Trace Reynolds is a rarity these days. He’s a young athlete with patience.
The 2015 Edgewood High School graduate doesn’t see anything particularly special in that. It’s simply his nature.
That patience paved the road that Reynolds has traveled as a member of the Heidelberg University football program. The senior was a smashing success in his first career start at quarterback this season after three years of not playing very much.
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“That just goes back to the way I was raised, just hard work and just seeing it through,” Reynolds said. “I made a deal with my parents that once I chose a school, I was going to stick it through unless something crazy happened.
“I love the guys on my team too. I see guys that are in my class right now as seniors that still might not see the field for their entire four years here, and I couldn’t look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m leaving because I’m not playing.’
“The instant gratification thing is huge and every freshman class we get we see guys like that more and more, but that’s on us as captains and seniors to say, ‘Look, you’ve got to see it through. You can’t just run from something when it doesn’t go your way.’ ”
The Sept. 1 opener against visiting Olivet (Mich.) was memorable for the 6-foot, 185-pound Reynolds, though it didn’t look like it was trending toward a victory for Heidelberg.
Scott Donaldson’s Student Princes rallied for a 21-17 win under the lights at Hoernemann Stadium. Reynolds took off on a quarterback draw and ran 44 yards for a touchdown with 5:26 remaining to get his team within 17-14. Then he connected with wide receiver Braden Jerome for a game-winning 17-yard TD with 1:11 on the clock.
Reynolds and Jerome are good friends, which made it even more special.
“We stayed up here all summer. We threw almost every day, so that ball was just like second nature,” Reynolds said. “It was incredible to actually see it work in a game and for him to score and just the emotion and the weight lifted off your shoulders … it was awesome.”
Heidelberg, an NCAA Division III school, hasn’t played since. Thanks to a bye week, the next game is Saturday night at Capital.
Reynolds’ opening numbers were imperfect, yet strong. He was 14-of-25 for 178 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He also ran 17 times for 159 yards, chewing up yards with his physical style of running.
“He single-handedly sparked our comeback with his legs,” said Jason Lewis, the Student Princes’ offensive coordinator. “I’ve been here for 10 years, and we’ve always had a pocket quarterback that didn’t run a ton. Trace is exactly the opposite. We’re going to use his legs to our advantage. He’s had his own script of plays the last couple years because we weren’t going to run the same offense if he was in the game.
“In Division III, you can’t recruit for a specific offense. So what I’ve been raised on is players, formations, plays. Take the players you have, put them in formations and call the plays on their abilities. That’s exactly what we’ve done.”
Reynolds was the backup for most of his first three seasons. Jon Sandwisch started the opening three games in 2015 before getting hurt. Tyler Stoyle took his place and Reynolds became the No. 2, and it stayed that way through the 2017 campaign.
It took Reynolds a while to feel comfortable in the spread offense. After all, he was a Wing-T guy at Edgewood. Stoyle, meanwhile, went on to become the second-leading passer in school history by throwing for 7,646 yards and 76 touchdowns.
Reynolds made 15 appearances at quarterback during that time, completing 10-of-25 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. He played four games of junior varsity ball as a freshman. Beyond that, Reynolds was essentially a practice player.
“You just have to understand that it’s not about you. It’s about the collective group,” he said. “Stoyle was a great quarterback, and he never made it feel like I was a backup. I was always preparing like the starter because you’re only one play away. Whether you’re 1 or 6 on the depth chart, you have to think you’re the guy.”
Lewis said he’s seen too many players duck and run when it comes to paying their dues for playing time. That’s why he holds Reynolds in such high regard.
“He has been in a backup or even lower role in his whole career here, and he’s been one of the hardest workers,” Lewis said. “He has such a passion for the game that he found his home, he stuck it out, and he’s going to get his moment of fame his senior year. That’s very rare in today’s society. I wish some of our young guys would use this as an example.”
Reynolds is on his way to being a four-year letterman for the Student Princes. He was actually a starter last year as the holder on extra points and field goals.
It was a role Reynolds took seriously. He was a key factor in the 48-45 overtime triumph over Otterbein last season, handling a poor snap and getting the ball down properly for Austin Baker’s game-winning field goal.
“It was a way to get on the field. I just made it mine,” Reynolds said of being the holder. “I started as the holder against Olivet, but I was just dead after that (touchdown) run and Coach Donaldson said, ‘Yeah, you’re officially retired from holding.’ It was kind of funny because I used to make jokes about it and say, ‘Holders are people too.’ We really preach special teams here and how important they are. I wanted to help us out any way I could.”
Reynolds said he didn’t know he was the starting quarterback this year until a few days before the Olivet game. His backup right now? That’s junior Jimmy Gephart, a Fenwick High School graduate who’s played in two games at Heidelberg.
“They’re very similar quarterbacks,” Lewis said. “If Trace goes down, I am 100 percent confident that Jimmy can take over. We actually can run our same offense.”
Gephart is one of three Fenwick grads on the roster. Junior Matt Davenport is a starting nose guard and Reynolds’ roommate, while sophomore Jamey Colts is a backup wide receiver.
Reynolds said his proudest moment was being voted a captain by his teammates. He shares the role with Jerome, cornerback Jordan Green, defensive end Collin Pecoraro and center Brad Wienhold.
“That’s the biggest accomplishment I’ll ever have here, no matter what happens from here on out,” Reynolds said. “It wasn’t all about being on the field and throwing touchdowns. My teammates saw me doing the right things off the field, not missing lifting, going to class, doing the right things in the community. That meant a lot to me.”
His off-the-field activities have heightened his college experience.
Reynolds and Wienhold started the Athletes Against All Violence organization on campus last spring after graduate assistant coach Dom Guglielmo pitched the idea. It began as a domestic violence awareness group and now focuses on all violence.
AAAV conducted a canned food drive for Open Arms, which provides domestic violence and rape crisis services in Findlay. There are talks and workshops to raise awareness, even things like bystander training, which lets people know what they can do when they see a possible situation developing.
“We did a signup list and got it around campus and had like 65 members sign up that day,” Reynolds said. “We raised over 600 items in like a two-week span for Open Arms. After we did that, we actually realized that we could make a pretty big difference.”
Reynolds and Wienhold have been working with the “It’s On Us” committee to help plan campus events. AAAV was also part of the “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” event on campus last spring.
“All participants wear high heels and walk a mile on the track, and then they’re presented with a scenario of sexual harassment or domestic violence,” Reynolds said. “We had probably 50 football guys out here in high heels walking on the track. That was kind of a cool thing to see.
“Football players get a bad rap all the time on college campuses. We wanted to be remembered for more than just being football guys here, and we were like, ‘Well, what can we do?’ We didn’t really have a domestic violence group on campus where athletes are heavily present. We thought if we could be the guys that are doing this and set that example, it would carry a lot more weight than if none of the athletes showed up to any of these things. It was for a good cause, and it just kind of blew up.”
Reynolds does a weekly sports show with teammate Jermaine Burket on WHEI (88.9 FM), the campus radio station, and works with Burket and Green in a “Get Your Mind Right” group that helps freshmen deal with college life.
“I just want to make sure I get the full college experience,” Reynolds said. “It’s kind of the Heidelberg way. If something interests me, I just attack it. If I don’t like it, I just say thanks and drop it.”
He’s a 3.7 student in the communications department majoring in integrated media. Last spring, he was surprised to receive the Leann Wolff Award, which is given to the communications student with the highest grade point average.
Reynolds is on schedule to receive his bachelor’s degree in the spring. He is considering a career in human resources or public relations, but he also wants to coach at the collegiate level. Lewis said he’s a natural coach because of his analytical approach to the game.
The plan is to get a master’s degree in business and be a graduate assistant coach for Heidelberg next season, though nothing has been finalized at this point.
The more immediate plan is preparing for Capital. Reynolds, who started playing football in Edgewood’s pee-wee system as a kindergartner, wants to maximize every moment this year.
“After being a part of it for four years, I think Division III is the purest form of college football,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong — I love Division I football. But if you want to see guys that truly care about the game and truly care about each other, come watch a Division III football game. I’ll always love it.”
By The Numbers
Here are Trace Reynolds’ year-by-year statistics with the Heidelberg University football team:
2015 — 2 games; 0-of-8 passing, 1 interception; 7 carries, 5 yards
2016 — 5 games; 10-of-16 passing, 117 yards, 1 touchdown; 7 carries, 12 yards
2017 — 8 games; 0-of-1 passing; 5 carries, 61 yards
2018 — 1 game; 14-of-25 passing, 178 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; 17 carries, 159 yards, 1 touchdown
Career — 16 games; 24-of-50 passing, 295 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 interceptions; 36 carries, 237 yards, 1 touchdown
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