SALT LAKE CITY — Try to follow the last year of Trevor Reilly's NFL career and the string of events that led him to the Super Bowl:
The former University of Utah linebacker was on the New England Patriots' practice squad during the 2016 season when in December, he was signed to Miami's active roster and played in three games, including the Dolphins' playoff loss at Pittsburgh.
With a good showing in training camp, Reilly thought he would make Miami's 53-man roster to start this season, but a player claimed off waivers at the last minute relegated him to the Dolphins' practice squad. Reilly was released by Miami in October and eventually re-signed with the Patriots' practice squad. A few weeks later, when former BYU star Harvey Langi was seriously injured in a car accident, Reilly replaced him on the active roster, playing in six games before returning to the practice squad so the team could sign veteran James Harrison.
Despite his "roller coaster ride" over the last 365 days, it is all worth it because it means going to the Super Bowl with one of the top franchises in NFL history, Reilly recently told the Deseret News.
"It's been up and down, up and down, back and forth. It’s been hard on my family, but it’s good to have a job. It’s been good to play for a good team and now we’re playing for a Super Bowl, so things are good," said Reilly, who will watch from the sidelines and enjoy the festivities. "This is the greatest and best team I have ever been on, so to be part of it and contribute has been a great feeling."
Reilly, who served an LDS mission in Sweden, is one of three Latter-day Saints in the Patriots' organization. Langi, who served a mission in Tampa, Florida, is on the reserve/non-football injury list. Another former BYU Cougar, Kyle Van Noy, one of the Patriots' starting linebackers, is making his second straight trip to the Super Bowl.
Reilly acknowledges his NFL career hasn't been easy, but he's not complaining.
"I always tell people life could be worse," Reilly said. "Any problems I have are very first-world problems. I still have a job, still have a family, my kids are healthy. If I get released from a team here or there it’s not the end of the world to me. I mean, it’s not great, I’m not happy about it, but I know what’s going on in the world. I know what people are struggling through and my problems are minuscule in comparison. I try to keep that outlook. I could be in a much worse situation in life than I am."
Reilly is grateful for the experiences that have brought him to this point. He is not a new rider on the "roller coaster" of playing sports.
Coming out of high school, Reilly accepted a scholarship offer from Texas Tech, but the scholarship was gone when he returned from his mission, so he walked on at the University of Utah.
A few years later, Reilly somehow managed to play his 2012 season at Utah with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
During his senior year in 2013, it was discovered that his second daughter Shayn, then only 9 months old, had kidney cancer. Doctors removed the kidney and the child endured chemotherapy. She is now 100 percent healthy and doing well, Reilly said.
That was all before Reilly was drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft by the New York Jets, where he played two seasons before he was released and first signed to the New England practice squad in 2016.
"Yeah, I mean, you just have to believe that things are going to be OK," Reilly said. "I always tell people whatever hurts you doesn’t really hurt you, if you can make it through. It builds character. It’s good for you. I’m a firm believer in all that stuff, man. Bad things happen but you’ve got to move on in life. You’ve got to move forward, no matter what it is."
Off the field, Reilly's NFL career has also included some interesting experiences.
During his second year with the Jets, Reilly was in New York for offseason training while his family remained in San Diego. In his spare time, Reilly became an Uber driver. Once he picked up an intoxicated passenger who blasted the Jets organization with colorful criticism. Another time Reilly realized he might be assisting in a drug deal, so he left his passenger and got out of there, according to Providencejournal.com.
At one point, during his second year with the Jets, on a trip to play the Miami Dolphins in London, Reilly was interviewed in Swedish by a reporter from Denmark, an encounter the former Swedish missionary enjoyed. Someday Reilly hopes to use his Swedish to help grow the game of football in countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark, perhaps through summer camps or outreach programs. Last year, he took his wife to visit those three countries and it only took a day and a half to regain his foreign-speaking "groove," Reilly said.
"I have friends, former players who now work for the league, and that’s on my bucket list of things to do," Reilly said. "I have some credibility now having played in the league for a while."
For now, all Reilly wants is for the Patriots to win Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis on Sunday, Feb. 4. Reilly doesn't expect to suit up but says he's ready if activated at the last minute. Being part of a Super Bowl victory would bring more prestige to his alma mater, he said.
"The Utes have had good success in recent Super Bowls. (New England teammate) Eric Rowe won last year. Sam Brenner (Denver Broncos) and Paul Kruger (Baltimore Ravens) have rings. It seems like every year we have at least one guy in there, and not only in it but winning," Reilly said. "Hopefully, I can be the next one."