By Chris Toner
Mikey Reynolds (Image: Katie Stepek)
A former UWS student has spoken of his “perfect” retirement from playing American football by bowing out as a national champion.
Mikey Reynolds, of Kilmarnock, who graduated from the university in 2014 with a BA in Journalism, was an offensive lineman with the East Kilbride Pirates this past season.
The team lost only one game all season on their way to the Britbowl weekend at New River Stadium in London earlier this month, where they defeated the Cambridgeshire Cats 50-12 to be crowned the British American Football Association Division 1 champions. As a result, the Pirates will play in the Premier Division in 2023.
The 30-year-old former journalist who is now a product owner with The Scottish Government, admits a long-term ankle injury which led to a serious knee injury played its part in him having to hang up his cleats, but he is more than content with how his career has ended.
“Once we made it to the National Final, I told the boys on the offensive line and our position coach that the final would be my last game,” told Mikey.
“It just felt like the right way to go out. As an ex-journalist, the story of going out on top was too perfect to resist!” he exclaimed.
Mikey began playing American football around five years ago, having been a fan of the NFL since 2012. He began his career with the Glasgow Tigers, where he admits he “wasn’t prepared for what training would entail”, despite a year’s worth of gym training.
“I always wanted to play on the offensive line, which is a tough, physical position – my job was essentially to move someone out of the way, against their will. I was thrown straight in at the deep end.”
But Mikey described this as “the best thing that could have happened.” He goes on to explain: “In my two years there, with some fantastic coaches who took me from nothing to being able to really contribute to a team, and that helped me make the step up to the Pirates, who were traditionally one of Britain’s biggest clubs but found themselves in Division One after a rough few years.”
Reaching the Britbowl weekend with the Pirates was one of Mikey’s “goals”, having experienced it as a fan when the Tigers made it there the season before he started playing with them. And it couldn’t have gone any better for Mikey and the team, who reversed the tide of seasons gone past and got the club back to where they feel they belong.
“We got off to such an amazing start, with one of our star players Struan Bailey returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, that any nerves went out the window and from there we went on to play an amazing game, and probably my best game personally,” Mikey describes.
“The celebrations after were, of course, amazing. It was emotional as waiting to go up and collect my winner’s medal I thought about all of the people I’d played with and been coached by who helped me make it to that moment, and how I went from having never played the game to winning a national championship.”
Mikey, who married partner Kirstin this past spring, aims to move into coaching with the Pirates, something he has already been doing with the Scotland under-19s American football development squad as he attains his qualifications.
The news was welcomed by Pirates general manager Amanda McDonald, saying: “Mikey has been a constant and reliable presence in the trenches for the Pirates since our return from COVID. Although he will be much missed on the offensive line, we are delighted that he is continuing his journey with our club as part of our committee and as a coach.