Mike Reily is the type of person who brings a bouquet of flowers to Thanksgiving dinner, complements the host on the food, offers to give up his slice of pumpkin pie when the dessert offerings run out and even volunteers to help with the dishes.
He is someone fathers brag about, mothers want their daughters to bring home and the person you know would come and pick you up in the middle of the night when your car conks out on the road.
Reily is that nice.
“He is just a really nice guy,” Burroughs High head football Coach Keith Knoop said about Reily, the Indians’ offensive and defensive line coach. “He is a good guy in the community, he works hard and he cares about the school. He’s a guy that the kids just want to be around. The players seem to bond more to him because I’m the one who always does the yelling. When Mike does yell, you know it’s something important.”
Despite his easy-going demeanor and his gregarious personality, Reily, 35, who played at Burroughs and in college at UNLV, realized that being nice would get him nowhere when it came to football.
The coach said in order to be a successful player, an athlete must be able to instantaneously turn off his off-the-field persona and transform into a beast on the gridiron.
“We have a saying with our guys that we want them to have that switch,” said Reily, who joined Knoop’s staff in 2002. “Off the field we’re very nice and it’s always ‘thank-you sir; no sir; yes ma’am.’ You want to be the nicest, most polite guy there is when you’re not playing. But when you get on the field, you have to be able to flip that switch and just become a raving maniac.”
Reily said one of players who embodied that philosophy was Sebastian Valenzuela, an All-CIF Southern Section lineman who graduated in 2009 and made his way to the University of Washington.
“Off the field, Sebastian was always smiling and he was such a lovable, cuddly guy. But on the field he would rip your heart out,” Reily said.
Reily has taken that philosophy and helped mold an offensive line tradition that has become one of Burroughs’ fortes for nearly a decade.
“We just want to be smart football players,” Reily said. “Most of the time we’re not the biggest, we’re not the baddest, the fastest or the strongest, but we pride ourselves at being good technicians and having our wits about us. We want to be smart football players.
“We use a blocking system here that … is not your typical high school blocking system. We use combination blocks in a college-level system where you have to be smart to do it. We expect our guys to read on the run.”
With such a complicated system, Knoop said Reily is the right person to implement it.
“Coach Reily is a very cerebral person,” Knoop said. “He was a 4.0 student when he played here and he had a 4.0 when he was in college. He’s a very intelligent person.”
The Indians offensive line under Reily has been able to pave the way for a host of successful running backs who have racked up big yardage and broken records since 1992. Players like Thomas Kyle (1,364 yards in 2005), Joe Wiggan (1,933 yards in 2006), Dominique Barnes (2,001 in 2008; 1,079 in 2007) and Dalton Williams (1,529 in 2009) have all benefited from strong Reily-coached offensive lines.
This season, led by linemen Gus Ferrat, Forest Stevens, Daniel Marbach, Paul Martinez and Thomas Liro, the line has laid the groundwork for the biggest season by a Burroughs running back in school history. Last week, senior Zander Anding broke the single-season rushing record of 2,001 set in 2008 by Barnes. He has 160 carries for 2,104 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Anding is averaging 263 yards a game, which would put him eighth on the all-time state list. He also holds the school record for yards in a game with 393 against Glendale.
Anding is quick to praise his line.
“Honestly, I make all of my runs because of them,” said Anding, who has scored 25 total touchdowns this season. “Without them I know I wouldn’t be that much at all and I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done. Those guys are amazing and they do so much hard work.”
Reily said getting outward praise from someone like Anding is pretty rare for linemen, as the Indians contingent has dubbed itself the “Fat guys.” The coach said the group is used to going about its duties in anonymity, and the players usually don’t expect such praise.
“We look at ourselves like a union,” Reily said. “We are blue-collar workers of the team. We show up with our lunch pails, we clock in, we do our work, take care of business and we clock out. We just usually don’t get a lot of credit and we don’t get the glory. But I have to give a lot of credit to Zander, who has given us a lot of props this season. Fat guys love that kind of stuff.”
The Indians linemen have the upmost respect for Reily, who makes them dessert every Wednesday during their weekly get-together. The coach also invites the players to an end-of-the year barbecue at his home.
His players know their coach cares a great deal for them.
“He is just a great coach and he is always helping us with what we have to do,” Ferrat said. “He prepares us for things on and off the field and he always tells us when we do a good job. He deserves a lot of credit. He’s a very good coach.”
Said Martinez: “We want do [well] for him and we always try and make him happy. We know all the work he does for us and we want to give that back to him.”
Reily’s most successful disciple is Eben Britton. Britton was an All-CIF and All-State and Leader Male Athlete of the Year in 2005, who earned a scholarship to the University of Arizona. He was taken 39th in the 2009 NFL Draft and is in his third season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He was a dominating force when he was at Burroughs,” Reily said of Britton. “As far as the heights he’s been able to reach in his career, he is the most successful player I’ve coached.”
With the success of Anding running behind the talented Indians offensive line, Burroughs (5-4, 5-1 in league) has been able to enjoy success in the Pacific League. Heading into the 7 p.m. game Friday against cross-town rival Burbank (4-5, 3-3), the Indians are tied for first place in league.
A win against the Bulldogs would give the Indians at least a share of their third straight league championship and their fourth in six years. However if Arcadia (7-2, 5-1) is upset by Crescenta Valley, Burroughs would have the title to itself.
Reily was able to excel as a player at Burroughs despite playing in a program that suffered through its share of instability.
“I had four different coaches in my four years at Burroughs,” Reily said. “That was kind of crazy.”
As a sophomore in 1991, Reily’s Indians fell to Burbank, 14-12, in the annual “Big Game.” It was another loss as a junior, as Burroughs was upended by the Bulldogs, 21-17.
However, Reily was able to leave high school on a winning note as far as the cross-town clash was concerned, as he helped Burroughs notch a 31-6 victory in 1993.
“Burbank and Burroughs, you just don’t get any more exciting than that,” Reily said. “Especially when we played in the old Memorial Field stadium. The rivalry game is one you always looked forward to as a player.”
Reily will be on the Indians’ sideline Friday night, making sure his linemen are doing what they are supposed to do to help Burroughs win. And like they have done in the nine games prior, his players will give their coach all that they’ve got, playing for a man they have come to respect and admire.