If you live in Washington D.C. and used DoorDash in the past year, there's a chance you may have already met new Washington tight end Sammis Reyes.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Reyes had been told all his life that he should be a football player, but his heart had been set on playing basketball until last year. After his godfather, Steve Rifkind, and brother, Alex Rifkind, convinced him to give it a shot, Reyes gave himself 365 days to train and learn the sport. Aside from working for DoorDash, he spent time as a basketball trainer for kids to make money.
Now, Reyes has signed with the Washington Football Team and could be the first first Chilean-born player to make a 53-man roster. Not too shabby for a guy who may have delivered your takeout just a few months ago.
The past year has been a challenging one for Reyes in terms of training and learning the sport itself. But all that hard work proved to be worth it once he raised plenty of eyebrows during Florida's Pro Day. Washington's coaches saw Reyes' potential, and now he is ready to take the next step in realizing his dream of being a professional athlete.
"I've been training my whole life for this moment," Reyes told reporters. "I'm well-prepared. I've done everything in my power to go out there and just feel good. Right now, it's just all about sitting down, learning the playbook, learning the terminology, getting acclimated with my teammates and representing the organization at the highest level."
For a good chunk of Reyes' life, pursuing a career in basketball was his one and only path. Football was barely on his mind before he moved to the United States at 14 years old, and even then, he didn't pay much attention to it outside of going to New Orleans Saints games in college with his Tulane teammates. Once he dedicated his time to learning the ins and outs of the sport, though, he started falling in love with it.
It's clear Reyes is an intelligent person; he majored in business and was one course away from getting a second degree in finance. He compared learning a new sport to another language and seems confident that eventually, he will figure it out. He was certainly eager to learn as much as possible, but he also knew it would take time. There are some people who have played for 10 years or longer to get in the NFL, he said, so it would be naive of him to think he could learn the sport overnight.
"But what I do know is that no one is going to outwork me when it comes to sitting down and learning the game," Reyes said. "That's why I have so much confidence...because I believe that I can truly learn this and have a real impact on the city and the team."
Reyes remembers looking at himself in the mirror one morning and thinking, "I'm built for this," and it's easy to see why he would believe that based on his physique. But once he joined the NFL's International Player Pathway Program, his coaches wanted to put Reyes at a position that would highlight his skills. After considering defensive end, they settled on tight end because they thought his background in basketball would translate there the easiest.
For the next 10 weeks, Reyes trained at IMG Academy in Florida with prospects from all over the world. It was a very condensed 10 weeks, he said, and they covered a lot of the fundamentals of the game. Reyes had the least experience of any player there; outside of one week in high school, he hadn't even put pads on. Luckily, the coaches had a remedy for that. He was the only player who had to wear full pads every day.
"We did some drills, mostly blocking. We didn't do tackling full speed mostly because we had to take care of our bodies for Pro Day," Reyes said. "Again, having that underdog mentality, I know those are questions that people are going to have with what's going to happen with that first tackle. Some of my friends showed me comments on Instagram or Bleacher Report or the NFL site when they posted my stuff, and I just block all that out."
Once he started playing, he realized he had a natural ability to run routes and catch passes. If you throw it up high, he said, he can go get it.
"I can bring the basketball court into the field and bring my best impression of an Allen Iverson crossover and try to get open," Reyes said. "When it comes to blocking, just being physical and putting my head down and going to work. Just having that underdog mentality is going to be huge for me."
Florida's Pro Day finally arrived March 31, and Reyes said he was "so locked in" to take advantage of his opportunity to get noticed. It was the pinnacle of all the hard work he had put in for the past year, and he wasn't going to take it for granted.
"Once we knew it was in Florida and it was going to be a good one and a lot of scouts came, I just went out there and performed. There was no sense of nervousness in my body. I was just locked in. I told myself: 'Whatever happens, don't stop. Just keep going and work.' And I did."
Reyes looked impressive running routes, but scouts were enamored with the numbers he put up during drills. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, had 31 reps on the bench press, recorded a 40-inch vertical and a 10'5" broad jump. His numbers aren't far off from fellow tight end Kyle Pitts, widely considered one of the best players in the draft, who had a 4.44 40 time, a 33.5-inch vertical and a 10'9" broad jump.
Under normal circumstances, players awarded spots in the International Player Pathway Program are allocated to teams in one division chosen at random. However, Washington's scouts had seen enough; they wanted to sign Reyes outright. It was where Reyes wanted to go all along.
"I just sat down and cried for like 20 minutes because I couldn't believe how crazy it is. It's been a long road. It's been 10 years of sacrifice and hard work, not only me doing the sacrifices, but my family. You can only imagine what it means to send your kid away to a place where you don't even speak the language, so my parents couldn't even communicate with my teachers. It was a long road. I know it's just the beginning, but it truly means the world to me and my family to have this opportunity."
Reyes hasn't spoken with the coaches too much on how they plan to use him, but he knows he loves the culture head coach Ron Rivera has built and that he is joining a team that will teach him the position. Right now, that is all he cares about; he accomplished the goal he set for himself last year, and now his focus has shifted to making an impact, regardless of where they put him.
"Right now, I am ready for the challenge," Reyes said. "I'm not going to be outworked when it comes to this. I'm going to do whatever I can to be ready. When it comes to what the team needs me to do, I'm going to do what I can do and make any sacrifices that are required of me to be here because I love this place."