Colorado State safety Drew Reilly walked into new CSU coach Jim McElwain's office a few weeks ago full of trepidation and apprehension.
The sophomore-to-be from Valley Center, Calif., (near San Diego) was about to ask for his release from the Rams not knowing if another Division I program -- Utah, BYU and Utah State were his preferred landing spots -- would be willing to take him as a walk on, let alone offer him a scholarship.
He also knew what happened to another safety who wanted out of his scholarship at a D-I school, Hawaii's Michael Wadsworth (see last week's blog).
"I was really, really nervous. It was scary," he said. "There were so many unknowns."
But after talking over his options with McElwain, who is replacing Steve Fairchild, Reilly got what he wanted. Colorado State said it would not allow any school in the Mountain West Conference, or Utah State, to talk to Reilly. The Rams didn't have a problem with him talking to BYU or Utah.
That was in late April, before USU got the invitation to join the MWC, but Reilly says CSU knew it was coming.
Then again, he believes McElwain was so understanding that the new coach would have taken USU off the no-contact list if Reilly pressed them for that.
Turns out, he didn't have to.
Just a few hours after BYU got word that CSU was releasing Reilly and BYU was not on the no-contact list, BYU coaches called the 6-foot-3, 195-pound safety and told him they were very, very interested.
"That was so good to hear. They recruited me out of high school and they said they still remembered me," he said. "They told me, 'we lost you the first time, we're not going to lose you this time.'"
The next weekend, Reilly visited Provo and received a scholarship offer. A few days later, he called BYU coaches and accepted. He will enroll at BYU in mid-June. Having played for CSU this past season, 2011, after an LDS Church mission to McAllen, Texas, he will have to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Reilly will be with the team as a walk-on in 2012, then get a scholarship in January of 2013.
"The biggest fear I had was that I didn't have any offers on the table when I went in to talk to [McElwain]," he said. "I went in there blind."
As a sidenote, Reilly says that when he told McElwain later that he was transferring to BYU, McElwain congratulated him and said he wants CSU to play BYU again in the near future.
Reilly is the younger brother of University of Utah linebacker Trevor Reilly, who actually accompanied him on his visit to Provo but did not go on the tour, talk to the coaching staff, etc.
Drew Reilly said Trevor is happy that he found a suitable place to play but acknowledged "it is going to be interesting" when the Utes and Cougars square off in 2013 (if the game can be worked out) because Trevor will be a Utah senior and he will be a BYU sophomore.
"I am actually tight with a lot of Utah players and some of the coaches," he said. "I have nothing but respect for the Utah program and everything like that. For us, it is a fun rivalry. We are not from Utah, so we don't have all the bitterness that a lot of people have."
Another brother, A.J. Reilly, played basketball and football for Utah and played basketball for Westminster College in Salt Lake City and is now contemplating law school at the U.
A fourth Reilly brother, Beau Reilly, is a quarterback who signed with Colorado State out of high school but is currently on a church mission. Drew Reilly said that Beau Reilly isn't sure the new coaching staff at CSU still wants him and will likely open up his recruitment when he gets home. He said BYU, Utah and Utah State are all schools that Beau Reilly will consider when he returns.
Drew Reilly said things happened so quickly with BYU that he doesn't really know how much interest Utah coaches had in uniting him with his brother. He knows that Trevor Reilly did talk to Utah coaches about the situation and told them Drew was available if they were interested.
Drew said he's happy that it worked out the way it did because Utah coaches weren't pressured into doing something they might not have wanted to do.
Also, BYU told him it is really in need of a Kat (strong) safety to come in and play a lot in 2013 and was looking for a junior college safety before he fell into its lap.
"All the reasons I left Colorado State, I found at BYU," he said.
As for having to sit out a year, Drew said he is "up for that" because he really didn't have a chance to catch up at CSU after his mission and was sort of thrown into the fire rather immediately.
"It has all been real positive," he said. "Everybody here [he's still finishing up classwork at CSU] understands where I'm at. I haven't had any problems at all here with people not understanding my deal."
While moving closer to family members was his primary reason for transferring, Drew Reilly also said that he felt like he needed to get out of Fort Collins because the culture there was not conducive to living an "LDS lifestyle" as a returned missionary. At 22, he was the oldest player on the team, yet only a sophomore.
"We had some problems there with the behavior of some players on the team. It was tough being around that kind of stuff ... there were just a lot of unfortunate incidents taking place. I decided I wanted to get myself in a different place, a place where I fit in a bit better. I needed a change," he said.
Reilly played in all 12 games and started in two games as a freshman in 2011 at the latter part of the season after the regular starter, Ivory Herd, was injured. He recorded 20 tackles and earned academic all-conference honors.
"On the field, the experience there was great," he said. "Even the new coaching staff coming in was great and I absolutely respect them and what they are doing. I am thankful they totally understood my reasons for wanting to leave. It was just best for me to get to an environment where I will feel more comfortable."
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