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  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

  • Staff photo by JOE MARCHILENA

    A scout watches as Kendall Reyes runs a drill Wednesday during UConn's Pro Day.
Sunday, April 22, 2012

Big things predicted for ex-North star

Kendall Reyes has nearly mastered the art of talking to the media.

Dealing with reporters and pundits for the better part of five years while at the University of Connecticut will do that to anyone.

His words are those of a young man who knows how to say the right things, to say he’ll be happy to get drafted by any team, at any point in the NFL draft, which begins Thursday and wraps up Saturday.

But on this day, his eyes and his smile betray him.

“It’s a draft,” Reyes said, his voice giving business answers, but his face telling a different story. “Anyone can pick you. I’m not going to waste my time expecting to go somewhere and then end up somewhere else. I’m ready to go to whoever calls me.”

And what if it’s the New England Patriots – who some draft experts have taking Reyes at the end of the first round – who are the ones doing the calling?

“I’d be excited to be in New England, as I would be to be in any other place in the country,” he said. “It’s definitely exciting times.”

That last part is spot on, not only for Reyes and his family and friends, but for the city of Nashua.

There is no debating whether Reyes, a defensive tackle by way of Nashua High School North and UConn, will be drafted at some point this week. If it isn’t in the first round Thursday, it will be Friday, in the second or third round. If Reyes falls to Saturday’s later rounds, it would be a shock.

But understand this: No matter where Reyes ends up, it’s the rarest of the rare for an athlete from the Gate City.

No, it’s beyond rare. It’s somewhere closer to impossible.

It has been almost 10 years since someone from Nashua has played in an NFL game. In 2002, Kole Ayi, who helped the University of Massachusetts Amherst win a Division I-AA football title, played a handful of games as a special teamer with the St. Louis Rams.

The year before that, Ayi started the 2001 season with the Rams, was cut and then added to the practice squad of the New York Giants. The Patriots then plucked Ayi from the Giants, and he played in one game for New England before getting hurt. He did, however, get a Super Bowl ring.

But Ayi’s road to the NFL was much different than the one Reyes is about to take. As an undrafted free agent, Ayi had to fight his way onto a roster. Not to say that Reyes won’t do the same, but as a draft pick, he’ll already be one step ahead.

Of course, being drafted doesn’t guarantee anything. The last player from Nashua to get drafted was lineman Herb Wester, whom the Cincinnati Bengals took in the fifth round in 1988. But Wester didn’t make the team out of camp and never played a game in the NFL.

If Reyes is taken in the first round, believe it or not, he wouldn’t be the first from Nashua. Forty-four years ago, the Detroit Lions selected quarterback Greg Landry – another guy who went to UMass – with the 11th overall pick in 1968.

Jason Robie, who coached Reyes at North and was an assistant at Nashua High School when Ayi was a Panther, probably put it best when he was asked how surreal this all is.

“It just doesn’t happen,” Robie said.

No, it doesn’t. It takes a lot to make it to the NFL. Talent is only part of it. Drive, determination and intelligence go a long way, too, and it sure doesn’t hurt to have a little luck on your side.

Reyes is a perfect storm of all of it, and it won’t be long now until that storm gets to the NFL.