Reilly's last stand: Ute defensive star Trevor Reilly will close out career Saturday

Published: Thursday, Nov. 28 2013 10:56 a.m. MST

Utah Utes defensive end Trevor Reilly (9) reacts after losing to UCLA in Salt Lake City Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. UCLA won 34-27.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Trevor Reilly remembers his first practice with the Utah Utes. It was more than five years ago and the athletic 6-foot-5, 195-pound returned missionary was moved to defensive end. At first, Reilly admits, he didn’t really know what he was doing.

“I just ran around and made sacks,” Reilly said. “I wish it was that easy these days.”

Reilly, though, is still getting it done. The senior enters his final game with the Utes ranked second in the Pac-12 with 8 1/2 sacks. He’s also No. 2 in fumble recoveries (3), fumble recoveries per game (0.27) and sack average per game (0.77). Reilly, who splits time at linebacker depending on the schemes Utah faces, is third in tackles for loss (15) and tackles for loss per game (1.4).

“He’s been a big-play guy for us for a lot of years now — very versatile. He’s spent the whole season bouncing back from defensive end to linebacker depending on who we’re playing,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s really been an impact guy for us.”

Whittingham noted that Reilly has progressed a great deal since arriving on campus as an explosive athlete with a lot of attributes but a lean frame.

“Since that point and time, he’s gotten bigger and stronger every single year,” said Whittingham, who added that Reilly now weighs around 250 pounds. “He has done a great job getting himself physically where he needs to be to take his game to the next level and we think he’s definitely a next-level guy.”

So much so, in fact, that Whittingham compares Reilly to former Utes in the NFL like Koa Misi of the Miami Dolphins and Paul Kruger of the Cleveland Browns.

“From everything he’s been able to do for us the last several years, I think he’s got a chance to really make an impact,” said Whittingham, who added that Reilly would excel as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme as a hybrid that would rush the passer at times and drop into coverage at times.

Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake also thinks a lot of Reilly — on and off the field. They go back to the recruiting process and Reilly’s high school playing days. The team captain has also been on the team throughout Sitake’s tenure as coordinator.

Sitake said he loves the guy, adding that his personality is awesome. Sitake also noted the adversity that Reilly has overcome. Besides his baby daughter Shayn’s treatment for kidney cancer, the player is still not 100 percent after having ACL surgery less than one year ago.

“With everything that’s happened to him he’s overcome it all,” Sitake said. “And he’s also a huge help to people in the community, which is awesome for him to represent our football program.”

On Saturday, though, it’ll be time for Reilly and the Utes to part company — at least when it comes to being on the team. The game against Colorado at Rice-Eccles Stadium will be Reilly’s final one in a Utah uniform.

“The guy’s been asked to do a lot of things,” Sitake said. “I hope we send him off with a win — the right way.”

Reilly, who has led the Utes in tackles the past two seasons, admits it’s all kind of surreal.

“My whole life revolves around being on time to the meetings. It’s just going to literally end as soon as the game is over on Saturday,” Reilly said. “So, yeah, it’s going to be hard reality. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.”

Gearing up for an NFL career, he acknowledged, is a crazy reality.

“It’s time to get serious about everything,” Reilly said. “We’ll see what happens. Hopefully it’s a positive.”

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