He thinks he can make every play. He thinks he can do it all, which is what you want in your players. —Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — It's hard to define Trevor Reilly. The Utah junior is this, he's that, and seemingly a little bit of everything else.
On the football field, Reilly is a linebacker and a defensive end — representing the Utes well at both spots.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham refers to him as a "wild card" and a "disruptor." Reilly, however, is better known by something else up on the hill. Teammates call him "Rattlesnake."
Although it kind of befits Reilly's current appearance — a shaved head and a lengthy goatee — it isn't why a teammate tagged him with the nickname one day after practice. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder from Valley Center, Calif., said the moniker was attached earlier in his career for being "kind of a slippery guy" as a defensive end. Reilly's ability to slip around the tackles led to the nickname.
And it stuck.
"It's cool, whatever," Reilly said. "I just roll with it."
Reilly isn't easy to rattle. He's a focused competitor and always has been. As a kid, he wore basketball shorts under his clothes just in case a game broke out.
"I was ready to go," he said. "That's kind of how I live my life."
Even now, as married man with one child and another due in September, he carries gear such as golf clubs and basketball shoes in his mini-van.
"I'm ready to go at any time," said Reilly, who is confident in his ability to compete in anything. As a teenager he made the Guinness Book of World Records for eating a raw onion more quickly than anyone else.
Nowadays, Reilly is devoted to devouring opposing offenses. He made history last season by becoming Utah's first "Pac-12 Player of the Week" after a stellar showing in the Utes' 54-10 victory at BYU. Reilly also netted National Defensive Player of the Week recognition after forcing three fumbles (a school record) and making two sacks against the Cougars.
Reilly was honored by the awards and said it has made him even more determined to show up and produce in every game. Making an impact is something he's done on a consistent basis.
"He thinks he can make every play," Whittingham said. "He thinks he can do it all, which is what you want in your players."
Over his first two seasons at Utah, Reilly has made 66 stops with 14.5 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks. In 2011, he ranked third in the Pac-12 with four forced fumbles. He also finished among the conference leaders in several other categories.
"The 'Rattler,' he's a disruptor. He is what you call a disruptor on defense. He does so much to sabotage the offense's plays," Whittingham said. "He's slithery, he's got great instincts and anticipation and he's a great athlete."
Reilly moves extremely well for his size, Whittingham added, and is a tough matchup as a linebacker and as a defensive end.
More of the same is expected this season.
"He's a guy that has a real feel for the game. We call him a wild card. He can play end, he can play linebacker," Whittingham said. "He's a guy that's going to line up in a lot of different places for us and it'll be a week-to-week thing based on the game plan for that particular opponent."
Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, who helped recruit Reilly and knows him well, considers his versatility as one of the strengths of the Utah defense.
"It's awesome to be able to coach him," Sitake said while noting that Reilly is an athlete and a gym rat.
"He's does everything and he's got a lot of confidence. He thinks he can do everything. He thinks he can punt, kick field goals, that he can do it all," Sitake explained. "But I love his attitude. I love his demeanor on the field. His teammates love him. He's got some weird things about him but we all love it."
Reilly's appearance has drawn notice. He grew a big beard last year and now has a straggly goatee.
"I'm not going to cut it unless we get on a losing streak, which I hope we really don't," Reilly said. "Hopefully you'll see it down to here (pointing to his mid-section) this season."
While acknowledging that Reilly likes to come up with a new style every 4-5 months, Whittingham is a fan of the current arrangement. Especially, he noted, if the facial hair reaches ZZ Top-esque length based on Utah's success on the football field.
Reilly is determined to do his part, regardless of whether it's at linebacker or defensive end.
"There's a little more pressure on me because I've got to learn the spots but it's good because I can learn the defense better," he said. "I just want to win. So wherever they want me to play I'll play."
And that's not all.
"It's fun," Reilly said. "It's fun to be alive and playing ball."
Utah camp report
Day 9: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the Utes got a lot of work done Saturday morning. However, he noted they still have a lot of things to work on when preseason camp resumes Monday.6 comments on this story
Standouts: While acknowledging he sounds like a "broken record," Whittingham once again singled out performances by running back John White and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Whittingham also noted that freshman quarterback Travis Wilson continued to close the gap.
Injuries: Nothing new reported.
Overheard: "We're getting good effort and they're trying hard." — Whittingham