2014 NFL Draft: Utah Defensive End Trevor Reilly's Emotional Path To The NFL

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Reilly will be a sought after player in this May's NFL Draft, but his heart is at home with his family--particularly his young daughter's battle with cancer.

Almost every time that we post a draft piece here at Cincy Jungle, it centers around a prospect's chances to land with the Bengals and/or their workout results. We track where the Bengals staff has traveled to in an effort to see which collegiate athletes are on their radar and bring you those bits of news as we receive them.

Spoiler alert: this draft story does not revolve around those topics.

Meet Trevor Reilly, a 26-year-old fifth year senior defensive end out of the University of Utah. He had a very productive senior season, collecting nine sacks, 100 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. He is projected to be a second or third round draft selection this year and many project that he could become a player like his predecessor at Utah, Paul Kruger. It's likely that he will be one of those tricky hybrid linebacker/defensive end rushers that a lot NFL teams covet. If he sounds familiar, I wrote a little bit about him a month ago here at CJ.

There are two reasons why Reilly is entering the draft at an older age than most other prospects. One is that he took two years off from football because of his Mormon calling to do mission work. He could have missed another year with a torn ACL as a redshirt junior, but toughed it out and played all season on it, which likely made the 2014 campaign so special. The knee injury was far from the biggest hurdle that Reilly would face as a college athlete.

In speaking with FOX Sports correspondent, Ross Jones, Reilly openly talked about his young daughter's battle with cancer.

Reilly’s wife, Jessica, first became concerned when she felt a lump in Shayn’s stomach. Trevor didn’t think much of it. "I told my wife that she is fine it’s probably just constipation or something," Reilly told FOXSports.com. "Then we waited a few days and she said, ‘I’m taking her to the doctor.’"

The doctors were concerned and said they needed to do an ultrasound. Reilly remembers getting a call from his startled wife following an afternoon workout. "She said, ‘They think she has a tumor in her stomach,’" Reilly remembered. "It was a disaster."

A baseball-sized tumor had developed inside Shayn’s kidney and the surgeon said that they were going to operate within 48 hours. "Not long after [doctors] took out her whole kidney," Reilly said. "Luckily, the tumor was still enclosed in that kidney, which means that it hadn’t spread throughout her body."

The surgery went as planned and they began chemotherapy. "Cancer in children, because their cells divide so quickly, can come and go in a snap," Reilly said. "You can say they’re in remission then a month later its full blown cancer. That still scares us to this day. It was sad because she was in pain. She was on pain medicine, which tore her body up, and she had a bunch of tubes coming in and out of her."

Reilly and his wife would take Shayn to the hospital for chemotherapy every Friday in the fall. Sometimes Reilly would have to miss team meetings. The community and team rallied behind the Reillys. Coaches and teammates would say prayers after practice.

"Those clinics are hard places to be in, but she got better," Reilly said. "She responded well to the treatment. The last treatment they said that she didn’t have any trace of cancer in her and that was in November."

As fans often seem to overlook, these gridiron heroes with seemingly superhuman powers have very human problems in their personal lives. While most of the media prefers to look at what players have done wrong in their path to the NFL, it's a refreshing look at a young man who has his priorities straight and is using football as a means to fully assist his family. Kudos to Ross Jones for giving us this story.

Aside from the obvious reason for posting this with the mixed emotions being felt with sadness for a sick youngster and Reilly's perseverance through it, he also lives in a city (Laguna Hills) about five minutes from where I reside.

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