From redshirt walk-on to captain: Former St. Stephens’ football player Ivan Reyes sets sights on final game with App State

Moutnaineers’ senior center Ivan Reyes (63) embracing the crowd following the victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks, 20-15, on November 9, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo Special to the O-N-E/ App State Athletics)Appalachian State senior and former St. Stephens’ offensive lineman Ivan Reyes (63) at center in the team’s only loss of the 2019 season against Georgia State. (Photo Special to the O-N-E/ App State Athletics)
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

Life is nothing but a chain of fleeting moments and these sorts of links make it whole. So, one must make the most of each opportunity that comes by and embrace it in full.

For former St. Stephens’ offensive lineman Ivan Reyes, he has done just that during his tenure as a member of the Appalachian State Mountaineer football team.

As he is set to play the final game of his collegiate career in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday, December 21, Reyes looks back on the time shared with his teammates at App State and what he can carry with him as he moves onward.

Before getting to the end, it is important to talk about the beginning. Reyes began his journey as a young boy coming from a background in soccer in a small Central American country called Honduras. He then moved to the United States when he was about 7 or 8-years-old.

“I loved to play soccer as a kid,” said Reyes. “I was on multiple Hickory recreational soccer leagues. All of a sudden, I began to outgrow soccer (physically.) My step-dad introduced me to football. He signed me up to play optimist football when I was in the 6(th) grade. I fell in love with the game ever since my first practice.

“I worked on my craft year after year. I remember I used to go out in my backyard and go through my plays over and over again. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege to be coached by many unbelievable coaches. Starting with my optimist coach, Coach Houston, (then) Arndt Middle School coaches, Coach Drum, Coach V (and) Coach Frank, (as well as) my St. Stephens High School coaches, Coach Wayne Hicks, Coach Grimes, Coach Arrowood, Coach Mendel (and) Coach Binns. They are all apart of this fantastic journey that I have been apart of.”

Reyes also spoke highly of his family as his parents have been with him every step of the way.

“My family has been incredibly supportive,” he said. “My parents come to every home game. My aunts and uncles try and make as many games as they possibly can. I have an incredibly supportive crew behind me, and they are the reason I am here today.”

Some journey it has been for Reyes as he was overlooked in high school only receiving one offer via Lenoir-Rhyne University. Brushing that off, he picked himself up and received an opportunity to walk-on for the Mountaineers.

“My journey has been amazing,” he said. “I came out of high school with one offer from Lenoir-Rhyne University. After speaking with some coaches at App, they decided to offer me a preferred walk-on spot on the team. After talking with my family, I decided to accept the walk-on spot at App, and accepting this in my opinion was the best decision I have ever made in my life.

“My first two years, I was a strict scout team player. I gave it my all to try and give the guys who played a great look. Honestly, doing scout team for two years made me the player I am today. Eventually, I was able to make the travel bus as a backup center to Noah Hannon. I have traveled every game since then. I now start on special teams and I was awarded a scholarship for my final year.”

In terms of Reyes being awarded a scholarship this season, it is an amazing accomplishment. On August 20, 2019, Reyes received a text message from offensive line coach Shawn Clark earlier that morning to meet him in his office around 1:15 p.m. Reyes was confused and thought a position meeting was happening without his knowledge. Instead, when he went to the office, Reyes heard from then-head coach Eli Drinkwitz that he had been awarded a scholarship.

In addition to achieving this honor, Reyes was also named one of the team captains for the 2019 season.

“A memory I will forever cherish will be the announcement of my scholarship to the whole team,” he said. “Everyone tackled me to the ground, and the atmosphere was full of enjoyment from everyone....I’ve worked extremely hard to be where I am today. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices throughout my college career, and everything has paid off. To be able to say that I walked onto a D1 football program and earned a scholarship and the opportunity to represent the team as a captain, is something I will cherish forever.”

Reyes not only had personal triumph during his time with App State, but he was also apart of program history. Following a win over Louisiana, 45-38, on Saturday, December 7, he became a four-time Sun Belt Conference champion. His first two came via the regular season and his final two came in actual conference championship games in 2018 and 2019. What makes that special is that prior to the 2018 season, the Sun Belt title game didn’t exist; therefore, Reyes was involved in the first and second championships in history.

“It’s truly remarkable to think about all the hours that we spend to become champions,” he said. “That is one thing that being apart of this journey has taught me. Nothing in life will come easy. Working and attacking the process will help you achieve your overall goals.”

Talking about his progression as a player, Reyes said that football schemes change but having coach Clark has been a tremendous advantage for the team.

“I have had the privilege to have been coached by Shawn Clark all four years here,” he said. “Coach Clark has been such a fantastic role model and mentor, not only on the football field but outside of football as well...He was recently named head coach and I am honestly happy for him. He has made all the (head coaching) staff transitions smooth for us ‘the o-line.’”

As he heads into his final match-up this Saturday, Reyes said one thing he will truly miss is being around his teammates as he feels they are a special group of guys. Also, being around the team for a long time is something he will miss.