By Dave Dyer
---- — Lawrence’s Janer Reyes proved last year that he can adjust to just about anything.
So attending Howard University, a mostly black school in Washington, D.C., where he’ll be studying business and playing football on (a half academic, half athletic) a scholarship should be no problem at all for the former Lawrence High football and wrestling standout.
“I think it’ll be great and I’m looking forward to it,” said Reyes. “After last year, it will be like a breath of fresh air for me.”
Actually, Reyes had plenty of fresh air last year, but it wasn’t the kind to which he was accustomed. He spent a year at prep school at Vermont Academy in rural Vermont. It was, to say the least, a big change for him.
“It was definitely a great culture shock,” said Reyes. “The first few weeks, I really missed Lawrence — the people, the food, just everything.
“But I got used to it and I recommend it for anyone from Lawrence. It’s a great way to get ready for the world.
“There were so many foreign exchange students from China, Spain, all sorts of countries and there were a lot of kids where the dollar was nothing to them (because) they were so wealthy. It was a big eye opener seeing how other people live.”
Reyes, a 6-foot-2, 285-pounder who was a heavyweight standout for the Lancers, did not play on a good football team at Vermont Academy, but there were four Division 1 recruits on the 0-8 squad and he may have found his best position on the gridiron — center.
“I had never played it before, and I used to like defense more, but I like center more now,” said Reyes. “I watched film and I can see I’m more dominant at center. That’s what I’ll be playing at Howard.”
It’s at center that Reyes hopes he will progress enough to reach his dream, which is to one day to play in the NFL. That won’t be easy, especially playing at a 1-AA school, but Reyes is determined.
“That’s been my dream and it’s still my dream,” he said. “If I work hard, show a good work ethic and keep getting better, I think it’s possible.”
This summer, Reyes is showing the needed work ethic. In addition to a full time job working construction, he’s working out at Latitude in Methuen five days a week, following his prescribed college workout, and doing speed and agility work three days a week at Lawrence Stadium.
Since graduating from Lawrence, Reyes has improved his bench press 100 pounds to 375 and his squat about 50 pounds to 550. He can power lift 315.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” said Reyes, who also considered offers from Wagner College and Sacred Heart.
“I think I have the strength, and I have quick feet, which helps at center. But I need to work on my running in space, in the open field.”
Reyes did improve his speed and agility in the spring when he took up lacrosse for the first time, having to be involved in a sport every season at Vermont.
“I loved it (lacrosse), and that’s one of the best things that happened for me there,” he said. “It can be physical and you have to move around a lot.”
That was one of what proved to be several “culture shock” positives at Vermont Academy for Reyes. He’s planning on having many more positives at Howard.