College football: Former Davie star Chris Reynolds defying the odds
Moving up the depth chart in Charlotte
By Mike London
CHARLOTTE — Charlotte 49ers quarterback Chris Reynolds hasn’t beaten the odds yet, but he’s reduced them considerably.
Charlotte’s preseason football camp started on Friday. Reynolds, a fifth-string after-thought not long ago, entered camp as QB-1.
And on scholarship.
There’s going to be massive competition in a desperate camp, desperate because the 49ers were 1-11 last season. The QB hopefuls include last year’s starter (Hasaan Klugh) and backup (Brooks Barden), a Miami transfer with two years of eligibility (Evan Shirreffs) and touted freshmen, including recent South Iredell graduate Brett Pope. Reynolds isn’t worried. He’s ready to make things happen.
“I’m keeping that chip on my shoulder,” Reynolds said.
There’s always been doubt about Reynolds because he doesn’t look the part of a Division I quarterback. At 5-foot-11, 199 pounds, he looks like he should be playing second base for the 49ers or maybe goalkeeper.
He’s not a blazer, either. Put a stopwatch on him in the 40-yard dash, and it’s going to read 4.75 on his good days, 4.80 on his bad ones.
“When I was being recruited, coaches told me a player my size had to run at least a 4.6 to have any chance in D-I,” Reynolds said.
So how is he where he is?
What Reynolds has is not easily explainable, but he’s obviously elusive. He has a sixth sense for avoiding a pass rush and he can throw accurately on the move.
“When I get out of the pocket, I’m not the fastest guy,” Reynolds said. “But I’m quick, and I’ll throw it sidearm if I have to. I always keep my eyes looking down the field, and eventually I can put the ball in the hands of one of our athletes.”
Reynolds is personable. He has courage and humble confidence, leadership skills and charisma. He’s strong for his size. On a 1 to 10 scale, he rates a 10 on every intangible. That’s why he has a chance.
In his 24 games as the starter at Davie County High in 2015 and 2016, playing mostly against 4A schools, competing against elite programs such as Dudley, Scotland County and A.L. Brown when the playoffs came around, Reynolds broke the school record for touchdown passes with 59 and threw for 5,636 yards, the second-highest total in school history. Toss in 23 rushing touchdowns in those 24 games, and it’s easy to see why Reynolds played in the Shrine Bowl and the East-West All-Star Game.
Despite the stats and despite Davie’s 12-2 record his senior year, Reynolds was barely recruited. His lack of height was seen as an obstacle too daunting to overcome. Even Catawba College, a Division II school 15 miles from where Reynolds played his home games in Mocksville, didn’t bite.
“Catawba talked to me, but they never pulled the trigger on a scholarship offer,” Reynolds said. “It’s always been a matter of a couple of inches. That’s how it’s always been for me, and that didn’t change during the recruiting process. So I not only didn’t have any Division I offers coming out of high school, I didn’t have any Division II offers. A couple of Division III schools looked at me. Charlotte offered me a spot on the team as a preferred walk-on.”
That offer didn’t insult Reynolds. He gratefully accepted it.
“I looked at the walk-on offer as an opportunity,” Reynolds said. “And if you give me an opportunity, I’m going to give you all I’ve got. I’m going to stay positive no matter what and I’m going to make the most of every chance you give me.”
This time last year, Reynolds wasn’t sure if he was even going to be involved in preseason camp. A week before that camp started, he finally got approval to attend.
“I was fifth-string in that camp and did not get one single rep,” Reynolds said. “But I kept doing the drills every day.”
He redshirted last season, as expected. His role was modest, scout team quarterback, simulating that week’s opponent’s plays at practice, but he turned out to be electrifying. He turned hopeless situations into magical escapes — lust ike he’d always done. His teammates gave him a new nickname — “Houdini.”
He was honored as scout team MVP. That glimmer of recognition was fuel to keep him going.
Charlotte’s dismal 1-11 record in 2017 led to sweeping staff changes. Head coach Brad Lambert survived the purge, but Shane Montgomery arrived from Youngstown State as the new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Montgomery is a veteran. He played quarterback for N.C. State and was offensive coordinator at Miami of Ohio when Ben Roethlisberger was the QB.
“He came in last winter and said the quarterback position is up for grabs,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds entered spring ball fifth string, but was elevated to third string after two weeks. After two more weeks, he was first string.
When the Green team (starters) squared off with the White team (backups) in the 49ers’ annual spring game at Richardson Stadium in front of 7,085 fans back in April, Reynolds got the nod to start for the Green team. Reynolds was 8-for-11 passing for 73 yards.
At the end of the spring ball, he was on scholarship and at the top of the depth chart.
Charlotte was the worst D-I team in the country in 2017 as far as converting third downs. Maybe Reynolds can remedy that.
He understands that what he’s done is crazy, the kind of stuff they make inspirational movies about. Walk-ons at a D-I school aren’t supposed to be potential starting quarterbacks.
He says it’s all cool, that the people back home in Mocksville are happy for him, but he’s not shocked by his rise. He’s always believed in himself. He’s always believed that if he got a chance he’d make the most of it.
“I’m not someone who’s going to crumble under pressure,” Reynolds said. “I’ll keep pushing every day. I want to keep defying the odds.”
Charlotte, which returns its leading rusher, leading receiver and top two tacklers, opens against Fordham at home on Sept. 1.
Appalachian State visits Richardson Stadium on Sept. 8. That game is a sellout.
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