Trevor Reilly was a man amongst boys, quite literally. As a 26 year old, he will be one of the older rookies to play in the league come August. I believe that's exactly what he'll do, working his way up the draft chart to forge a role on Rex Ryan's defensive staff. Why is he a 26 year old rookie? He took part in an LDS mission in Sweeden and although he originally committed to Texas Tech, he instead elected to walk on at Utah.
Walter Football had him in the 4th round, Sports Illustrated had him in the 5th round and at one point, CBS had him as high as a 2nd round selection. People see the talent there, but there are two key reasons why he fell to our laps in the 7th round.
100 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks. If I said you could get a guy suited to playing from a two point stance with senior year production like that in the 7th round, I doubt many people would turn their noses up at it. Which is why I'm particularly happy with this selection. However there is a lot to this man that makes him such an interesting prospect.
First of all lets just fly through what makes him a good football player. He has a great nose for the ball, he makes plays all over the field, mostly behind the line of scrimmage. He has set the edge, rushed the passer and dropped back into coverage in college. He takes good angles to the football, has enough speed to set the edge, has strength and length to ensure he doesn't allow blockers to attach themselves to him. He has a non stop motor that he uses to win the battles in pursuit and gain sacks on effort plays. Nimble feet to avoid cut blocks and enough awareness to locate and move to the ball efficiently.
"Trevor Reilly is a special guy," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "If you had to select the one guy that is a leader of this team it would have to be Trevor."
However of course he does have his issues, he's not lightning off the snap and some people will say he doesn't have a great deal of pass rushing ability. He will need to work a little more on his coverage but most linebackers do, even first round talent. So it's no surprise that in the 7th round we have a prospect who will need to work at his craft, however unlike many, I don't think he's that far away from being able to compete immediately.
I think one of the reasons he dropped in the draft this year is due to his age but also because of his knee. When you say players are tough, sometimes that's not as accurate as you think it may be. However Reilly played the entire 2012 season with an ACL injury that he had surgery on after the season. He also had minor surgery on the same knee this off-season, however doctors gave him the all clear recently and it's not believed it will affect him going forward. Obviously for a 26 year old this is a concern, but with a 7th round pick, it is a concern that is worth taking.
That in itself is a remarkable effort. However as mentioned Reilly is a fully grown man, he's not a developing young adult. He's married with two daughters and he has perspective in his life. His world came crashing to a halt when he was advised his youngest daughter had kidney cancer, speaking about the experience Reilly said:
"Every day that's on my mind," he said. "Is Shayn okay? In reality when you look at that, and look at the problems we complain about in sports, it's nothing. It literally is nothing. It makes me appreciate my family more, but not only that, it makes me appreciate football."
This was a humbling experience for such a talented individual. If you watch any of his tape, you'll see a man playing with passion, with commitment, with desire. Life experiences build character and character is an important trait for anyone who you bring into the franchise, NFL teams are aware of this and nearly every single NFL team called Reilly before the draft to ensure they had the correct number to reach him on:
"Having kids is great," he says. "It really helped me grow up and become a man. I can handle myself in this world. I’ve proven that. That’s something teams don’t have to worry about with me: ‘What’s this guy going to do when we write him a check for half a million bucks?’"
He's an easy guy to root for and personally I couldn't be happier for him but mainly for the Jets organization, because quite frankly, I think we've got an absolute steal here. I'm hoping he proves me right, I'm going to be talking about this guy a lot heading through camp.