Two hours after Utah fans finished chanting his name in a stadium where he had done his work over the past four seasons, punctuating it with a game-saving interception against Colorado, Trevor Reilly ran and hid. He ducked down a back alley into a pizza joint a mile from Rice-Eccles, where he gulped some pie, surrounded by family and friends. While they celebrated, he looked for a place, any place, to take cover.
There was none, and he knew it.
His cellphone was purring like a Norwegian Forest Cat, triggered not by fans calling to congratulate him on a game in which he recorded 14 tackles and saved the day with his interception, after which he chucked the ball into the stands, drawing not only a penalty, but a five-minute lecture from Kyle Whittingham.
The calls were coming from agents.
“A bunch of them,” Reilly says.
He asked his father, Russ, to take the calls, while he left the restaurant, driving off into the dark, looking for sanctuary, a place where he would neither have to dwell on his past or his future. In that moment, he simply wanted to … exist.
Here the 6-foot-5, 255-pound linebacker had worked and dreamed most of his life for and about the prospects of playing professional football, and, when that wave crested over him, he wanted to get away. He couldn’t and didn’t, not for any substantial amount of time.
Within 48 hours, he was on his way to Southern California to meet with suitors who wanted Reilly to allow them to represent him. He chose a large outfit called Athletes First, the same agency that represents former BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Before he started training at a facility in Orange County, Reilly did find paradise and peace in Hawaii, where he relaxed with his wife and kids for a week. Thereafter, he was good to go again.
“I got right into training the second week of December,” he says. “I had two classes left to graduate, but I dropped out to focus on football. I’ll go back after next season and get my degree in economics.”
Reilly’s days now are filled with those training sessions, running and lifting, drilling and conditioning at UC Irvine, where he, along with prospects like Jake Matthews and Marqise Lee and Van Noy do their daily work.
Asked about training alongside a Cougar, Reilly half-laughs, saying: “Kyle and I are actually good friends. We don’t talk much about the rivalry because … well, it’s pretty much dead now. Utah and BYU aren’t playing for a couple of seasons and we owned them for four straight years, so there’s not a lot to talk about. If the conversation ever starts, it dies fast. It’s just the reality of it. I don’t want to be an [expletive] about it, so I don’t bring it up.”
A few weeks after Reilly started with the drills, he felt a sensation in his knee, the same joint he played on despite a torn ACL through his junior season. After an MRI, he had another surgery in early January to clean up scar tissue and repair a torn meniscus.
“They held me out for four weeks just to be careful,” he says. “I was ready to go at the combine, but the doctors held me out. I was ready to run and do the stuff. But there were liability issues or something.”
Reilly did participate in the bench press at the combine, completing 26 reps, which ranked high among outside linebackers. He’ll do the other drills at Utah’s pro day and at individual team workouts.
He says his experience at the combine was typical: “You feel like a piece of meat. They want to see how you respond to the physical and mental parts. I took six or seven tests, and one of the questions was: ‘How many things can you do with a paperclip in one minute?’ It was weird. It wasn’t personally invasive. But I was happy to be there.”
Some of the teams asked about Reilly’s experience with his infant daughter, Shayn, who last June was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her kidney. The kidney was removed and the little one had chemotherapy through November, all as Shayn’s dad was playing through his senior season.
“That made me focus more on football when I could,” he says. “Football was a relief to me, after seeing a baby go through that kind of grind. It put things in perspective.”
That’s why Reilly spiraled that football into the stands after his pick, to pay tribute to the fans who stood by him through a tough time. Once Whittingham understood that, he backed off and even appreciated Reilly’s gesture. And it also explains why the linebacker needed to run and hide for a moment when the season ended.
Now, back in the whirl again, Reilly says he’s heard many rumors about where he’ll be drafted. Some say he’ll go early, some say he’ll go late. “At this point, I don’t trust anything anybody says. All it takes is one team to fall in love with you. I’m older at 26, but because I didn’t play for a couple of years, athletically, I’m younger than that. All I need is a shot. Once I get in that environment, once I get a shot, I usually succeed.”
Reilly says his knee is fine. His body is fine. His mind is fine. Thank god, his baby is fine. His bank account is not so fine.
“My wife is sick of being poor,” he says. “So, we’re looking forward to having some money. But football is the thing. If I get drafted, the last 20 years of my life, everything I’ve been working for, will come to fruition. I just want to play football.”
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
Trevor Reilly draft projections
NFLDraftScout.com • 2nd-3rd round
withthefirstpick.com • Late-round pick
WalterFootball.com • No. 15-rated outside linebacker
Ricky Dimon’s mock draft • Second round
Matt De Lima’s mock draft • Second round
NFL Draft Geek • No. 9 overall OLB/DE
fakepigskin • Second round
collegefootballzealots • Second round
draftsite.com • Third round