FOOTBALL: Proof is in his play

Travis Reyes, left, jokes with his teammates, including

With priorities and health in order, GHS alum eyes Div. I
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Travis Reyes is a legitimate NCAA Division I football recruit. His statistical resume justifies that. But the former Gilroy High Mustangs running back makes sure he has proof on hand for any objector.

Just in case, Reyes stores a photo on his phone that documents a stack of letters from universities such as Auburn, Oregon, Nevada and others, expressing interest in the 5-foot-10, 185-pound wide receiver with hand-timed 4.45-seconds (40-yard dash) speed.

“I use it as evidence to back up what I’m saying,” Reyes said, showing off the picture to once again validate the existence. “I’ve been trying my whole life to prove people wrong.”

On the heels of an impressive freshman campaign at Foothill College, in which Reyes earned NCFA Nor Cal All-Conference honors, it’s becoming a lot easier to silence the critics.

Reyes came into the 2010 season, a debut two years in the making, with a verified mission statement, and the speedster delivered, hauling in 49 catches for 802 yards and eight touchdowns.

“He’s a great leader,” said Foothill offensive coordinator and athletic director Kelly Edwards, who has been with the program for 15 years. “He’s the type of the receiver that we can utilize inside and outside. He has a great attitude and did a lot of good things for us last year. He’s probably a better kid than he is a player – and he is a special player.”

His play parleyed into a spot on the 2011 JCGridiron.com preseason watch list, which highlights the top junior college recruits, breaking them down position by position. That, in turn, flipped the switch on a facet flowing with next-level possibilities. The website lists eight schools that have shown an interest. Reyes nods in agreement when each is mentioned.

“It’s good to get recognized a little bit but at the same time, you still have to put in the work,” he said.

Maintaining a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic has never been an issue for Reyes. Current GHS head coach Steven Lo, who has trained Reyes since his arrival on campus as a freshman, said he has never seen a harder worker and more dedicated player.

“When it came to the weight room and practice time, he got after it,” Lo said.

His effort paid dividends and success rushed in his senior year during the 2007-08 season. As an integral piece of one of GHS’s winningest teams in program history – Central Coast Section Open Division runner-ups – Reyes, who was tabbed co-Running Back of the Year and First-Team All-Tri-County Athletic League, was a duel threat out of the backfield, leading the team in rushing with 707 yards on 99 carries and supplemented those numbers with 676 yards on 54 receptions. Toss in 21 total touchdowns, too.

But with the accolades came a me-first attitude and a disregard for some of the more important parts of high school. Poor grades and a cocky demeanor became Reyes’ downfall. And there were times when he said he may have taken football for granted.

“I got kind of big-headed in high school and I regret that,” Reyes said. “We all need humbling experiences in life. And I had mine. I burned a lot of bridges being that type of dude. And that’s not who I was. I was caught up in the moment and stuff happens. If I could go back, I’d probably do some things differently. I learned my lessons.”

The lessons continued at Foothill, though, whether Reyes wanted to learn them or not. As most freshmen are, he said, Reyes was gray-shirted for the 2008 season, still practicing with the team but in street clothes on game day.

In his eagerness to make a case for himself the following fall, Reyes started experiencing knee discomfort.

“I had this nagging thing in my knee and I just kept playing through it and playing through it,” he said. “One day at practice, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the doctors and they found that I had a slight tear in my patella tendon.”

Instead of missing four to five games and wasting a year of eligibility, Reyes decided to remain a part time student and take a medical redshirt, still preserving his four-years.

“I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” Reyes said. “It was the longest two years of my life. There were so many downs and I really thought if it was really worth it. The hardest thing to handle was being on the sidelines and not suited up. There was nothing I could do. Knowing what you can do, and not being able to do it was pretty discouraging. I thought maybe it wasn’t meant to be. My parents were very supportive. They told me to keep pushing and stay positive.”

Reyes was able to weather the doubt demons, and Lo was there to watch not only a physical transformation but also a mental maturity as well.

“We were training the whole time,” Lo said. “I know it was frustrating for him, but he came out better on the other end. I think he learned a valuable lesson, missing the sport for a little bit made him want it even more.”

A newfound appreciation and respect for the game, along with diligent rehabilitation, had Reyes chomping at the bit to finally hit the field for his freshman season.

“Coming off an injury I wanted to go in and really prove myself. I played with a chip on my shoulder and had a pretty good season as a result,” he said.

Reyes readily admits that it has been an interesting three years, but throughout all trials and tribulations, football remained the one constant. And with that, as the speedster begins to hit his stride, the other ingredients have fallen into place, too.

Reyes earned his associates degree in physical education and when he gets to his four-year destination, a decision he will mull over the next few months, a teaching credential is in his sights.

“I still have my moments, but it’s no way as bad as it used to be,” Reyes said. “I learned how to adjust my attitude on and off the field. When I got to Foothill it was all about football and studies.”

Offers have popped up over the last six months leaving Reyes with a choice: should he stay at Foothill or should he go. He picked the former.

“We felt that some of the offers that he was getting, no disrespect to those schools, that after this year, he would have the opportunity to go play at those schools,” Edwards said. “I know a lot of big (Western Athletic Conference) and some Pac-12 schools have shown interest in him and they just want to see him develop another year. He has a chance to break some school records that will give him a little more opportunity to expose himself.”

Which records?

“Pretty much all of them,” Edwards said.

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