Hard work pays off for Chris Reynolds

Published 9:13 am Thursday, August 9, 2018

Even though Chris Reynolds had zero significant offers following two incredible years as Davie’s quarterback, he made a vow to the moon and stars that he would become a QB at a Division-I school.

Mission accomplished.

Then he was going to do whatever it took to earn a scholarship.

Mission accomplished.

Then he was going to contend for the starting spot.

Mission accomplished.

Reynolds, a redshirt freshman at Charlotte, is authoring a Rocky-type success story after being a preferred walk-on and redshirting during the 2017 season.

Reynolds became Davie’s No. 1 QB in 2015 and he was instantly electric, throwing and running like few War Eagles before him and befuddling defenses that didn’t quite know what they were dealing with. The ‘15 season was a struggle (5-7 record, fourth in the seven-team Central Piedmont Conference), but it would have been abysmal without Reynolds. The offense averaged 30.6 points; the problem was the defense allowed 34.1.

But with a substantially-improved defense, the ‘16 season was special. The War Eagles went 12-2, 6-0 and marched to the 4A quarterfinals, claiming an outright title in the CPC for the first time in 12 years and posting the most wins in 10 years. The only losses were to Dudley, the eventual 4A champion.

Across two years, Reynolds set countless Davie records, among them single-season completions (207), single-game passing yards (413), single-game TD passes (five), career TD passes (59), career 300-yard passing games (three) and most games with multiple TD passes (19). He played in the 2016 Shrine Bowl and the 2017 East-West All-Star Game.

Images of Reynolds dodging defenders, spinning out of trouble, buying more time and finding open receivers are etched in Davie lore. But when it came to college coaches lining up at his door, only small schools showed interest. He didn’t attract a single Division-II offer, much less D-I. The reason: They don’t cherish 5-11 quarterbacks with 4.75 speed.

“Catawba said they were going to call me one day,” Reynolds said. “They didn’t even call me. They forgot to call me I guess. The next day I pulled the trigger and said I’m going to walk on at UNC Charlotte and earn a scholarship. All these Division-III schools wanted me to come. Wake Forest wanted me to play slot receiver, but I didn’t want to do that.

“It worked out (at Charlotte). I’m happy I did it.”

During Charlotte’s 2017 fall camp, Reynolds began the long and winding and lonely road as a redshirt walk-on.

“I didn’t take a single rep,” he said. “Whether it was 7-on-7 or team work or individual work, I wasn’t getting any reps whatsoever. Some people look at the scout team as a terrible thing, degrading, but I looked at it as an opportunity to get in front of these coaches and show them I could play.”

Reynolds is only 5-11 and he’s not a blazer. But Charlotte coaches have seen he has qualities you can’t teach. His energy and charisma are infectious with a team. His football IQ is limitless. He has that “it” factor that allows him to make plays no matter what.

“I was fifth string (last year),” he said. “I got to travel with the team the last three games. I was getting reps with the third team. During those reps, I was taking over and doing everything correctly. Every day in practice I was doing better and better, and I felt very, very comfortable. I was scout team quarterback and I ended up winning the Scout Team MVP. We had a banquet for all the athletic teams. They called my name for it. I was pretty pumped up about it because I got it over scholarship players when I was a walk-on at the time.”

Heading into 2018 spring practice, Reynolds was still listed at fifth string. That didn’t last long. He manipulates the pocket as if he has eyes on the sides of his head. And, man, does he work. He kept rising to the occasion until he was sharing first-team duties with Hasaan Klugh, who started 11 games during the 49ers’ miserable 1-11 season in 2017.

“We’ve got a new offensive coordinator (Shane Montgomery), and coach (Brad) Lambert said we’re going to open up the job,” Reynolds said. “Again, I started at the bottom because I’m the only walk-on quarterback. I was still fifth string, but the first day of practice I take third-team reps in the second rotation. The next practice I climbed to third string. Then I had the best scrimmage out of everybody. Then I started splitting first-team reps with Hasaan. After the next scrimmage, I ended up being the No. 1 guy the last two weeks of spring ball. And I started the spring game.”

The Green-White Game was held April 21 before 7,085 fans. Reynolds and the Green, comprised of first team offense and defense, rolled 31-7. Klugh and Reynolds alternated for the Green, with Klugh going 5 of 6 for 75 passing yards with 15 rushing yards. Reynolds went 8 of 11 for 73 yards and no interceptions, and he added 30 rushing yards.

“Coach (Lambert) said if he had to put a team out there now, I would be the guy,” Reynolds said in July. “I am going to go into fall camp as the guy, but we’re still going to compete.”

Around five weeks after the spring game, Lambert delivered news that left Reynolds overjoyed: He had his scholarship.

“That feeling was unbelievable,” he said. “There’s no better feeling so far. I stayed determined the whole time. I was thinking I’m going to get this no matter what. It’s pretty cool looking at everything I’ve accomplished so far. But at the same time, I’m still hungry and there’s a lot more work to do.”

The 49ers’ inaugural season was 2013. After going 5-6 in back-to-back years as an independent, they went 2-10 (0-8 Conference USA) in 2015 and 4-8 (3-5) in 2016. They tumbled to the depths in 2017, the only win a 25-24 upset over UAB.

There are six QBs on the roster, but the No. 1 job will boil down to the Little Engine That Could (Reynolds), senior incumbent Klugh and junior Evan Shirreffs, a 6-5 transfer who was a backup for the Miami Hurricanes last year.

“That’s going to be an open competition through August,” Lambert told the Charlotte Observer.

The new OC, Montgomery, is a former QB at N.C. State. He has coached 20-plus years, including four years as head coach at Miami (Ohio), where he coached Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Those three are the top three guys,” Montgomery told the Observer last week. “We’ll try and get those guys as many reps as we can. My thing is to get each one with different groups, not just (the starters or backups) all the time. We want to mix it up with each guy getting a shot with the better players. I like our talent there.”

The intense QB battle began when players reported to camp Aug. 2. The first of three straight home games is Sept. 1 against Fordham. A Sept. 8 home game against Appalachian State is a sellout.