During his rookie year in the CFL, Mike Reilly tutored Unser Travis Lulay, then the starting quarterback of the B.C. Lions who led the team to a Grey Cup championship.
Reilly and Lulay spent two seasons together in B.C. prior to Reilly being traded to Edmonton. Six years later Reilly has returned to the Lions as the new starter as Lulay gracefully retires from the CFL.
“I’ve been in very close contact and communication with him – over the last 10 years – but certainly over the last couple of months. Talking about this just trying to get a feel for where his head was at and where his body was at and how he was feeling about everything. Just tried to listen and be supportive no matter what was going to happen,” Reilly said.
“It’s not something that he took lightly, but it’s also something knowing him as well as I do he’s at peace and confident in his decision, knows he’s doing the right thing for him and his family. So I’m happy for him and excited for him in the next chapter of his life. There’s a lot of sadness behind it for him and for everybody else, but there is also excitement about what’s to come.”
Reilly signed a four-year contract worth $2.9 million with the Lions during free agency on Feb. 12 and there was some thought that might reunite him with Lulay who spent all 10 of his CFL seasons in B.C.
“It would’ve been great to be under the same roof as him again and in that roll of supporting each other and trying to win a championship together. We got to win one together and I was in the role of being his backup and trying to do everything I could to help him be successful and the short time that I started a couple of games here he did that exact same thing for me,” Reilly said.
“If we would’ve been able to have a working relationship again, that would’ve been amazing, but this is business and football and with injuries and how your body takes it, there’s a lot that goes into those decisions. So I knew it was probably not a great likelihood of that happening.”
Reilly and Lulay were teammates and competitors as No. 1 quarterbacks in the West Division. Even though each man wanted to beat the other between the white lines, the pair spent lots of time sharing secrets to success or working through the responsibilities of being a face of the franchise.
“I owe a lot to Travis and it’s not just on the football field, it’s off the football field. Just watching how he handles himself. I had a great example to draw off of and somebody that I called constantly especially that 2013 year going 4-14 was not great for us. It’s not always the highs, when you play this position and you’re the face of a franchise it’s very challenging,” Reilly said.
“To have a guy like him that I could call and lean on for support, advice, all those different things, it made my job much, much easier. I would do the same for him. He would call and we would vent to each other about different things. I have a lot to thank him for and that’s just the football side that people know about.”
Being closer to the Lulay family is one of the benefits for Reilly playing in B.C. When Reilly and Lulay first met there were no father duties, but daughters have since been added to each family, two for the former and three the latter.
“We’ve experienced a lot of life together. Our families our intertwined. We’ll forever be connected. But the memories that I take back they are football related, but most the best ones are off the field. Him and Kim being in Hawaii for mine and Emily’s wedding,” Reilly said.
“The day of our wedding being out on the lawn throwing routes to each other. We brought a football and we’re barefoot in board shorts running around out there like I remember doing with my brothers when I was five years old. That’s the type of stuff that I’ll always hold on to because that will never end. I’ll probably be 60 years old out on a lawn somewhere running routes for each other and looking terrible doing it.”