PROVO — Entering his junior season at BYU, left tackle Matt Reynolds was projected as a first-round NFL draft pick in 2011.
But after a campaign marked by a painful shoulder injury that required off-season surgery, Reynolds wrestled with his options and ultimately decided to return for his senior season, with coincided with the Cougars' inaugural year as an independent.
Now, with the 2012 NFL Draft set to begin Thursday, Reynolds is expected to be picked in the mid-to-late rounds. But he has no regrets about his decision to play one more season at BYU.
"I've been able to improve in a lot of areas," Reynolds said. "I've been able to show some things that were question marks last year. It's been good. I'm excited for the next stage."
In his final game, at the Armed Forces Bowl against Tulsa, he made a memorable block that bolstered his personal highlight reel.
Late in the first half, Reynolds' helmet popped off as quarterback Riley Nelson scrambled toward the sideline. Running helmetless, Reynolds peeled back and delivered an emphatic block that gave Nelson time to throw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Cody Hoffman.
That sequence made SportsCenter's top plays that night.
As Reynolds has interacted with NFL personnel since then, including last February's NFL combine, it's been a hot topic of conversation.
"A lot of guys saw it and have mentioned it," he said. "It was a really good play and teams have been excited about it."
Reynolds, who started all 52 games at BYU, is one of several former Cougars hoping to be drafted, or invited to an NFL training camp as an undrafted free agent, this weekend.
According to several mock drafts, Reynolds and defensive lineman Hebron "Loni" Fangupo have the best shot at being selected.
Fangupo, who played his senior year at BYU after spending the two previous seasons at USC, recorded 36 reps in the bench press at the combine, which tied for second among defensive linemen. He is projected as a late-round selection.
"Right now, I'm watching my dreams unfold right before my eyes," Fangupo said on pro day. "I have the opportunity to go to the next level. I'm excited."
Other Cougar draft hopefuls include offensive lineman Terence Brown, running back JJ DiLuigi, defensive back Corby Eason, linebacker Jameson Frazier, wide receiver McKay Jacobson, linebacker Jordan Pendleton, defensive lineman Matt Putnam, and defensive back Travis Uale.
Last year, no Cougar player was drafted for the first time since 1994, and for only the second time since 1965.
Former vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, Gil Brandt, who serves as a draft analyst for NFL.com, thinks Jacobson has a future in the league.
"The former highly touted high school player projects as a slot receiver," Brandt wrote. "I think he'll be drafted in the seventh round or so. Jacobson has the chance to be a very good pro player."