BUTTE – Rex Reynolds always knew he would play in the Bob Cleverley 8-Man All-Star Game.
The all-state senior lineman from Fairview wasn’t being cocky or over-confident; he just had tradition on his side.
“It started to seem kind of expected after three different (brothers) going to it. I tried to work as hard as I could in the offseason and eventually it paid off,” he said.
When the final horn sounded at Saturday evening’s 35th playing of the 8-Man All-Star Game, it was the end of an era for the Reynolds family. Rex, the youngest child of Mark and Kyla Reynolds, was the fourth and final brother to play in the prestigious game.
What began with Blake, the eldest son, in 2011, quickly became tradition in the Reynolds’ household. Riley was selected for “The Clev” in 2013, Tanner competed in 2017 and Rex kept the streak alive over the weekend, although not without playful ribbing from his older brothers.
“He knew what the expectation was,” Riley joked about the grief they gave their youngest brother during his senior year.
“(They gave me) a little bit (of grief),” said Rex. “It’s never been too serious because we all know we’re joking. We support each other through everything, so it wasn’t too bad.”
The Reynolds boys had extra reason to celebrate Saturday night. When Rex tossed on his jersey and laced up his cleats, the Reynolds became only the second family in Montana’s history to send four brothers to the Cleverley Classic, according to Rick Miller, the co-chairman of Treasure State All-Star Inc. Miller, the former Power coach, says the Pirates saw the Vick brothers — Travis, Nathan, Zack and Brett — each play in the game between 1991 and 2000.
“It was pretty cool watching it. Blake started out, then Riley made it and we knew all the pressure was on Rex and me, because it’s almost like, ‘Yeah, it would be cool to play in state championships and stuff, but family-wise, you have to make the all-star game now,’” said Tanner. “There was definitely a lot of pressure on you, so you worked harder to get toward it. Once you get there it’s a huge relief off your shoulders. You’re like, ‘Well, they did it, so now I finally got it. I don’t have to worry about it anymore.’ Then it’s on to the next one.”
Saturday’s game was the end of an era for the Reynolds family, with Rex bringing their all-star appearances full circle. There was a noticeable sense of pride among the family present at Bob Green Field – parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins – but there was also a hint of sadness.
Nearly five years ago to the day, Blake, along with his cousin Eddy Kimmel, a fellow football standout, was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 20. The two were riding their motorcycles along N.D. Highway 1804 when the drunk driver attempted to pass a semi, colliding with them head-on.
Riley, Tanner and Rex decided to honor and remember their older brother with tattoos on their left forearm, each showing a variation of the phrase, “Brothers Forever.” Riley’s is written in Irish, “deartháireacha go deo,” while Rex’s was designed in Italian, “fratelli per sempre.” Tanner chose German, “Brüder für immer,” and has the appointment scheduled this weekend.
When Riley and Tanner greeted Rex on the field after Saturday’s game, their own all-star jerseys, along with Blake’s No. 63 in hand, the three brothers grew emotional when crediting the eldest brother who started it all.
“That was pretty hard. Blake actually passed away a week after Riley’s all-star game,” recalled Tanner. “That really sucked because he never got to watch Rex and me play a high school football game. That was really tough. But it adds more to why you want to get there, because you’re oldest brother, you want to make him proud.”
“It seems tough sometimes, but we know that he’s always watching. Everything we do he’s watching. We know he’s supporting us, too,” said Rex. “After a while it got really tough knowing he’s not physically there for any of it. I miss him pretty bad because he was such a big part of all of our lives. It’s something you can’t ever get over, it’s always going to linger.”
Rex, Tanner and Riley were each present for all four of the family’s Bob Cleverley All-Star appearances, watching proudly from the stands and dreaming of one day continuing the streak. The trio began reminiscing about all-star games past, each recalling the same two memories.
“I can remember Blake’s, I remember that one,” Tanner said of the family’s first go with the 8-Man All-Star Game. “There was a big family trip we went on right after that. For (Riley’s) we sat front row at Naranche Stadium and I can remember Rex, Blake and me, some of the kids on the other team were talking a little crap, so we had to let them know. It’s definitely a tradition that we would like to keep going.”
“I remember Riley’s game, he got in a little fight with a kid from the west. Our entire fan section was yelling at him to kick his (butt),” laughed Rex. “That was probably the most memorable thing I can think of.”
As the brothers laugh about the memories, a young boy playfully runs in circles around them, unknowingly the next in line to carry on the Reynolds’ all-star appearances more than a decade down the road.
“Jett is definitely the next one we have to get back here,” said Tanner, pointing at his nephew.
“Yeah, my son, and he has cousins, too, about the same age,” Riley said. “Hopefully they’ll all be here in the next decade or so. It would be good to see.”
“He has high expectations from all of us. We watched him in the little track meet they have in Fairview, and he’s beating everyone, so we have pretty high expectations for him,” said Rex. “I think in about sixth grade there’s a level he’s going to have to reach.”
Jett still has more than a decade to wait for his potential all-star selection, but there’s certainly no reason to doubt him. After all, tradition is on his side, as well.