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TCU's Jalen Reagor on Why Guerrilla Training Will Make Him the Draft's Best WR

Tyler Dunne @TyDunne NFL Features WriterApril 10, 2020

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Wide receiver Jalen Reagor #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs runs a route during the first half of the college football game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 16, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
John E. Moore III/Getty Images

As an NFL draft prospect, your life is usually scripted down to the hour by agents, trainers, nutritionists and the league itself.

After your final collegiate game, you're shepherded to an all-star game, then a training facility (probably somewhere south), then to Indianapolis to be stripped down to your skivvies and treated like a glorified lab rat at the combine. From there, it's back to Phoenix or Miami or L.A. or wherever you train—while also flying all over the country to visit teams that might draft you.

Then one does. Rookie minicamp follows. Then organized team activities. Then minicamp. Then, finally, you get a month off before training camp and your rookie season begins.

Maybe you've heard, but this year the COVID-19 pandemic has altered our usual routines a smidge. Everyone's lives—including that of the NFL draft prospect—have changed. Drastically. So guys like TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor must write their own script leading into the draft, which currently is still on for April 23-25, and who knows when football will return after that. Weeks? Months? Prospects must train in seclusion, must look inward. It's all on the prospects and prospects alone to be ready.

Reagor knows this. And the potential first-rounder knows how to use it to his advantage.

He's been turning back the clock one pushup, one situp, one dash around his apartment complex at a time.

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Reagor is working out at a local high school gym not too far from his spot in Fort Worth, Texas, and be it there at R L Paschal or in his living room, the pushups never stop. He pumps out at least 600 and as many as 800 every day.

"You go back to what you've learned from when you were a kid in your high school days, when you'd try to get an extra pump for picture day," Reagor tells B/R. "You do your pushups, your situps, and everything else takes care of itself."

He typically rips through 70 at a time.

This draft is loaded at wide receiver. It has a chance to be one of the best in a generation. Yet Reagor does not hesitate: He says he will be the best.

"I feel like I'm the most reliable, the most versatile—I can do it all," he says. "I'm not one-dimensional. People get caught up in the hype, and that's life. I've always been the guy that's flown under the radar, throughout high school, college and everything. It's crazy how no matter how under the radar people try to make me, I always come out on the better end of it. I don't see why that should change now."

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Reagor is not as physically imposing as many of his peers—he's 5'11", 206 pounds. Nor is he as fast—his 4.47 in the 40-yard dash tied for 15th at the combine among wide receivers. Nor was he overly productive last fall through choppy quarterback play, finishing with 43 receptions for 611 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games. But he believes he is different than his peers and that he undoubtedly will be successful at the next level because he knows the man behind those 800 pushups.

He promises these aren't pathetic, slapdash half-pump pushups, either. Not the "10 pushup challenge" your friends are spamming you with on Instagram. He'll come close to kissing the floor without kissing the floor because, well, you know.

Through unprecedented madness in our country, Reagor's calm is striking.

Forearms that pop are nice, but it's the mind he has always valued most. His mental health.

Reagor strives to not be defined by football. Back when he was able to spend time with family and friends, he'd tell them to ask him about anything but football.

A time like this—people sick, people dying, no light at the end of the tunnel—forces us all to look in the mirror, he explains. Not just draft prospects. Our lives are changing in every conceivable way, and that, he knows, can lead to heightened anxiety. So before getting into anything to do with football, he implores all to never hold anything in.

Suppressing emotions is the absolute worst thing anybody can do.

"That's when the meltdown, the breakdown happens," Reagor says. "With this being a very crazy and weird time in the world, always have people around you that you can trust. Always stay close to those who care for you. … I feel like this time is for people to find out who they actually are, because when you can't go out or you can't do certain things and you have to stay in and actually communicate with your family and actually be around people and actually have conversations rather than escaping certain things, it's when you find your true identity."

You can either sulk and mope and panic or you can stay upbeat.

Phone loved ones, do those pushups, find that true identity.

Which Reagor has. He believes a string of adversity that hit in different forms equipped him for anything the NFL could throw at him. He cites his parents' separation when he was young. That was tough on him, as was his dad, nine-year NFL veteran defensive tackle Montae Reagor, traveling constantly. He spent much of his childhood with his grandmother.

Then he made a college decision that seemed to backfire miserably. Ranked the sixth-best wide receiver out of high school by ESPN, Reagor had the pick of basically any school he wanted. Alabama. Oklahoma. Texas. Baylor. Everyone. He was all set to be a Sooner, where he would've, in retrospect, strutted right into wide receiver heaven with Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts throwing him passes and national title hopes real each year.

Instead, he changed his decision to TCU.

His freshman year was fun, with the Horned Frogs rolling to an 11-3 record. The next two years, not so much. Five mediocre QBs cycled through. He competed in something called the Cheez-It Bowl in 2018, and his team went 5-7 in 2019. A 1,061-yard sophomore year and a 20.8 punt return average as a junior provided a glimpse of what could be. But a life in Lincoln Riley's arcade-fun offense? Or Alabama's track-team receiving corps? His numbers would've skyrocketed. He might've cost himself millions.

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 15:  Jalen Reagor #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs pulls in a pass against Damon Arnette Jr #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first quarter during The AdvoCare Showdown at AT&T Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.  (Ph
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Not that Reagor regrets a thing. He chose TCU because he wanted to live near his ill grandmother.

That experience, he's certain, strengthened him as much as anything.

His grandmother was living by herself. She had fluid around her heart, which led to different infections. And since she had diabetes, he explains, any small problem could lead to a big problem in the blink of an eye, which meant she was constantly in and out of the hospital. Playing football an hour away allowed him to drive home when he needed to. If his grandmother couldn't attend a game Saturday, he hightailed it to her house immediately after showering to tell her all about what happened in person.

"I'm a very family-oriented guy," Reagor says. "That meant more at the time than going farther away from her. … It was a bad time at one point. I just wanted to be around my family."

As a social work major at TCU, Reagor has always felt this urge to help. Be it visiting kids and adults with disabilities—painting, reading, eating with them—or popping in to surprise a neighborhood kid on his birthday a month ago. Putting himself in these situations, he believes, constantly reminds him to never take anything for granted.

He vows to treat the team janitor just as he'd treat the GM. He wants to "unapologetically" be himself and always give back.

Too many football players, he says, define themselves as players and players alone.

"Most people get caught up into that," he says, "and that can take over some people. Me, it hasn't taken me over. It's something I know how to turn off and turn on."

And this all leads to a healthy mind. Thinking beyond a jersey.

It makes him a better person and a better player. He's sure of it.

Whether teams can really get to know who he is, who knows? The pandemic kiboshed all predraft visits. Scouts and GMs can only think back to their 15-minute speed date with prospects in Indy, watch the film, and go from there. He's convinced teams will see on film that the numbers and measurables don't do him justice.

Many scouts who've done exactly that, however, are not sold, according to B/R draft expert Matt Miller.

"Reagor was a big-time playmaker in the Big 12, but scouts worry about the number of drops that showed up on tape," says Miller, who sees Reagor going in the second round—not the first as some have projected. "Even with poor QB play around him, Reagor put too many passes on the ground and needs to develop as a route-runner. Scouts privately worry he'll be ranked on team boards higher than they'd want to select him."

No doubt, names like Jeudy and Ruggs and Lamb and Higgins seem to carry a lot more cache right now.

Nonetheless, Reagor believes he's the best. He points to his versatility—the fact that he's played virtually every position over the course of his football life, from quarterback to running back to returner. And he labels himself a "product of his training," a good thing considering nobody knows when football will return. He trained for a while at his old high school, in Waxahachie, before heading back to Fort Worth. A self-described "country type of guy," part of him loves pulling his own Rocky routine instead of having his hand held at some multimillion-dollar facility.

"You have to go back to your roots," he says. "You have to remember where you came from and where you are now."

In Indy, Reagor cranked out 17 reps at 225 pounds after barely cracking 10 reps in high school, and now he is looking to strengthen that compact frame even more. From there, it's all in the mind. To him, that must be the strongest.

The wide receiver position, by nature, can rot the psyche.

"My position depends on the quarterback and the play-calling. We depend so much on other people for us in this position," Reagor says. "You just have to be a strong-minded person to play this position. You could go from a game having eight receptions, 115 yards and two touchdowns to having one reception for nine yards and no touchdowns.

"You have to keep going."

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 28: Wide receiver Jalen Reagor #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs carries the ball against the Kansas Jayhawks at Amon G. Carter Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

He's not worried about this unorthodox lead-up to the draft. Whoever drafts him, he knows, will discover who he is in due time. For now, he'll keep incorporating workouts emailed to him from the trainer he did work with in Arizona before the combine.

He'll keep doing those 800 pushups a day.

This will be his edge on everyone else.

"My advice to anybody going in this draft," he says, "is to stay ready so you don't have to get ready."

               

Tyler Dunne covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TyDunne.

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