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Harvard Alum Reiner Plays With Rosy Outlook

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sometimes dreams do come true.

Like many Southern Californians, David Reiner watched the Rose Bowl Game while growing up and thought, “If I play football, I have a chance to play there.”

On New Year’s Day two years ago, the University of Washington freshman’s dream was realized as he played in the final minutes of the Huskies’ 46-34 victory over Iowa.

“It was just amazing,” said Reiner, now a junior, after a recent practice at Occidental College where the Huskies were preparing for today’s Rose Bowl game against Michigan.

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“When you’re at Husky Stadium with 74,000, it’s a real rush to get out there and play in front of everybody. (But) it’s even bigger to be able to do it in L.A. with over 100,000 people and my family and friends.”

Reiner, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound offensive lineman, is believed to be the lone Harvard-Westlake High alumnus to play in college football’s oldest and most prominent bowl game. Mark Harmon, the school’s most famous football player who was UCLA’s starting quarterback in 1972-73 well before his acting days, had his Rose Bowl bids denied by USC both seasons.

Reiner did not play a year ago when the Huskies defeated Michigan, 34-14, to complete a 12-0 season and earn a share of the national championship. Reiner, a walk-on who earned a scholarship this summer, is listed third on the depth chart at guard and has filled in at three line positions this season.

Reiner’s path to Washington has been more circuitous than the typical college football player.

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A knee injury he suffered as a Harvard senior in 1986 scared off the colleges recruiting him, so after graduation he moved to Venice Beach, working as a truck driver and later as a tow-truck dispatcher.

He arrived on the Washington campus in the spring of 1989, hoping to make the Huskies as a walk-on. He quickly noticed stark differences between tiny Harvard and major university life.

“It was a pretty big transition,” he said. “I felt the time I took off after high school helped a lot.”

After a redshirt year in 1989, Reiner played in four games in 1990, dividing time between offensive tackle, guard and center. He was named as the team’s backup player of the week four times. Reiner played in six games the following season as the third-string center.

All this time, Reiner’s family was paying about $12,000 a year so he could attend school while hoping to earn a scholarship. That goal was realized this summer.

“I thought it was a real honor,” Reiner said. “It felt good just to make it on the scholarship squad and getting moved into the varsity locker room. I was fortunate enough that my parents could afford to send me. It’s been a great experience and I would have stayed all five years had I earned a scholarship or not.”

This season, Reiner has been working with the second string “at basically every position in the offensive line.” He twice has had to overcome injuries, sustaining a knee injury during spring practice and a broken right hand during the fourth week of the season.

“That set me back about six weeks,” Reiner said. “I felt I’ve done pretty good and made a lot of progress.”

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