Working out at a deserted Andre Reed Stadium at the break of dawn was the plan for Craig Reynolds, even before the coronavirus pandemic.
Authentic Craig Reynolds Jersey, the former Kutztown University running back, knew two weeks before the Atlanta Falcons’ 2019 season ended what he wanted to do with his offseason. He contacted Golden Bears assistant coaches Marcel Quarterman and Steve Heck and asked them to guide him through drills.
He’s been getting together with Quarterman and Heck five days a week, three with Quarterman and two with Heck.
“He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever come across,” said Quarterman, Kutztown’s offensive coordinator and formerly the running backs coach. “There’s not a day goes by when he doesn’t want to work and get himself better at something. He’s one of those guys who feels if he’s not doing anything, he’s losing a step.
“Coming back to us shows his trust in us. He believes that we can help him get better and take the next step in his professional career.”
The 5-11, 215-pound Reynolds, who played at Abington High School, enjoyed an outstanding career with the Golden Bears from 2015-18, finishing third in rushing yards in school history with 2,650, second in all-purpose yards with 5,277 and first in rushing touchdowns with 35.
He was named to the All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East first team three times and received All-America honorable mention from Don Hansen Gazette as a senior.
Despite his college accomplishments, he went undrafted and unsigned last spring until he participated in a Washington Redskins rookie minicamp in May. He impressed the folks there enough to receive an invitation to OTAs and then preseason camp.
Washington signed Reynolds to its practice squad, and he wound up playing in three games before the Redskins waived him in November.
“It was a roller coaster,” Reynolds said, describing 2019. “There were ups and downs and a lot of surprises. It was surreal. Going to that camp and having an opportunity is all you can ask for. I went there and did what I knew how to do.
“Then I got activated and played against three playoff teams: Buffalo, Minnesota and San Francisco. It was an awesome experience. It was amazing.”
The Falcons quickly signed Reynolds to their practice squad, where he spent the rest of last season. At running back, he’s behind recently signed Todd Gurley, Ito Smith, Quadree Ollison and Brian Hill.
“He cleared the first hurdle because he’s on his second team now,” Heck said. “He has film. He has a bunch of coaches who have worked with him. That’s one of the key things to not be a one-and-done guy. He’s in a little better situation now (than he was in Washington).
“His position coach in Atlanta in Bernie Parmalee, who’s checked up on Craig to see what he’s doing. He has a chance because he’s a guy who will work in the margins when nobody else is looking.”
Earlier this week, Reynolds and his younger brother, Jamal, worked out in a parking garage near his apartment complex in Reading because of the awful weather.
“I used the parking garage to do inclined sprints because it was raining,” he said. “I have a bunch of weights and bands I use to get in my own workouts.”
With Quarterman, Reynolds is working on his quickness, footwork and pass protection. With Heck, Kutztown’s wide receivers coach, he’s working on hand placement and releases off the line against press coverage.
“I wanted to come home and work out with Coach Quarterman and Coach Heck because they’re great coaches and people who are going to be honest with me,” Reynolds said. “They’re doing what’s best for me. They’ll push me past my limits.
“They know what my goals are and they’re helping me to achieve them day in and day out, whether it’s cold, whether it’s raining, whether it’s 6 a.m. I’m very thankful for them.”
Reynolds’ former coaches at KU believe he has the drive to stick in the NFL for several years, perhaps long enough to earn a pension.
“If I’m a betting man, I’m betting on Craig Reynolds,” Quarterman said. “It’s a very fluid situation. Right now, with the current climate, there are not a lot of chances for him to show how he’s improved. But I know he’s going to try his hardest.
“It’s going to be really hard for people to say, ‘We don’t want Craig Reynolds on our team.’ ”
Even though his daily workouts at Byrds Sports Performance near Allentown have been put on hold, Reynolds, 23, is committed to improving his skills and increasing his chances of making Atlanta’s active roster.
“It’s a little weird, but at the same time I don’t want to use the coronavirus as an excuse for me not to get better,” he said. “You can find a workout and focus on getting better every day. You can find ways to implement certain things and use the tools you have around you.”