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A Hidden Gem no More: SB Nation's Exclusive Interview with Stony Brook Safety Dominick Reyes

Stony Brook star safety Dominick Reyes sat down with SB Nation to give his thoughts on the NFL, the draft process, and his impact in the league.


A few weeks ago we did a piece on Stony Brook safety, Dominick Reyes. Over the past month, Reyes has been rising up teams draft boards, as the 6'4" 220 pound safety put on a stellar performance at Stony Brook's Pro Day March 22nd, running a 4.59 40 yard dash, and displaying excellent footwork, ball-skills and fluidity in on-field drills. Reyes flew under the radar for most NFL scouts until now. His recent pro day only solidified to the main stream media and professional scouting world what many around the northeast already knew; this kid can play!

The former team captain, defensive MVP and All-Big South first team selection(2012), leaves Stony Brook as the all-time leading tackler, but has his eyes set on a much bigger prize: the NFL. Dominick sat down with Hogs Haven to give readers some insight on what makes him such a special safety prospect.

SB Nation: Dominick, you're a West Coast guy. What made you choose Stony Brook?

Reyes: I had a few things working over here with Washington St., and Colorado St., but with some coaching changes and what not, things just didn't work out. Stony Brook was there for me since the beginning. I could have chose to go to a JUCO and possibly stayed over here, but it was a guaranteed paid education, which was the main thing for me. Another things was the opportunity to leave, and branch out; to make more connections. I could get to know people on the east coast, and see what was out there in the world.

SB Nation: Do you have a nickname that you got in college?

Reyes: There have been a few nick names my teammates have given me. Obviously everyone calls me Dom, but my junior and senior year everyone was calling me Avatar.

SB Nation: How did the name Avatar come about?

Reyes: Just one day in my junior year, one of our captains starting calling me it because I'm fast, I'm big; I'm thin, but I'm not skinny, and it just stuck.

SB Nation: So, when you come into the league, can we call you Avatar?

Reyes: (laughing) You can call me whatever you want, but yeah, I like Avatar. It's a cool name. It will work.

SB Nation: You played in 48 career games at Stony Brook which is a great accomplishment. What was the biggest moment you had in a game?

Reyes: That's an easy one. We were playing Albany. It was our first playoff birth in school history. It was the end of the game and I picked it off in the back of the end zone and we won the game. I never had a bigger moment. You dream about stuff like that. My parents were there. It was one of the few games they got to see. It was just a great moment for me.

SB Nation: When you picked it off, did you take the knee, or did you think about taking it out?

Reyes: Well I caught it in the back of the end zone, and I kind of like tip-toed in the back, and fell out the back, so I didn't really have the opportunity. I would have never thought about taking it out. If I had the opportunity I was going down for sure.

SB Nation: You had 75 tackles your senior year at Stony Brook. You broke the all-time record for tackles at the school. In your senior year, you had nine tackles for a loss, but you never blitzed. Do attribute this to your physical skill-set, instincts, or from watching the opposition on film?

Reyes: It is definitely a combination of all three, but it definitely has to be my instincts that get me there before they cross the line. When you see something, you just have to go full-speed, whether it's right or wrong, you just gotta go. There is no time to second guess yourself out there at all. I really trust my instincts, so when I see what I see, I go.

SB Nation: You do a great job coming up and setting the edge against the run, and that really impressed me when I watched your film. But the NFL is becoming more of a passing league, so I'd like to get a bit more into coverages with you.

As you know, NFL safeties are one of the most valued positions, because you need to be versatile. You need to provide run support, or drop back in single high and play center field. A lot of teams are running man-over, so play recognition is vital. Talk to me about what type of coverage schemes you ran at Stony Brook the most.

Reyes: We ran a lot of cover 4. It was basic cover 4, but a lot of the times I was man on the slot receiver......a lot. We did mix it up with some cover 3, but it was mainly cover 4. That was this year. My junior year we were running a 4-3, and it was a bit more complex. We moved from a 4-3 to a 5-2 this past year. I really understand covers well. I played cover safety. I was always on the slot receiver my whole career.

SB Nation: That should make for a relatively easy transition to the NFL. Did you see a lot of flexed tight ends, or did you see the quicker, smaller slot-type receiver(the Victor Cruz type)?

Reyes: Much more of the Victor Cruz type. I rarely saw a flexed tight end. I was really happy when I saw a tight end(laughing). They're a whole lot easier to cover. But, yeah, I was always against the quickest receiver for the most part.

SB Nation: So building off that, talk to me about some of your strengths in coverage.

Reyes: I'm comfortable with man-over coverage. I'm not really comfortable with press-man. I'm not exactly a corner, because I've never played it. I don't necessarily have that skill-set, but I can do it. I like playing over, and just reading routes. It's all about route recognition. That's something I'm pretty good at.

SB Nation: What areas do you need to improve on in coverage?

Reyes: I just feel like I need to get out there and get coached-up. I take coaching really well. I see myself like a ball of clay; just teach me how to do it. Make me what you want me to be.

SB Nation: In your position guide, you're listed as a SS/FS, but you described yourself as a cover safety. Explain that role a bit, and how does it differ from listing you as JUST a SS or FS?

Reyes: At cover safety, sometimes I'll be a strong safety, or sometimes I'll be a free safety. It just depends on the set. I'm off to the passing strength at all times. I was always to the passing strength my whole career. I was the one on defense who would call out the strength, and then I would set the coverage.

SB Nation: When you enter the NFL, what do you project yourself at?

Reyes: I feel like I can play both SS or FS, but I definitely see myself as more of a SS, mainly because of my run support. But I can easily drop back to center high. I love doing that. I'm 6'4". That would be awesome.

SB Nation: For a guy who is 6'4" 220 pounds who played at a smaller school, how did you manage to stay at safety? Was there ever talk of moving you to linebacker?

Reyes: My freshmen year there was a little bit of talk, but it was never necessary. I had great guys around me who did there job well, and the team valued me more at safety. I could do more at safety. I could be involved in more plays at safety than I could be at linebacker, because at linebacker, I'm almost limited to half the field. We had pretty good linebacker who did their jobs, so it was never necessary to move down.

SB Nation: Take me through the training process leading up to the NFL Draft.

Reyes: I actually just came home a few weeks ago. Prior to this I was training at Revolution Athletics. Emmanuel Sander was there. We had a lot of good guys there. We had a lot of fun. Since I came home I'm mainly focusing on MMA at my brothers gym, Cage Combat Academy. I feel MMA gives you everything. Balance,'s not just lifting weights, you're fighting another man. It's not artificial strength, it's actual moving someone else type of strength. It's great conditioning. I feel MMA is one of the best ways to train for football. I'm not really a big numbers guy. I'm really big on production, and actually playing the game, and I feel like MMA is one of the best things you can do for that. Another thing a lot of people don't focus on is the mental toughness and the mentality it brings. It makes you just a little bit crazy. It's just what you need to play the game of football; just the perfect amount of craziness. I don't really know how to explain it, It gives you that little bit of an edge you need.

SB Nation: What do you feel separates you from the other safety prospects out there?

Reyes: I'm 6'4" first of all. That's huge. I'm proven. I have the films. I started a lot of games. All of my films, I really don't make a lot of mistakes at all. It's rare for me to make mistakes. I pride myself on perfection. I'm a perfectionist. I feel like you have to be. My mentality, when it comes to coachability; the game as a whole and the attitude I can bring to a team is something you can't really put on stat sheets. I can tackle. I can really tackle. Not a lot of people can tackle like I can tackle.

SB Nation: I'll certainly say yes sir to that one. You can sure tackle. If you had to compare yourself to a player in the NFL right now, who would it be, and why?

Reyes: I recently, probably a week ago, was watching film of Adrian Wilson because one of my friends said I was a lot like him, and after watching the film, I have to compare myself to Adrian Wilson right now. His physicality, the way he tackles, a lot of things about was actually shocking. I was like, oh god, I play just like that.

SN Nation: That's a great comparison. Wilson is a possible Hall of Fame player. I see a bit of Kam Chancellor when I watch your film. You both have that great size and hitting ability.

Reyes: There are a few people. Kenny Phillips as well. And the late Sean Taylor. I grew up idolizing him. A lot of my game is going to be modeled after him. He was a big guy too, and he could hit. Sean Taylor could have possibly been the best ever in my opinion.

SB Nation: A lot of our readers will be very pleased to hear this. Did you begin following him in high school?

Reyes: I started playing defense my junior year in high school. That's when I started really paying attention. Taylor and Brian Dawkins were two people I really tried to model my game after.

SB Nation: Special Teams are often what can make a prospect stick on an NFL roster when they first enter the league. Did you play special teams in college, and do feel you're physically ready to contribute day one in the NFL on special teams?

Reyes: Yes, I did play special teams my Freshmen and Sophomore years at Stony Brook, but they actually took me off my Junior and Senior years. They said I was too important. I actually wanted to play special teams, because I knew that's how I would get my opportunity, but they said if you get hurt, we are in trouble.

Yes, I feel I can come in immediately and play special teams in the NFL. Special teams are really fun, and I feel I have all the tools necessary to play special teams now.

SB Nation: Talk to me a bit about the draft process. Can you share with me what the process has been like from the end of your season, up until now?

Reyes: It's been crazy. It's been very stressful, crazy, exciting; everything. The Pro Day was very exciting, but it was also very stressful leading up to it. The whole training process. Everything. You're training, and you don't know what is going to happen. You don't even know if anyone is going to call you when it comes draft time. It's one of those things you just don't know. But it's been fun. It's a dream come true for me. When I was younger I always wanted to play in the NFL. Now it's kind of coming into light. It's actually happening. It's very exciting for me. I'm humbled by the whole experience.

SB Nation: What are you hearing out there in the scouting world? Any projections as to what round you may be taken in?

Reyes: Right now, I'm hearing undrafted free agent, but anything can happen. As far as my own thoughts, I'm thinking 6th to 7th round to undrafted free agent. That's where I project myself. I didn't come from a big school. I'm not a big ticket yet. I feel like one day I could be.

SB Nation: If you do go undrafted, do you have a geographical preference as to where you would like to play? Would you like to remain on the West Coast?

Reyes: Probably not. I've played on the East Coast my whole career, and I like playing in the cold. It actually doesn't matter. For me it's about the attitude of the team, and the style of defense they run, and how I can fit in.

SB Nation: Where will you be on draft day?

Reyes: I think I'll treat it like a normal day. Probably just be at home with my family. I'm really close with my family. I'm just going to take it like a normal day, and just keep doing what I'm doing. Keep working out, and just take it like a normal day.

SB Nation: From a Redskins perspective, you know we have a great need at safety. I have watched hundreds of prospects film, and I personally think you would be a great fit in DC. Is there anything you would like to say to Redskins Nation?

Reyes: I'm all about the Redskins lifestyle; the toughness and tenacity. Just the nastiness of the Redskins. I'm all about that. I feel like I'd be a pretty good fit there too.

SB Nation: We'd like to wish you all the best in the draft process wherever you end up. I look forward to following your career in the NFL, and think you are going to be a tremendous player.

Reyes: I'd like to say thank you for having me, and finding me, and allowing me to get my story out there, because I feel like I deserve a chance just like all these other guys do.

For those of you who haven't see it yet, here is Dominick's film:

Dominick Reyes Stony Brook Football (via reyesd11)