Sammis Reyes exited high school with dreams of playing in the NBA. Now he hopes to be the latest former Division I basketball player to make it as an NFL tight end with the Washington Football Team. He would also become the first Chilean-born player to make a 53-man roster.
Washington signed Reyes, who had been training at IMG Academy in Florida as part of the International Pathway Program, on Tuesday. Participants in the program get assigned to a random division, and those teams can then pick one player from a pool of 11 athletes.
But after Reyes worked out at the University of Florida's pro day on March 31, Washington decided to sign him so no one else would have a shot.
"I feel ready. Even though I haven't been playing the sport, I've been training for this my whole life," Reyes said Wednesday. "I came to this country when I was 14 with the dream of making the NBA. I made the wrong decision back then. I should've been playing football, but I didn't know that at the time. We didn't play football in Chile. But I'm ready. I've been training my whole life for this moment."
At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Reyes has the size necessary to play tight end. He ran a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash while bench-pressing 225 pounds 31 times at the pro day. But he has never played a game of organized football, despite the fact that coaches told him when he was younger that he should try the sport.
Before his senior year at North Broward Prep High School in Florida, he practiced with the football team for one week before quitting, telling the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he knew he had 20-plus offers to play basketball.
He played two seasons at Tulane, appearing in 32 games and averaging 0.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. Before that, he played one season at Palm Beach State Junior College. Reyes, 25, last played at Tulane in 2018.
"I just looked at myself in the mirror one morning and I said: 'I'm built for this. I should be in the NFL. I belong there,'" Reyes said. "Not only do I know my physical attributes are special -- I can jump 40 inches, I'm fast, I'm heavy, I'm 260 pounds -- but the mental aspect of it. Everything that happened to me hardened my mindset, my mind, and it allowed myself to look inside and say: 'Hey, you are built for this life. You are built for something that is not easy.'"
Reyes has been working out in Virginia with trainer Justin Cavanaugh. His agent, Tabetha Plummer, said multiple teams wanted to sign Reyes but that Washington was one of the first to pursue him. Plummer and Reyes liked how other tight ends -- including Greg Olsen and Logan Thomas -- have developed under head coach Ron Rivera and tight ends coach Pete Hoener, both in Carolina and Washington.
"My agent called me and said the deal was done. I was like: 'OK, that's it. I don't care about any other deal that comes on the table. I want to be in Washington. I want to be a part of that team,'" Reyes said. "I just sat down and cried for like 20 minutes because I couldn't believe how crazy it is. It's been a long road. It's been 10 years of sacrifice and hard work, not only me doing the sacrifices, but my family."
If he makes the roster, he'd join players such as Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, Mo Alie-Cox and Darren Fells as former Division I college basketball players who played tight end in the NFL. Graham did play one season of college football at Miami as a graduate student.
"It takes a long time," Reyes said. "A lot of guys have been doing this for 10 years before they get to the NFL, if not longer. They've been around the game their entire lives. For me to come here and think it's going to be overnight, I would just be naive. But what I do know is that no one is going to outwork me when it comes to sitting down and learning the game. That's why I have so much confidence."
Washington has been looking for more tight end help this offseason to pair with Thomas, who converted to tight end from quarterback. Washington also has Marcus Baugh, Dylan Cantrell and Tyrone Swoopes at the position. It will consider drafting a tight end later this month.