Reyes has a huge journey ahead — and the right attitude for it


Sammis Reyes dropped the first real pass that came his way during this past weekend's Washington Football Team minicamp, and it was the type of simple error that would prompt uninformed observers to joke, "Man, has that guy ever played this sport before?"

But then you remember the answer to that is, essentially, no. Reyes basically has never played this sport before.

The tight end who was once a member of Tulane's basketball roster is now hoping to make the Burgundy and Gold, and the Friday and Saturday reps he took in Ashburn at the franchise's facility marked his first taste of true professional action.

And aside from his 10 weeks of training before signing with the club, the minicamp sessions represented Reyes' only time wearing a helmet, running routes and doing the sorts of elementary activities his new teammates have been doing for more than a decade.

Therefore, Reyes' initial drop acted as a useful and necessary reminder of those facts.

In terms of stories, it doesn't get much more inspiring than his — but as the NFL has demonstrated time and time again, much more than that is required to stick around.

However, how Reyes followed up that mistake — both during the rest of his time on the field and when it was his turn to speak at the podium — showed why Washington is investing resources to see if he can become something more than just an intriguing individual. 


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During a host of other snaps, Reyes' raw physical gifts were immediately evident; he looked extremely fluid and fast sprinting down the seam and toward the sidelines on some longer-developing patterns. He also displayed his immense strength whenever he was asked to engage with a blocking sled, and he cleaned up his receiving following his opening blunder.

But as vital as those football traits are, it's his attitude that might be even more useful for the future. 

"This is a process, this is something that's not going to happen overnight, but one thing I can promise is that I'm going to put in the work," Reyes said on Friday.

He then passed along a few anecdotes that highlighted his devotion to his new career. 

"I studied for 10 hours and I felt like it wasn't enough," he said. "I got up [Friday] morning around 4:30, I got to the facility at 6, I studied and I still felt like it wasn't enough."

"My girlfriend's going to laugh, but I have a whole bunch of boards, like whiteboards, all throughout the house," he later added. "I'll have her call out a play and I'll just have to draw it as fast as I can."

Reyes also explained that he often lays out books on the floor of his house in order to simulate formations and force himself to visualize what his particular alignment and assignment is.

Head coach Ron Rivera could feel that level of enthusiasm right away, too.

"Just a high energy guy," Rivera told reporters. "It is fun to watch him out there, it really is because you can tell he is trying to learn on the run. That will be a challenge for him, but I think it will help him in the end because we're throwing a lot at him these first couple of days."

While Rivera is Reyes' top boss, the man who'll be integral in tutoring No. 80 is tight ends coach Pete Hoener. What Hoener lacks in — hm, how should we label this? — "fuzziness," he makes up for in experience and down-to-the-smallest-detail knowledge. 

On the surface, the football lifer (Hoener's first gig came back in 1975 as a graduate assistant at Missouri) and the football beginner are an eclectic pair. Reyes, though, intends to take any and all directions from Hoener, no matter how they're delivered.

"He is one of those coaches who is really going to push you, and I think that's the only way to be coached," Reyes said. "If you want to get better, you've got to have somebody in front of you that's telling you what you did wrong."


In all likelihood, Hoener will find himself with plenty of material to correct when it comes to his relationship with Reyes; what the rookie is attempting to do is akin to first picking up a golf club on the PGA Tour, after all, so he'll be slipping up quite a bit.  

But fortunately for Reyes, his strenuous upbringing has led him to cultivate a mindset that's about focusing on his final goal and not all the obstacles that fall in between it and him.

He's also lucky that he's with an organization and a staff that thinks he can, one day, excel.

"This is a guy that has a special skill set that we believe will fit in and we're going to work with him as much as we can to give him every opportunity to grow and become a player in this league," Rivera said.