FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Things were going well for Drew Reilly after finishing last season starting at safety for Colorado State. He beat his first-year projections, playing a significant role just months removed from his two-year LDS mission service to McAllen, Texas. Following a very good spring practice session this past April, he was almost assured to reprise his starting role for this coming season.
It wasn't enough, however.
While Reilly was very content with the football aspects of Colorado State, the social aspects were another story entirely. For this reason he found himself in coach Jim McElwain's office asking for a release from his scholarship.
Reilly went up there with the full knowledge of what had recently transpired with Mike Wadsworth and his denied release by the Hawaii coaching staff, hoping for a different reaction and result.
"It's a scary thing," said Reilly. "I mean, you're at a place where you're on full scholarship and then you're asking for nothing. You can't talk to anyone leading up to the release — you just have to hope that someone will be interested."
Reilly is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound safety prospect who is the younger brother of current Utah defensive end Trevor Reilly. Trevor, who signed with Texas Tech out of high school, found himself at Utah following his own mission service and encougared Drew to seek out opportunities at both Utah or BYU in order to find a better fit for him socially.
"I was just having a tough time living the LDS lifestyle at Colorado State," said Drew Reilly. "I was only going to be a sophomore this coming year, but I was already the oldest player on the team, and I just didn't fit in with everything that was going on there. I needed a change."
Fortunately coach McElwain was completely understanding of Reilly's situation and immediately granted his release, although he was losing a probable starting safety by doing so.
"I couldn't be more grateful to coach McElwain and for him understanding my needs as an LDS returned missionary," Reilly said. "He helped me so much as a player, and I'll always be grateful to him and the other coaches at CSU."
Gaining a release wasn't even half the battle for Reilly, however. It was up to him to start the recruiting process all over again with the hope of getting noticed by not just any school, but by a school that offered the sort of environment he was seeking.
Trevor Reilly informed the Ute coaching staff of his brother's situation, but it was BYU who moved first, inviting Drew Reilly out for a visit to the campus within hours of his release.
Drew Reilly flew to Provo and was driven to BYU's campus by his brother to see Utah's bitter rival up close. Trevor Reilly didn't go with his brother to coach Bronco Mendenhall's office, however.
"He just stayed in the parking lot for the most part," Drew Reilly said. "He didn't want any part of taking the tours and meeting with coach Mendenhall. His wife and their kid came along with me, but Trevor just stayed outside."
During his visit to BYU, Drew Reilly met with several of the Cougar coaches and players, specifically with defensive backs coach Nick Howell and tight ends coach Lance Reynolds, along with defensive backs Preston Hadley and Craig Bills. At the end of his visit, he met with Mendenhall in his office for about an hour.
"By the time I met up with coach Mendenhall, I had all but made up my mind that BYU was where I needed to be," Reilly said. "BYU simply had everything I was looking for — it had everything that Colorado State didn't, so I knew almost immediately that it was where I needed to be."
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