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Sammis Reyes' First Practices Were 'Amazing' And Full Of Learning Experiences

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(Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

It did not take long for Sammis Reyes to learn what it's like to be coached by Pete Hoener.

Reyes and fifth-round pick John Bates were going through individual drills Friday morning when the former basketball player made the critical error of not following Hoener's exact instructions. Naturally, Hoener was quick to point this out to Reyes and gave him an earful for his mistake. But rather than question his coach, Reyes calmly corrected himself and finished the drill.

"His standards of excellence are very high," Reyes said of Hoener after practice. "I want to match that. I want to be coached. I want him to yell at me. I want him to tell me what I'm doing wrong. And I'm going to pay attention, look him in the eyes and tell him, 'Coach, I got you. I'll get it right next time. Let's go.'"

Reyes experienced a lot of that during the Washington Football Team's two-day rookie minicamp this weekend. There were mistakes, coaching moments and corrections. But there were also positives mixed into that cycle; that is what to expect from someone who has never played organized football before. It is the next phase in a long journey for Reyes, but he looks forward to experiencing every moment of it.

"It was amazing," Reyes said of his first practice with Washington. "It was a great experience. I've been waiting for this...for a long, long time, so just being able to put that jersey on and my helmet and being out there, it felt great."

Reyes has worked on being athletically ready to make it in the NFL for the past year, but now he is being introduced to the other half of earning a roster spot on a professional team: fine-tuning his technique, working with his teammates as a unit and learning the playbook. When it comes to the latter, Reyes has been drilling plays for weeks. He has whiteboards placed all around his house, and whenever his girlfriend calls out a play, he tries to draw it out as fast as possible.

"I really have to put in the work when it comes to that," Reyes said. "There's no way around that. I have to sit down in front of a whiteboard with my playbook and try to learn the stuff that we're going to be using on the field. There are no shortcuts there. I have to just do it."

Reyes studied for 10 hours on Thursday and continued to cram all the way until practice began. He woke up early Friday morning to arrive at Inova Sports Performance Center at 6 a.m. and read his playbook. He even went out to the practice field early to get a better feel for where to line up in formations.

All that work still wasn't enough, Reyes said with a laugh, but he still feels like he prepared as well as one could hope. There were "a couple of curveballs" throughout the day, which only added to his list of questions. That's why he is grateful to have a coach like Hoener, who has helped guide him in the right direction.

"I understand it's a process," Reyes said. "This is not going to happen overnight. It's a process, but my whole life has been a process. My previous tight end coach...told me once that 'he who gets comfortable the fastest, wins.' So I just want to get comfortable fast, so I can learn and contribute to the team, which is what I want to do."

Fortunately, there are some things that feel more natural to Reyes than others. He is confident in his strength and his ability to run in the open field. A lot of the physical attributes that wowed Washington's scouts became more obvious when he ran routes with the other pass-catchers. There were some occasional drops, but he always followed it up by making a reception on his next rep.

When head coach Ron Rivera was asked about his initial impression of Reyes, he smiled and said "just a high energy guy."

"He's got a lot to learn, has a lot...to develop and understand in terms of this game," Rivera said. "It is fun to watch him out there. It really is, because you can tell he is trying to learn on the run. That will be a challenge for him, but I think it will help him in the end because we're throwing a lot at him these first couple of days. But, it will be good because it will help him to integrate a lot quicker once he is there with the rest of his teammates."

While he does not want to judge people too quickly, first impressions matter to Rivera. They help him and his coaches get a feel for how to continue a player's development in an effective manner. Reyes might have a lot to learn, but the potential is apparent to the head coach.

"This is a guy that has a special skillset that we believe will fit [us]," Rivera said, "and we're going to work with him as much as we can to give him every opportunity to grow and become a player in this league."

Attentiveness, effort and willingness to ask questions are also things Rivera said players can show to stand out. If Reyes were to assess what impression he gave off to his coaches, he would check off all three.

"Physically, I know I am well prepared," Reyes said. "I'm in great shape, I can run for days. So whenever I can show my speed after catches, finishing strong every play, that's something I have been working on for the past month with the [International Player Pathway Program]. Finishing was my biggest thing for me. That was on my list of things I wanted to accomplish, so those things are noticeable."

This weekend was just a starting point for Reyes, as Washington will continue its offseason program for the next month. There will be positives and negatives, but he will not let that deter him. Instead, he intends to welcome those experiences as they come and make he most of his situation.

"I think if I just have that mindset where I put my best foot forward every single day, things are going to turn out well for me."

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