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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — It’s almost like a family heirloom, passed from father to son, and then from one brother to the next. They didn’t rearrange living room furniture for their little tutorials with each other, but if a chair was in the way, chances are it was being swatted across the room.
That’s the way it was done in the Reynolds’ Provo, Utah home. It’s the way it still is. Put Lance Reynolds, a longtime BYU assistant coach, his sons Lance Jr., Dallas, Matt and Houston together, and an offensive line clinic is sure to ensue.
It’s as if being an offensive lineman is in the Reynolds’ bloodstream.
The Reynolds boys all played for Timpview High School in Provo. They all played for BYU (Houston is still at BYU). They all played offensive line. Lance Jr. was with the Seattle Seahawks, and Dallas, the second oldest, will get his first NFL start and play the remainder of the season as the Eagles’ starting center replacing Jason Kelce.
Kelce suffered a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament and a complete tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee with 11:47 left in the third quarter of the Eagles’ 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Kelce had season ending surgery, and has been placed on injured reserve.
Reynolds, a versatile 6-foot-4, 320-pound lineman who the Eagles signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009, is now placed in a position he’s waited for his whole life. He underwent two shoulder surgeries that stunted his progress to the NFL, and he was on the Eagles’ practice squad for the NFL maximum three years before getting his first NFL start against the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals this Sunday.
Since the NFL places a three-year limit for players on the practice squad, Reynolds had to make the Eagles this year, or chances are he was through.
Eagles’ coach Andy Reid was willing to stick with Reynolds. Why? “The simple answer is that he went to BYU,” joked Reid, who played for BYU, and then seriously said, “[Dallas] got stronger. That’s what he needed to do. He lived in that weight room and got himself to where he needed to compete at this level. He was able to pick up the offense well.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” Reynolds said. “I got a little bit of the butterflies [on Sunday], but I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about what was going on. Kelce went down and I took some practice snaps, and I was in the huddle and I was moving on. After scoring the first touchdown it was a great experience. This will be the first time I’m taking the whole game instead of coming in during the third quarter. I feel bad for what happened to Jason, but the situation is what it is. He’s a great player and a great competitor; someone who’s been a great help to me knowing all of the calls.”
Perseverance was never an issue with Reynolds. Growing up in Utah, the door would swing open and off he would go into the early evening as a child. Lance Sr. would frequently have to go hunting down his second eldest son.
One time, when Dallas was around 10, Lance Sr. was looking for him again. This time, a neighbor approached him, explaining Dallas had been with him all day building a fence. The neighbor’s own son even bailed to go off and play. Not Dallas. He stayed there until the task was complete. He always envisioned himself in the NFL. Nothing was going to deter him, either.
“Dallas is very engaging, from a very young age, he had incredible feet, you had to chase him down the street,” laughed Lance Sr., who’s been at BYU for 29 years and was a Cougars’ graduate assistant when Reid was there. “When Dallas was waived the first time, he became religious about his workouts and what he ate. One of the reasons why he’s with the Eagles now is because he’s gotten great coaching, and the other he’s been religious about keeping himself up in the off-season in the weight room. He’s done a real nice job of making himself better.”
Though throughout high school, it seemed Matt Reynolds, Dallas younger brother who’s currently on the Eagles’ practice squad, appeared to have greater promise.
“Matt was taller and I thought had more athleticism than Dallas,” said Chad Van Orden, who was Dallas and Matt’s high school coach at Timpview and is semi-retired currently serving as the team’s offensive coordinator. “Dallas was on a talented team. He wasn’t the best lineman we had, but I have a lot of respect for him because he kept going to make himself better. Dallas always thought he should be a skill player; he’d hint that he could slip out at tight end. I’d joke back that we couldn’t block long enough for him to get open.”
Then Van Orden added … “none of Dallas’ success surprises me, though. Dallas was always quietly driven. He’s from a great family. That’s where the perseverance comes from.”
The knowledge was already there. The foundation was Lance Sr. He versed his sons on technique and foot work. In turn, Lance Jr. passed dad’s vast knowledge on to Dallas, who took Matt and Houston aside to lecture them on where to place their hands and how to set up a proper base on pass protection.
It’s why as a true freshman at BYU Dallas made the seamless transition from high school and started at left guard. As a sophomore, he was moved to right tackle. During the Cougars’ game against Boston College, BYU’s starting left tackle went down. Without ever taking a rep there, Dallas was moved across the line to fill the void at left tackle. It’s where he stayed his sophomore and junior years until he was moved to center his senior year.
With the Eagles, he was brought in as a guard, moved to center, back out to tackle, switched to guard and now he’s the Eagles’ starting center.
“All of that background I think should help his learning curve [in terms of line calls] because he has a background in all of those positions, making him more ready to play in a lot of places,” Lance Sr. said. “Dallas has always been a driven young man and what’s been so impressive now is he gets up every morning to work out, even when we’re on vacation. We actually go up to a place in Utah and Dallas brings his weight set with him. He’s very consistent with his workouts.
“The challenge wasn’t technique or knowing what to do, he had a few shoulder surgeries in college and that’s what set him back two years lifting. That was the real issue, getting the physicality back up to where it should have been after he graduated college.”
Lance Sr. and his family will try to make it to Arizona this weekend to see Dallas play, after BYU’s game at Boise State Thursday night.
There is, however, one glaring concern that Dallas Reynolds won’t adhere to—that’s being called “James,” his middle name.
One of the first years Reynolds was in Eagles’ training camp he walked into the locker room and scrawled across a white grease board it said: “Dallas Sucks!”
It was a unique welcome to Philadelphia.
“At first, it was kind of a hard thing to come into, but I’ve come to understand what they’re talking about,” Dallas said laughing. “Most fans yell ‘Tell us your middle name.’”
Considering what he’s been through to arrive here, this is one Dallas Eagles’ fans should embrace.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.