BYU football: Offensive lineman Matt Reynolds decision to forego NFL draft was a difficult process

Published: Wednesday, May 4 2011 10:00 p.m. MDT

BYU co-captains Matt Reynolds (70) and Andrew Rich walk onto the field for a game last season. Reynolds will return to the Cougars this year.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

PROVO — As if a season beset by a painful shoulder injury and a disappointing 7-6 record hadn't been enough to deal with, BYU left tackle Matt Reynolds confronted one of the toughest decisions of his life once the 2010 campaign ended.

In the three weeks after the Cougars' resounding Dec. 18 victory over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl, Reynolds became a father, underwent major surgery, and wrestled with choosing between declaring early for the National Football League draft or returning for his senior year.

"Any time you have to sit down with your family and decide the direction you're going to be going in, and think about the consequences of that decision, with huge ramifications, it's a stressful process," Reynolds recalled. "It's one that we took very seriously. We took many, many, many hours contemplating and deliberating. We counseled with family and friends and people on the collegiate and NFL level, just trying (to decide) what would be the best move.

"Ultimately, it came down to staying at BYU and being a part of the legacy here and having another year with my team."

When he chose to come back for one more season, the Cougars' offense exhaled a big collective sigh of relief.

But Reynolds admits he came close to leaving early.

"There were times where I felt like I was close to having a final decision and then we changed our minds," he said. "There were a few times that that happened, kind of going back-and-forth. We got a lot of positive feedback (from NFL scouts and front-office personnel). That's what made the decision so hard. If we had gotten a lot of negative feedback, it would have made the decision easier."

Reynolds watched last week's NFL Draft knowing that had he decided to leave BYU, his name would have been called. As it turned out, no Cougar player was selected in the draft for the first time since 1994, and for only the second time since 1965.

Reynolds is projected as a first-round draft choice, the No. 15 pick overall, in 2012, according to CBSSports.com.

While exploring his options, Reynolds knew that the NFL's collective bargaining agreement was about to expire, and that it would likely result in a lockout, which the league is experiencing now.

"Honestly, it did have a huge part of my decision, just the uncertainly of what was going to happen. The NFL, on a normal year, is very uncertain and volatile. Then with the all the collective bargaining stuff going on, even more so. It made the decision extremely difficult," Reynolds said.

"I have no idea how long it's going to take to resolve. The longer it takes, the smarter it makes me look for staying. But I want it to be over and done with as soon as possible. I love the NFL and what it is. I would hate to see something like this hurt the NFL, the fans and the reputation of the NFL has. It would really be a shame to have anything happen that way."

For Reynolds, going to the NFL has been a lifelong dream. His father, Lance — who has been an assistant coach at BYU for 29 years — was drafted by, and played for, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I feel like I've got potential and the opportunity to have a career and have those dreams fulfilled and have the fruits of your labors," he said. "We started trying to tally up the hours that I've spent at football throughout my life. It's been a huge, huge part of my life.

"To be able to reap the rewards is something I'm looking forward to," Reynolds continued. "I very much look forward to having the opportunity to creating a career on the next level. I feel a lot of guys look at the NFL as the destination and the end point. I feel like that's the beginning of your paid career. That, for me, is the goal, but the goal doesn't end by reaching there. The goal is getting there and to keep going."

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