the NFL for seven seasons. He played three seasons for the Cleveland Browns, one with the Jacksonville Jaguars and three for the Detroit Lions from 1999-2005. Rainer’s mother also attended UVA, but it was another NFL player who drew Rainer to Minnesota over the legacy school.


“One of my favorite players of all time, (Buccaneers safety) Antoine Winfield Jr., went there. A huge inspiration for me,” Rainer said on the show. “I know under that defense I can be a great player.”

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Rainer had three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown during his junior year. He is also a member of the track team.


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