By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Select members of the Iowa football team were being interviewed by the media last week at the Iowa Football Complex when Ross Reynolds showed up to participate.
The senior offensive lineman walked past several of his teammates who were being interviewed, but nobody seem to notice with exception to Iowa Sports Information Director Steve Roe, who announced that Reynolds had arrived.
Reynolds turned to face the reporters, but they were all preoccupied with other interviews, so he waited patiently until I finally approached him and joked about getting an exclusive.
Reynolds chuckled and then we started making small talk before I started asking questions about his ascent as an offensive lineman and about facing Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day in Tampa, Fla.
The soft-spoken Reynolds is easy to overlook as part of an Iowa offensive line that includes senior center and team captain Keegan Render and mammoth sophomore tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs.
And that’s what occurred to me as I noticed Reynolds standing by himself waiting to be interviewed because it was sort of symbolic of his playing career.
He just had to be patient and the reporters would make their way over to him as they did just minutes later.
Reynolds is used to being patient and persistent, and he wouldn’t be where he is right now without being both.
A strong case could be made for Reynolds being the most improved player on the team, considering the Big Ten coaches named the Waukee native second-team all-conference in his only season as a full-time starter.
Reynolds started all 12 games at left guard during the regular season after having made just one career start.
And for the Big Ten coaches to name Reynolds second-team all-conference speaks volumes about his ability to stay the course and stay hungry.
“You just have to know that it’s not going to be easy,” Reynolds said. “That’s one of the biggest things when you come in as a freshman.
“It’s a little bit different than high school football. In high school you’re the biggest kid and you come to college and it’s almost a wake-up. Everything is happening faster and everybody is your size and everybody is here for a reason.
“So you have to be patient. But you can’t be too patient.”
What Reynolds means by saying you can’t be too patient is that five years in college might seem like a long time when you first arrive and start grinding on a daily basis, but you also have to realize at some point along the way that it goes by quickly and there is only so much time to seize the opportunity.
“Kind of looking back, everybody says how fast it goes, and you almost don’t believe them when you first get here,” Reynolds said. “And now it’s my fifth year and it’s crazy to think that it went that fast.
“Now I’m the one telling everyone it goes by fast.”
Reynolds symbolizes the Iowa football program under Kirk Ferentz in so many ways.
From being a two-star recruit with Iowa his only power five scholarship offer to being second-team All-Big Ten as a fifth-year senior, the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Reynolds has certainly defied the odds and exceeded the expectations of others.
Iowa gave Reynolds the rare opportunity to play college football on scholarship and he has certainly made the most of it, but not without some struggle.
Reynolds already had been in the program for three years when Tim Polasek was named the Iowa offensive line coach in February 2017. Polasek was told after being hired that Reynolds was sort of sputtering.
“My understanding is for a while it was like, man, we can’t get this guy kind of going,” Polasek said. “And then all of the sudden, he’s had two really nice years. I wish he would have played a little more last year.”
Reynolds appeared in just one game as a redshirt freshman in 2015, saw action in four games as a third-year sophomore in 2016 and saw action in all 13 games last season while making one start against Wyoming in the 2017 season opener.
Reynolds struggled with consistency during the early stages of college.
“It’s always been something I’ve struggled with, so it was something I needed to work on,” Reynolds said. “But it comes back to help from the coaching staff and from my teammates. Everybody was helping me work on what I needed to work on.”
For every A.J. Epenesa who was ready to make an immediate impact in college, there are hundreds of players like Reynolds, who need time to develop before they can compete at this level.
There also are lots of players who don’t stay the course because the course can be brutal, especially if you’re not starting. It isn’t easy practicing every day with little to no reward on game day.
Reynolds did that for more than three years, but when his time finally came to be a starter, he was ready.
His success this season has convinced Reynolds to give the NFL shot after college.
“It’s something I would eventually like to do,” he said. “But right now I’m focused on, we all are focused on the (bowl) game.
“Ever since you were a little kid, you always wanted to play in the NFL, and so the opportunity may present itself. But we need to focus on the game first. We’ll have plenty of time when the game is done to focus on what’s next.”
Polasek also believes that Reynolds has the talent and potential to play in the NFL.
“I think he’s got more than a shot to play in the NFL,” Polasek said. “How he trains and how he performs in the interviews will take care of itself because he’s a really good tester.”