Home Local Former UAB Blazer Reynard Pro to Play in Canadian Football League

Former UAB Blazer Reynard Pro to Play in Canadian Football League

Former UAB linebacker, Reynard Ellis was signed to The Edmonton Elks of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and will be headed North before the season kicks off June 6. (Provided)

By Sym Posey | The Birmingham Times

Former UAB linebacker, Reynard Ellis is headed to Canada. Ellis was signed to The Edmonton Elks and is expected to leave Alabama early next month just in time for the Elks preseason. The official Canadian Football League (CFL) season kicks off June 6.

Ellis hasn’t physically played a down of football since 2022 but has always worked hard which led to the CFL.

“I’ve always put-up good stats and made plays on the field but I didn’t always get the recognition I felt I deserved,” said Ellis who appeared in 13 games for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recording 53 total tackles, in his last season there. “One of the coaches who helped bring me into UAB knew my work ethic and he understood my mindset. He mentioned me to the head coach of the Elks and the coach said he wanted to meet me. After meeting me, he asked to see my film … he called me back that same day and said he wanted to sign me,” said Ellis.

Even before being signed, Ellis said he has been working hard as a personal trainer. “I’m the type of person, I work out randomly throughout the day like pushups, handstands, stretching, or walking my dog.”

Other factors help keep him motivated as well, he said.

“I work out with my [younger] brother, Dominic a lot. He went to school for strength training, so he writes a lot of my workout plans .. . and he will train me. He keeps me in check. When I wanted to just stop working out, he still had me doing the things I needed to do so when the opportunity did come, I would be ready.”

Staying upbeat can be a challenge, he acknowledged. “Sometimes you may feel like you worked for this all your life, put up good numbers all your career, and it doesn’t happen for you like you thought,” he said. “It can be easy to fall out and make excuses for yourself. The main thing is to keep going. If you don’t believe in yourself and put the work in … no one else is going to believe in you. I kept that mindset, and it came to fruition. If your already ready, you don’t have to get ready.”

Active And Competitive

Born and raised in Birmingham Alabama, Ellis played little league football for Park West Youth Complex in Adamsville, Alabama and remembers being active and “competitive with people. That’s why I like playing sports,” he said.

The first time he went to his little league team practice he remembers everybody that he grew up around his neighborhood, all played little league with him.

“They just told me to come out there one day and I [felt] like it was for me. I was supposed to play basketball, but I didn’t play because people used to tell me I was a football player,” recalled Ellis, who also ran track and wrestled while at Shades Valley High School finishing runner-up in Class 6A title match in 2017.

At Shades Valley, he played football for the Mounties. Known for being a dual threat, he excelled on both sides of the ball.

After high school, he attended Furman University, a private liberal arts university in Greenville, South Carolina where he earned a Southern Conference (SoCon) all-freshmen team nod. Ellis transferred to Georgia Southern in Statesboro, GA and redshirted while sitting out the then NCAA-mandated one year. Ellis was a Sun Belt honorable mention as a redshirt sophomore in his first season on the field with the Eagles, he voluntarily opted out of the 2020 season after nine games due to an off-field disagreement.

He was tempted to return home and enroll at UAB in 2021, due to the loss of both of his grandmothers and wanting to be closer to family, but Ellis chose to remain in Statesboro (Ga.), to earn his undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Rather than lose vital credit hours through transfer, he sacrificed a year of football.

“Football is something I love. I didn’t really want to sit out. But I was kind of down and out about my grandmothers. They both passed away around the same time. I just wanted to shift my focus on school. If I transferred then, I was going to lose some credit hours. I wanted to graduate before I transferred. I had something that kept me going, and I knew I had this last year left,” he said.

Ellis would join the Blazers as a transfer graduate, walked on, and worked his way up a crowded depth chart. The defensive staff knew about Ellis prior to his arrival after recruiting him while he was at Shades Valley but was unable to sign Ellis because the Blazers didn’t have a spot available. His recruitment came at the time that the school was rebuilding a program with older recruits. By the end of his first semester with the Blazers, however, he had earned a scholarship.

Team Player

Being a part of a team has always been a part of Ellis’ life. With six siblings, “you’re going to always find something to do,” he said. “You will never be bored. My childhood was fun.  All my siblings always played sports as well. It was always something going on.” With four older siblings -Rachael, Richard, Deanna, and Deshondra, — he falls fifth in line with his younger brother, Dominic, and sister, Ranita, behind him.

“They’re happy for me. They know what I am going to do when I get up there, I know my mom may be a little sad that I am moving away,” said Ellis.

The Edmonton Elks are considered one of the most successful franchises of the Canadian Football League modern era. Founded in 1949, the team, known for their green and gold colors, are 14-time Grey Cup champions, including the historic five-in-a-row from 1978 to 1982.

Edmonton went 4-14 in 2023 and missed the playoffs for the third straight season.

Ellis said he’s looking forward to the upcoming season and excited about moving to a new country, but his focus and excitement are about the opportunity. “Coming out college, I didn’t get picked up like I thought I would, but I kept working. So, it’s like this is my time to show everybody what I can do,” he said.