Aggressive, fast moving desmoid tumor. Not what anyone wants to hear. In former Philadelphia Eagle Kevin Reilly’s case, this rare and sometimes fatal condition cost him his NFL career. However, with true grit and determination, the Villanova graduate has been able to live a happy, productive life and he delivered his inspiring story to the Glen Mills student body. Reilly’s late August visit was part of the continuing Character and Leadership Development Program speaker series.
Fresh off a great career at Villanova, which included being a captain his senior year, Reilly was drafted in the 7th round by Miami in the 1973 NFL draft. The Dolphins were coming off an unbeaten season and a Super Bowl victory but Reilly almost made the team before being picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles. A special teams stalwart, Reilly earned captaincy of that unit as well and was with them for two seasons.
During a stint with the New England Patriots, Reilly was blindsided with the desmoid tumor diagnosis. The Wilmington, Delaware native and Salesianum High School graduate had the tumor removed twice but it kept regenerating. Eventually, his left arm, left shoulder, and four ribs were surgically removed. His football playing days suddenly over, he had a long career in sales with XEROX before inspiring thousands as a motivational speaker. During this time, the determined Reilly learned to tie a necktie and play golf with one hand. He is also a broadcaster with the Eagles.
He credits former Steeler Rocky Bleier with helping him during his recovery and tough personal times. Bleier was injured in the Vietnam War.
Reilly’s story resonated with the students.
“His story was amazing,” Glen Mills student Avery Ford said. “That shows you that you can overcome a lot when you get curveballs thrown at you. You just have to stay positive and have support.”