Former Utah DE Reilly fueled by daughter’s battle with cancer

Trevor Reilly, 26, played four seasons at Utah.

Russell Isabella/Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. — When Trevor Reilly lines up at the NFL Scouting Combine, the former Utah defensive end will also carry the weight of his two daughters and wife on his shoulders.

Ever since Reilly’s year-old daughter Shayn was diagnosed with cancer in June, his perspective on life, football and family have changed.

Reilly, 26, who went on a two-year LDS mission and redshirted a year before playing college football, understands the small window of opportunity to play in the NFL and take care of his family’s future.

Reilly’s wife, Jessica, first became concerned when she felt a lump in Shayn’s stomach. Trevor didn’t think much of it.

“I told my wife that she is fine it’s probably just constipation or something,” Reilly told “Then we waited a few days and she said, ‘I’m taking her to the doctor.’”


The doctors were concerned and said they needed to do an ultrasound. Reilly remembers getting a call from his startled wife following an afternoon workout.

“She said, ‘They think she has a tumor in her stomach,’” Reilly remembered. “It was a disaster.”

A baseball-sized tumor had developed inside Shayn’s kidney and the surgeon said that they were going to operate within 48 hours.

“Not long after [doctors] took out her whole kidney,” Reilly said. “Luckily, the tumor was still enclosed in that kidney, which means that it hadn’t spread throughout her body.”

The surgery went as planned and they began chemotherapy.

“Cancer in children, because their cells divide so quickly, can come and go in a snap,” Reilly said. “You can say they’re in remission then a month later its full blown cancer. That still scares us to this day.

“It was sad because she was in pain. She was on pain medicine, which tore her body up, and she had a bunch of tubes coming in and out of her.”

Reilly and his wife would take Shayn to the hospital for chemotherapy every Friday in the fall. Sometimes Reilly would have to miss team meetings. The community and team rallied behind the Reillys. Coaches and teammates would say prayers after practice.

“Those clinics are hard places to be in, but she got better,” Reilly said. “She responded well to the treatment. The last treatment they said that she didn’t have any trace of cancer in her and that was in November.”

The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder was producing on the field at a high level eight months after he underwent ACL surgery. Reilly, who played his whole redshirt junior year on a torn ACL, had his most productive season in Salt Lake City last year, racking up 100 tackles, 16.5 TFLs and 9 sacks.

As Reilly prepares for the Scouting Combine, he understands the business behind the NFL. While he has been working on his positional drills, technique to run the 40-yard dash and getting stronger at Santora Elite Training Center at the University of California-Irvine, he spends his time away from working out with his family.

Anticipation for draft day is growing, but the Reillys have their eye on Feb. 28, when they’ll return to Utah to learn if Shayn is cancer free. For now, he works for his future, honing his craft, waiting for his opportunity to prove to team personnel that he belongs in the league.

“The No. 1 thing is I love this game,” Reilly said. “I want to make it to the NFL because I love the game and even more I want to make money for my family.”