by Jack Neary
Dillon Reinkensmeyer is grateful to be here. He’s grateful to be a part of the 3-0 Cavalier football team. He’s grateful to be an important part of a young offensive line group. He’s grateful to be healthy. His outlook on life is directly related to an experience he had last year.
Reinkensmeyer, a redshirt junior offensive guard, went on a service trip to Belize during last year’s spring break. Along with current football players Bryce Hall and Hayden Mitchell, and 13 other UVA student-athletes, Reinkensmeyer gave out much-needed water filters and ran a sports camp for local kids.
“This is the kind of experience I would recommend for anyone,” Reinkensmeyer said.
The water filters help residents get clean water from the standing water around them. The camp was an opportunity to connect with kids in the area and for student-athletes to share their passion for sports with others.
Reinkensmeyer went on the trip with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, also known as FCA, at UVA.
“[FCA] has meant everything to me,” Reinkensmeyer said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve met people I would never have met otherwise through FCA.”
To Reinkensmeyer, FCA has been a community that encourages him, helps him to grow, and been an opportunity to refocus his life on what he believes is important. This has been important to him as a way to refocus his life in the face of the consistent stress of school and football.
In Belize, Reinkensmeyer was reminded to be grateful for the things in life he takes for granted.
“A lot of the things we view as important are not that important,” Reinkensmeyer said. “Even though they had less by American’s standards, they still found joy in their circumstances.”
His experience abroad has changed his perspective back home.
“I find joy in the little things now,” Reinkensmeyer said.
These little things include how close everything is in Virginia compared to Reinkensmeyer’s hometown of Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
“You can visit so many places here, but back home you could drive for six hours and still be in Colorado.” Reinkensmeyer said.
The Valor Christian graduate is also thankful for the big things in life too – family, friends, relationships and his health.
After suffering an injury at the end of the 2018 season, Reinkensmeyer was unable to practice during the spring.
“I’m way more grateful for being able to play football after going through that,” Reinkensmeyer said. “Having it taken away for a long time is hard.”
Reinkensmeyer said that his mental game improved in his time off. He also gained a new viewpoint on football.
“Football is a tool to pour into lives,” Reinkensmeyer said. “It has given me the opportunity to take trips like the one to Belize and be able to impact others.”
This idea was strengthened on his service trip, where he saw the impact that a sports camp had on the kids of the community. Sports, removed from their normal frame of intense competition, were now an opportunity to care for kids.
Another way Reinkensmeyer has seen football as a tool for relationship-building is on the Cavalier offensive line.
“We are a super cohesive unit and I think a lot of that can be attributed to the coaching staff here,” Reinkensmeyer said. “We just enjoy spending time with each other. We get dinner the night before each game. That has helped us grow leaps and bounds as a group.
“The guys are pouring into each other,” Reinkensmeyer said. “The older guys have built relationships with younger guys. Everyone is buying into the culture.”
This culture means mutual respect among the teammates in their interactions with each other. The culture of respect allows the teammates to push each other to new limits.
“When someone speaks, everyone listens,” Reinkensmeyer said. “Now we are able to give feedback out of love and be more positive with each other.”
Reinkensmeyer says that for the offensive line to function well, they have to work cohesively as a unit. The trust they have built as teammates has a direct impact on their play on the field, especially in a defensive front that is relatively young.
Although Reinkensmeyer is grateful to be competing on the field among friends, he’s not satisfied yet. He still has work to do.
“The number-one thing I’m striving for is to do my best every day,” Reinkensmeyer said. “This year our team motto is ‘Believe’ and we believe we can win the Coastal.”
Reinkensmeyer has been through transformative experiences in the last year, whether it is coming back from an injury or that trip to Belize, that have made him grateful for each moment as they come.