(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Hard work and dedication can often be indicators of a good athlete like 6-foot-6, 305, senior BYU offensive lineman Matt Reynolds.
While there have been countless hours spent in the gym or watching game film that have contributed to his current success, the fact is Reynolds was born to be great.
His father, Lance, is entering his 28th year as a BYU football coach. Both of Matt’s older brothers and his younger brother have graced the BYU offensive line with their dominant presence.
In addition to being bred into BYU football royalty, Matt has an intuitive football knowledge that continually amazes coaches along with the build to punish a bull rush. At 6-foot-5, 305-pounds, Reynolds is a force with which to be reckoned.
Coming off a tremendous campaign as a junior, including being named to the All-Mountain West Conference First Team, Matt surprised many with the decision to return to BYU for his senior year.Since then, numerous accolades have come his way in the preseason, including being named to the Outland Trophy watch list, a Lombardi Award candidate, an ESPN Preseason All-American and being ranked the #24 overall player in college football by Rivals.com.
Even with all the preseason hype, Reynolds has made a conscious decision to further dedicate himself to becoming the best player possible. “Matt is working harder as a fifth year senior than I have ever seen him work,” said offensive line coach Mark Weber. “He’s healthy. He feels great. He’s working on some techniques. He’s lost a ton of weight. He’s more efficient. It is a breath of fresh air because a lot of times seniors will kind of max out, but not with him.”
Anyone who has watched Reynolds play knows of his immense natural ability for the game of football. All of the talent that began to develop at a very young age could have gone to waste before he even had a chance to develop it.
“When I first started playing I actually wanted to quit,” Reynolds said. “My older brother and my high school football coach dragged me to practice the summer before my freshman year and by the end of the summer I was the starting tight end on the varsity team. Playing with that team changed my whole perspective because I realized this is something I could really be good at.”
According to his father, tight end coach Lance Reynolds, Matt’s physical stature was something he resented at first.
“I’ve got a mark on the wall at home,” Coach Reynolds said. “On Matt’s 14th birthday he was 6-foot4 ½. He got really big and tall early. Kids even made fun of him in school and called him a freak. I noticed for years in high school he actually wrote ‘freak’ on his socks on his tape as he played.”
Reynolds continued his success at Provo’s Timpview High switching to the offensive line his sophomore year and starting there the remainder of his career. In 2004, he won a state championship as a senior alongside future BYU teammates Houston Reynolds.
After serving a church mission to Germany following high school graduation, Reynolds returned to BYU and redshirted his freshman year. The next year, he was able to start on the offensive line alongside older brother Dallas. Going into the 2011 season, Matt had started 39 straight games for the Cougars.
Experience has been a boost to Reynolds’ abilities, but much of what Matt does is very intuitive.
“I know that there are a lot of times with Matt when you look out there and you might think he’s doing the wrong thing, and I might say, ‘No Matt … way to go!’ because he’s a football player,” said offensive line coach Mark Weber. “For skill guys it’s making a great catch, or making a great move on a run. For lineman it’s when they do these plays that are really hard to coach and he does those all the time.”
With all of his natural ability, Reynolds has continued to remain humble because of the way he prioritizes his life.
“The reason he stays so humble and has such a good perspective is because his number one is the gospel and his family,” said Reynolds’ wife, Brianna. “I think he sees football as a gift Heavenly Father has given him. It is something he is supposed to use for good. That is how he stays so good, because it’s not about him.”
Matt’s work ethic is often brought up by those who know him best. A perfect example is how he spent his time since last December. Reynolds knew he needed to lose weight and he lost 30 pounds in the offseason.
“He is really, really dedicated,” Brianna said. “If he puts his mind to something he’ll do it. He sets goals, he’ll write his goals down and follow through. He’s a really hard worker. He set a goal after last season to lose weight. He was at football doing an extra two hours of cardio every day to lose weight and he lost 30 pounds.”
Another special occurrence that happened in the offseason was the addition of a new member to the Reynolds’ family. Matt and his wife Brianna are the proud parents of a new baby girl.
“Matt has changed a lot,” Brianna said. “He thinks more about his future and his career in the NFL. It’s always been a goal and a dream but it’s more of a ‘this is how I’m going to provide for my family’ now. She puts pressure on him in a good way. He’s so excited to have her be at the games and dress her up in cute little outfits. It’s just fun and she’s fun.”
Matt agrees that there has been a paradigm shift in his life with the expansion of his family.
“You go from being a husband that just has to worry about a wife, to a father that has to provide for the family and that obviously can add a little bit of stress,” Reynolds said. “My wife has done a really good job of making sure I can focus on football and take care of the things I need to. Perspectives change a little bit but focus on football has been consistent.”
Family is an important part of Reynolds’ life on and off the field. Matt has enjoyed the blessing of not only having a father as a coach, but a brother as a teammate each year he has been on the team.
Coach Reynolds explains that while it was never the family’s intent to become a source of offensive lineman to BYU football for almost a decade, it certainly has developed into that.
“We didn’t really do much with it when the kids were little,” Coach Reynolds said. “We were just a normal family I thought. Lance Jr. started when he was in the 7th grade playing little league and that’s what kind of started us. I didn’t know at that point that they would be guys or that it would turn out like this. And then one after another they all got involved and it’s become a big deal.”
Matt has used the blessing of having family close around to improve his game.
“It’s been such an awesome opportunity to be able to play with a couple of brothers and my dad on the team and now being here with Houston,” Matt said. “It’s nice having someone you can do everything with. We eat together, we watch film together, we help each other. Just being able to have that extra help and extra perspective is a huge advantage.”
Most recently, younger brother Houston has been joining Matt on the offensive line. Houston has loved experiencing this exciting time in life with his brother.
“It’s been a deal breaker,” Houston said. “It’s totally saved me from a lot of challenges. I went straight on my mission from high school. Coming back, it was my first semester at college, my first time at BYU and it is a different game when you come to the college level. He really had an impact on that transition.
“It was still rough, there were still times when any freshman struggles, but he really had an influence on me and I know he’s had an influence on other freshman as they’ve come into the program.”
The influence his brother spoke of has extended to the entire team as Matt has been elected team captain by his teammates as a junior and a senior. Reynolds has never been known for his vocal ability to guide his team mates, rather it is his constant example that inspires others.
“Matt is not necessarily the most vocal guy, but he’s really been a great leader,” Coach Weber said. “When he does speak he says some unbelievably sharp things. We have a lot of really great men here, but when he stands up to the team and talks or talks to the o-line it really carries a lot of weight.”
Matt himself admits to not being an extremely vocal leader.
“I don’t really like to talk in front of the team unless I feel like something specifically needs to be said,” Reynolds said. “ I’m not going to get in your face and yell at you and try to get you all pumped up unless I feel that’s absolutely what’s needed. I feel like a leader is someone you can look at any point at any given time and be able to emulate his example and be on the right side.”
Reynolds’ leadership style has been noticed and appreciated by coaches and teammates.
“Matt is very difficult to rattle. He has a lot of inner confidence and strength and he just is steady,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “That’s not to mean he is passive. He is very competitive but he’s not very out spoken. Play in and play out, day in and day out he continues to do what’s right all the time and I think that steadying influence and that consistency has a huge impact on our team.”
One player that may be the most appreciative of Matt’s abilities is quarter back Jake Heaps.
“What he’s able to do and seeing his talent, it only comes around every so often,” Heaps said. “When you are able to have a guy that is so smart and so physical it’s great especially as a quarterback. He definitely keeps my jersey clean. I have nothing but the absolute most respect for that guy and I love him to death.”
While many on the team know Matt as the strong silent type, those that see him off the field can attest to the different aspects of his personality.
“Everyone thinks Matt is so serious because he’s so quiet,” Brianna Reynolds said. “He’s a goofball and he’s just a fun super fun loving guy. He is super nice and approachable and he loves to be friends with everyone. People think he’s just Mr. Serious, I think he has that rep on the team, but he’s really just a fun guy.”
One example of Matt’s ability to have fun is the construction of his very own “party pad.”
“At the place he stays right now there is a natural pond in the back yard,” Houston Reynolds said. “(Matt) went to the store and bought 2x4’s and some old tires and he built this thing we call the ‘party pad’. He bought astro turf and carpeted it, put a barbeque and some chairs on it and we can float around on this pond there. The fact that he wanted to go and buy wood and tires and put it together is kind of a dorky thing he does.”
Entering his senior campaign, Reynolds has high expectations for himself as well as high expectations from everyone else. Reynolds has said the best way to avoid the distraction that can come with his level of talent is to try and remain focused.
“I really just have to focus on myself,” Reynolds said. “That’s been my focus through the off season. If I focus on anything besides myself I don’t think I’ll be as effective. I need to stay on track stay on course. Every day I need to change something and fix something that needs to be fixed.”
All of the years of hard work will hopefully cumulate in an opportunity for Matt to continue playing football at the next level.
“In our family it’s an unspoken goal,” Houston Reynolds said. “It’s always been a sacred desire we don’t talk about much. Matt wants to be in the NFL and he’s doing everything he can and he’ll fight for it. At the same time, he knows the things that are really important in his life and he’s not about to sacrifice those or put those in the back of his mind why he focuses. He’s going to go after it, but stay who he is.”
In a life and under circumstances that are far from the norm, Reynolds has taken advantage of every gift he has been blessed with to become a truly incredible person on and off the field.
“He’s always had some extraordinary gifts, I don’t know how else to put it,” Coach Reynolds said. “Things come fairly natural to him. I hate to use the word easy because he works at it. He has a feel for things and does things real naturally that are really hard for people to do. He’s been blessed, endowed, whatever to be extraordinary. And he is extraordinary.”
When Brianna Reynolds first started dating her future husband, he issued an odd request.
When Brianna Reynolds first started dating her future husband, he issued an odd request.
“Matt said before we could get engaged or married, I had to go through a football season and I wondered why,” Reynolds said. “He just wanted to make sure I could handle it. It’s a tough job. They get pretty busy and you never seem them. It was smart, going through a football season and then knowing I could handle this.”
August to December can get a little lonely for the spouses of BYU football players given the time required of team members to be successful. Unique to BYU, 32 of the current players are married as of August 2011. That constitutes 26 percent of the team. In order to help maintain a focus on the importance of family, a group was created for the wives of the players during the season.
The Wives’ Club was the brainchild of head coach Steve Kaufusi’s wife, to help in organizing a group for the players’ wives. Kaufusi had previous experience with similar groups during the time her husband played in the NFL.
Sam Kariya, married to running back Bryan Kariya, is grateful for the way Mendenhall has handled the situation.“It’s awesome Coach Mendenhall did it this way instead of trying to push us off,” Kariya said. “There are 32 of us this year and that would create a big problem if he decided to do that.”
“Coach Mendenhall and his wife Holly are so supportive and encourage each of us to make time for each other,” said Kori Brown, wife of wide receiver Rhen Brown. “They encourage us not only to focus on football, but focus on developing our relationship and making time for each other outside of the football sphere.”
Each season the club decides on several activities and service projects to be completed throughout the season. This season, recipes are being collected from each member that will then be compiled into a recipe book. Half of the proceeds will go to the Thursday’s Heroes Program and the other half will be donated to a charity chosen by the club.
“It’s the best thing to be apart of because you are so involved,” Kariya said. “Especially when you are married to a football player who does not want to talk about football ever. They get it all day long so they don’t want to come home and get it. You’re not really involved through your husband because they don’t want football at home. So you can be involved through the coaches and through this Wives’ Club.”
Kori Brown, wife of wide receiver Rhen Brown, appreciates the way being a member of the Wives’ Club gives her specific ways to be involved during the season.
“I’ve loved our service activities, the ability to reach out to those in need and be able to forget myself and serve others,” Brown said. “I love that the Wives’ Club makes an effort to get involved in the community. I love that Coach Mendenhall and Holly told us we could be a huge support and strength for the football players. It gives us a purpose.”
The purpose of the club is not only to support the players and provide a community of friends, but to enrich the lives of others through service.“We want to get to a point when the wives are really focused on something like service,” Kariya said. “It’s more than just a club, you are doing charity work. I think that takes it to a whole new level.”
Despite all of the efforts to be a service-oriented organization, there are still misconceptions about the club.“I think on the outside it seems like a clique,” Kariya said. “Once I got involved I realized it was awesome. When football is all said and done and I look back on this time I will always look back on it as a happy time mostly because of the Wives’ Club because I get to be involved.”
The number of wives is constantly changing and is something that requires constant effort to stay on top of. “We try hard to reach out to new members, get to know each other and teach each other a thing or two,” Brown said. “I was terrified to go to the first activity. I was scared it would be a drama-packed sorority filled with unhumanly beautiful girls. I was right about the beauty, but it’s inside and out. Those girls were so welcoming, nice and supportive which is an atmosphere we’ve tried to continue through the years.
The club will often gather together to watch away games they are not able to travel to.“I love watching the games together and hearing the girls compliment each other when their husbands do something awesome,” Brown said. “We understand, he’s the player he is because she’s the wife she is.”
Brianna Reynolds said the basis of the club is really friends. “We love making friends with everyone,” Reynolds said. “All of the wives are so nice and so open to being friends with everyone. We hang out together because our husbands are always together, but we’re open to anything and we just love BYU football so if anyone else loves it too and wants to hang out come and join in.”
Brown loves the way that over the course of the season, associations become so close knit that members can be considered family. “The friendships are lasting,” Brown said. “Football is the common denominator that brings together so many different girls and it forms a relationship that lasts through the games, the seasons, and through graduation. I don’t know what I would do without the wives club. My husband, everyone’s husbands, are gone for so much of fall that it could be challenging and lonely. But with the girls and the Wives Club, you’re never alone. You’re always with friends.”