MISSOULA — Though pro football is in his rear-view mirror, Chase Reynolds still talks frequently with L.A. Rams running back Todd Gurley.
Certainly Reynolds, a stellar running back at Drummond and Montana before playing in the NFL from 2011-16, will be among the first to congratulate his former Rams teammate should things go his way Sunday in the Super Bowl.
"Plus there's some (Rams) special teams guys, Jake McQuaide, Johnny Hekker, Greg Zuerlein — I texted all those guys after the NFC Championship game," said Reynolds, who works for Lambros Real Estate in Missoula. "We've been through a lot together and it's awesome to see them finally get an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. Very exciting."
Many of us in western Montana will be pulling for the Rams. Some are fans of the team but most are like me — so tired of seeing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl that we'd rather watch a "Golden Girls" marathon than witness the Pats hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
There's a touch of trepidation today for some of us bandwagon Rams fans. We all know what the Patriots are capable of and some of us are downright irritated by the fact no one can stop that damn dink-and-dunk attack New England uses to bleed the opposition dry.
I mean really. Rob Gronkowski moves like a sun dial and little Julian Edelman is not exactly Jerry Rice. Yet the best of the rest in the AFC couldn't stop those pass-catchers to save their lives.
"A lot has to do with Tom Brady," Reynolds explained. "They do simple stuff but it's the options they have in the routes that guys run.
"I ran that offense when (Pats offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) was with the Rams. He was our offensive coordinator. McDaniels may have a play called, but if a wide receiver sees a certain coverage, a certain zone, he has the option to turn his route into something else. They change in mid-play and become unstoppable."
Tasked with figuring out the Patriots is the Rams' young and popular head coach, Sean McVay, and veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The 33-year-old McVay looks like someone you'd joke with at a Super Bowl party rather than a Super Bowl coach.
But appearances can be deceiving. Just ask Reynolds.
"He looks like one of the guys, talks like one of the guys and he is one of the guys," Reynolds said. "But he has the ability to get you to listen, to focus in.
"He can get guys going in a certain direction. You want guys to be able to play for you. They're out there sacrificing their lives for their teammates and their coach. Good coaches can get a guy fighting for them and it becomes more about the team as opposed to any individual."
Reynolds will be watching tonight's game more intently than any since his retirement from the NFL. He wants to see his old pals succeed, but ...
"Never root against Tom Brady, because he can prove you wrong at any moment," said Reynolds, who spends most his free time with his wife and three children rather than watching football.
"If the Rams can be consistent on offense, their defense is top notch. The biggest thing is having no turnovers and make the plays when they're there. Brady has the ability to make a play anytime, so you gotta get some pressure on him. Hopefully (Rams D-tackle Aaron) Donald and those guys can get him rattled. But I wouldn't count on him being too rattled."
Reynolds has experienced his share of exciting wins and disappointing losses over the past decade. In his home state, he's experienced both the thrill of victory and agony of defeat in the Griz-Cat rivalry. Then there was that narrow loss in the race for a state senate seat last November.
So close was the race that it took three extra days to declare a winner. And much like he bounced back when the Grizzlies lost a heart-breaker to the Cats in his senior season, he has bounced back from his election loss.
"I don't know what will be next for me — right now I'm focusing on raising my (three) kids," he said. "Somewhere in there I'd like to make a difference. I'll definitely keep my eye out and somehow down the road get back to politics and hopefully change something."
Regardless of which side of the political fence you stand, you have to admire Reynolds' resilience.
On the other hand, what else would you expect from a small-town Montana guy who more than once played through the searing pain of a separated shoulder while toting the ball for the Grizzlies?