LARAMIE, Wyoming — Sometimes, Chad Reese has to remind himself that this is all new.
Sure, it's been 2½ years since he made his first start at Wyoming.
But it feels longer than that. Long enough for football to be new for him.
"It was definitely a journey," Reese said. "I had my ups and downs. There was a point in time where I thought I was never going to get to play football again. And so I'm just forever indebted to the staff for allowing me a second chance to play again. I don't take it for granted."
Reese started the final six games of 2012 at free safety, finishing his sophomore season with 53 tackles and a team-high three interceptions.
For a variety of reasons, he hardly saw the field as a junior. By Nov. 21, 2013, Reese quit the program, then led by Dave Christensen.
Since then, he's been cut by North Texas, coached at Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Texas, and returned to Wyoming in January under the approval of second-year Cowboys head coach Craig Bohl.
"I try not to compare it to the previous time," Reese said, "but this staff has accepted me. They want me here and I want to be here. It's definitely changed. I'm a part of this team, part of the Craig Bohl era."
Through 10 spring practice sessions, Reese has solidified himself as the Cowboys' nickel back. Still, he feels like he's just beginning to shake the rust off.
"Sometimes I get frustrated in practice," Reese said. "I just have to keep reminding myself that I'm only 10 practices into this new system. I'm more than a year and a half removed from playing football. I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things and get back to playing to my standards."
In UW's two scrimmages, Reese has recorded four tackles.
Those numbers are likely to rise in the fall.
In Bohl's Tampa 2 defense, Reese could be used quite frequently.
"(The nickel back) is going to be almost an every-down position," UW secondary coach Curt Mallory said.
Reese spent most of his time at Wyoming as a safety, but played the nickel role in high school. He said he's warming to the position, though the different coverage responsibilities have taken some getting used to.
"We played a lot of quarters coverage," Reese said, "and now we're a true halves team, so you've got the whole deep half. With the nickel spot, just playing a lot of man coverage and working on my techniques."
Reese, now a walk-on, made note that he's happy to do whatever is asked of him, "whether it be special teams, playing the nickel, playing the safety, wherever they need me."
So far, he's fitting in at Wyoming in his second chance.
"He's done some good things in there," Mallory said. "He's got to continue to get better as well, but he's shown some promise."
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com
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