Here’s a name you might remember: Keith Reaser.
Reaser, 27, is the cousin of Washington Redskins Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor, who died from gunshot wounds after his home was invaded in November 2007.
Taylor served as an inspiration to Reaser, as he explained in a draft diary written for USA Today in 2014.
“When you’ve seen somebody in your family do it, you know it’s possible. I’ve got that blood running through me. You know you have it in you. Everybody’s looking for me to keep it going. My mom, my dad — I would say most important would probably be my uncle, Michael Outar, because he was the one person that believed in me since I was younger, since I was a kid.”
Reaser would need all the inspiration he could get. A standout at Florida Atlantic University — where he recorded 157 tackles, 19 passes defended and five interceptions in 32 starts for the Owls — he tore an ACL in his senior season and was unable to fully participate in the NFL combine the following spring.
Still, the San Francisco 49ers liked what they saw, and they drafted Reaser in the fifth round (170th overall) of the NFL Draft. He spent the 2014 season on the 49ers non-football injury list, and going into 2015, he was seen as a potential starter at cornerback after Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox left in free agency.
But while he appeared in 29 games for San Francisco, Reaser never cracked the starting roster and was released two weeks into the 2017 season.
Three days later, the Kansas City Chiefs added him to their practice squad.
Elevated to the active roster when Mitch Morse was placed on injured reserve on December 15, Reaser would be active for just two games: the season finale against the Denver Broncos — where he recorded four tackles, a pair of passes defensed and a sack — and the playoff game against the Tennessee Titans.
In that game, it was Reaser who recovered Adoree’ Jackson’s muffed punt in the third quarter, giving the Chiefs the ball at the Titans 28-yard line. After three plays that went nowhere, the Chiefs had to settle for a 48-yard field goal attempt that Harrison Butker missed.
If Butker had made the field goal, Reaser might have been one of the heroes of a playoff game the Chiefs lost by a single point. But his effort in the two games he played for the Chiefs didn’t go unnoticed by new general manager Brett Veach. Speaking to the media before the 2018 draft, Veach said that he was glad to have players like Reaser and another former 49er cornerback — Will Redmond — on the roster.
“Look, we still have guys like Keith Reaser and Will Redmond that people won’t really talk about, but Redmond was a [third-round] pick by the 49ers coming off an injury and Keith Reaser was a guy we liked — I think he too [was] also coming off an injury out of Florida Atlantic a few years back, so a lot of people won’t talk about those guys. But when you start stacking those type of players in regard to what’s out there in the draft class, you feel good about them.”
Unfortunately for Reaser, another injury would keep him from making the Chiefs in 2018. After Reaser suffered a quad injury in late July, the Chiefs waived him with an injury designation on September 2. He cleared waivers and was placed back on the Chiefs practice squad but was ultimately released with an injury settlement on September 12.
And that might have been the end of his pro football story — except for the Alliance of American Football.
Signed by the Orlando Apollos, Reaser has been tearing it up in the AAF. Graded by PFF as the league’s top cornerback after his Week 1 performance in a 40-6 victory over the Atlanta Legends, Reaser also turned heads this past Sunday in a 37-29 victory against the San Antonio Stallions.
That’s the kind of play that can get the attention of the head coach — even if he isn’t really sure who you are.
“It was a heck of a play,” said Apollos head coach Steve Spurrier after the game. “We only got him a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know his name completely.”
And it wasn’t the only big play Reaser turned in against the Stallions.
Woodside fails to lead the receiver, allowing Keith Reaser to make another good play against the ball in the air pic.twitter.com/HzXhIObFts— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 17, 2019
According to PFF, Reaser has allowed just five receptions for 20 yards on 13 targets through the first two games of the AAF season.
According to a FanPost contributed by Arrowhead Pride user JakeMilham, Reaser is just one of 19 former Chiefs players who are currently playing in the AAF — a list that includes Akeem Hunt, Frankie Hammond, Jr., Da’Vante Bausby, Aaron Murray and Jonathan Massaquoi.
To be clear, many AAF players are NFL has-beens — guys who have already had their NFL chance. But others are like Reaser, who simply never found themselves in the right situation or happened to be injured when that situation presented itself.
Given the struggles the Chiefs faced in the secondary during 2018, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Reaser might have found his way onto the field if he hadn’t been injured in training camp.
Speaking to the press last week, Reaser said that he and his fellow AAF players see this as their opportunity to get back to the NFL. They don’t take it lightly.
“It means a lot,” he said. “That’s everybody’s goal. Without this, a lot of us would probably be just sitting around waiting for a workout or an opportunity. This kind of gives you a shot to get some film and let people still evaluate you.”
Considering all that’s happened, we can be pretty sure that Veach is still paying attention.