PROVO — Since it's Christmas Day, it's only fitting to point out that senior left tackle Matt Reynolds is the gift that has kept on giving for the BYU football program.
In the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30 against Tulsa (10 a.m. MT, ESPN), Reynolds will quietly start his 52nd consecutive game, matching the school record set in 2009 by former Cougar defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen.
It will also mark Reynolds' final game in a BYU uniform.
"Probably just being able to start every game," Reynolds said of what he's most proud of about in his Cougar career. "That, to me, is really important. It shows that I was able to play through a whole lot of different situations, and injuries and stuff like that. Overall, it's been a fast five years."
Certainly, Reynolds has made a big impact on BYU's program.
"It's been off the charts, hasn't it? He's started every single game that he's been here," said his father, Lance, who is BYU's assistant head coach and tight ends coach. "That's a lot of games, man. He's had an absolutely brilliant college career. I can't even think of anything negative except for the injuries sometimes. He's just had a great career.
"I can't even fathom that he's going to be gone. He's been here so long, he's been like a fixture and you almost kind of take it for granted. I can't imagine how it's going to be without him being here. He's a real low-maintenance personality. He's not needy like some players are.
"Sometimes it's easy to think he's going to be here forever and he almost has been and that everything's going to stay that way," Lance Reynolds said. "To think of him not being here is eerie, almost."
Not even injuries stood in the way of Reynolds' impressive starting streak. In 2009, he broke his left hand in fall camp, but still managed to play a couple of weeks later in the season-opener against then-No. 3 Oklahoma, and helped the Cougars upset the Sooners.
"I think we were on the plane (going to Texas) when he got approval to play," Lance Reynolds recalled.
Last year, Matt played much of the season with shoulder injuries, then underwent surgery after the season.
Reynolds made his first start on Aug. 30, 2008, a win at home against Northern Iowa. What does he remember about that experience?
"I remember that it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be," he said. "Then I gave up a sack that caused a fumble and they scored on it. Some good things and some bad things."
The Timpview High product has anchored BYU's offensive line ever since.
"Matt is such a good player, but also a two-year captain. Not by being the most vocal player, but just by his performance and his presence," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "The blindside of our quarterback has been protected very well.
"I think Matt will have a chance to go on and play (in the NFL). More importantly, he's very bright, he's very capable. He has a beautiful wife and family that he's started. He has success written all over him no matter what he does."
Reynolds was projected to be picked in last year's National Football League draft as a junior, but he opted to return for his senior year. He has no regrets.
"I feel like there were some things I needed to do and I feel like I've done what I've supposed to," he said. "I'm excited for the next stage."
Right now, Reynolds said, he's focused on the bowl game, not the NFL.
"There are some preparation that needs to be done right now (for the NFL), but, honestly, as little as possible. I'm just trying to focus on finishing the last game the way I need to. As soon as that's done, it's off to whatever that comes next."
As far as his draft stock goes, Reynolds said, "Honestly, I don't know. It's not something I control directly. I just need to focus on playing the best that I can in the bowl game and whatever (college) all-star game I go to and the (NFL) combine, just try to improve as much as I can."
Mendenhall said that Reynolds' NFL draft evaluation last year had him being picked in the third or fourth rounds.
"It's probably still around there, even though I believe he's playing at a higher level," Mendenhall said. "But I've never been right. Some guys I think will be free agents get drafted, and some that I think will surely be drafted are free agents. The scouts are pretty guarded with what they share."
Reynolds isn't thinking about the Armed Forces Bowl being his final college game. It hasn't sunk in.
"You know, I keep waiting for it, but not yet," he said. "It probably won't until we get to the locker room, and start getting ready, and realize that it's the last time. Probably not until then.
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