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Playing in an NFL game, never mind if it's in the preseason, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. For Sammis Reyes, it means so much more than that.
"I get emotional because there's never been a guy from Chile in the NFL," Reyes said. "Where we come from, we don't get many opportunities."
After months of preparation, from working for DoorDash to impressing scouts at Florida's pro day, Reyes got his chance in Washington's first preseason game against the Patriots. Ron Rivera and Reyes' coaches have praised his development up to this point, and the rookie is acutely aware of what his effort means to his fellow Chileans.
"I know I have a lot of guys, little kids that look up to me," Reyes said. "They send me messages every single day. And being able to represent my country at this stage, it means the world to me."
It's a statement that Reyes has backed up over the past four weeks. Rivera said he might be the most physical blocker Washington has on the roster, and that was apparent against the Patriots, as Pro Football Focus gave him the fourth-highest run-blocking grade among tight ends. He's like a bull in a china shop, Rivera said, because he's still learning how to focus his energy. So, Reyes has been working after practice to refine his technique.
Reyes remembers the first day of practice when he was letting defenders put their hands on him, and he wasn't sure how to respond to that. But after taking some coaching points from Pete Hoener, he knows how to use his traits to his advantage.
"Now that I'm putting the right technique next to my physicality, I think something beautiful is going to come out."
But Reyes won't just be asked to block; he'll need to be a threat downfield, and he took the first steps toward that with two catches for 25 yards. The catches were a little bobbled, though, and Rivera said after the game that he would like to see them be a little cleaner. So, Reyes stayed after practice to catch balls from the jugs machine.
Reyes admitted he might have been a little nervous in the game. It was his first game, after all, so who could blame him? But he's caught plenty of passes in practice up to this point, so it's just a matter of cleaning up his process.
"I'm confident," Reyes said. "I know I can do it, and I know I belong, so I just have to keep on working."
Reyes has come a long from delivering food waiting for an opportunity. He remembers all the hard work required to get to this point, and he knows there's plenty of it ahead for him to earn a roster spot. And he's not just representing himself; he's an example for his fellow countrymen to follow. That's why he's not going to shy away from the upcoming challenges, no matter how difficult they will be.
"You've got to bring it out every single play," Reyes said. "You're not going to win every time you bring that energy and that physicality. But you've got to bring it every single play because the guy on the other team wants to crush you, right? So it's either you or him. And in my mind, it's going to be me every time."