Even when Ryan Reynolds was donning his black and red, dressing for Fulton High School basketball games, he knew his goals took him beyond the small-town Illinois life.
Reynolds graduated from Fulton in 1999, where he played basketball with the Steamers. Since then, his career has taken him into football – football has carried him to the NFL.
More specifically, football has led him to a Strength and Conditioning Specialist position with the Kansas City Chiefs, where Reynolds will be on the sideline for the Super Bowl this Sunday night.
“It was never part of my dreams or my specific career goals,” Reynolds said. “I knew I was going to do something out of Fulton but I never imagined it would take me here.”
After graduating as a Steamer, Reynolds took a quick jaunt into Iowa to become a Hawkeye. There, he got a degree in exercise science and worked with the men’s basketball program. As he became more serious about staying in strength and conditioning, his focus on specific sports slowly shifted. He also worked with Olympic sports and football training while with the Hawkeyes.
“With the nature of the job, the opportunity presented itself as I worked up the ladder,” Reynolds said. “My profession is more in the culture of the football side they take it a little more seriously. As I came up the ladder it kind of naturally progressed as I got more into it to move to the football side.”
After that he continued his education at Arizona State University and kept working with college athletics. He’s since worked with the UCLA Bruins football program, taking a job with the Chiefs in 2016.
The transition from college football to the National Football League had it’s obstacles, but none that he hasn’t been able to easily adapt to.
“There’s always challenges at every level, college or NFL,” Reynolds said. “It’s been challenging and exciting at the same time. New city, new team. It just so happens the Chiefs happen to be a great team and its always fun to be a part of a winning team.”
One of those obstacles is the way he interacts with the athletes he’s coaching.
“Working with the players its more of a partnership compared to college where your more mentor-mentee, where they’re kind of looking to you,” Reynolds said. “In the NFL its more of a working relationship, where you’re listening to what they want and need. You’re working with your people skills. That’s been one big change between the two.”
That’s where his small-town background has helped him out. Everyone knows about “Midwest nice”, but that’s something Reynolds has leaned on when forming relationships with athletes.
He looks back to some of the lessons he learned from his parents and his coaches at Fulton High School and uses that even today.
“Some of the values that you get from being in a small Midwest town, for sure,” Reynolds said. “My parents raised me the right way: treat people right, communicate well, tell the truth. It serves me well.
“It’s a people business and I have to interact with guys sometimes in an uncomfortable way, those skills I have learned have helped me grow in that position.”
Plus, being with the Chiefs means that Arrowhead Stadium is just a six-hour drive from the town of 3,500 where much of his family still resides. That’s a big change from southern California or Arizona.
He’s been able to bring along members of his family during the Chief’s Super Bowl run, too. That makes everything a little more special for the small town kid in Miami.
“It’s been really cool – I’ve been out west for 12 years almost and now that I’m closer in the Midwest, family can come to more games,” Reynolds said. “I get to see them much more. To have them come to games and have them experience all of it has been really cool.”