'It wasn't given': Reaves reflects on making Commanders roster originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
It's fitting that the conversation happened on a set of stairs inside of Washington's facility, considering the number of steps that were required for Jeremy Reaves to make it to that point.
As Reaves outlined in a Wednesday chat, he and Ron Rivera were heading down to a lower portion of the Commanders' headquarters on Tuesday when Rivera calmly informed the safety that he had landed on the club's 53-man roster.
"He was like, 'Hey, just wanted you to know: you're in,'" Reaves recalled. "It was awesome. That's what I've been working for."
Since first joining the franchise in September 2018, Reaves has been featured in numerous transactions, ricocheting between the active roster, the practice squad and waivers on more occasions than he certainly would've liked.
So, sticking on the depth chart after Tuesday's wave of cuts — a feat he hadn't accomplished before — was a major milestone for him personally.
"It wasn't given," Reaves said. "It was earned."
"We were sitting down and all of these coaches felt that this guy came, played, did the things that he needed to do, showed us what he is capable of," Rivera said in a presser when discussing why Reaves ultimately broke through.
It has been a constant battle for Reaves to prove that he belongs in the NFL, and as he's fought to do so, there's been another constant in his life, too.
On Wednesday, Reaves explained to NBC Sports Washington that he keeps a permanently-packed suitcase around. The item serves as a visual reminder for him to never get complacent.
"In the five years I've been here, I've never unpacked it," Reaves said. "That's just that mentality of, 'I don't know what tomorrow's going to be.' So I've carried that with me."
If you think that Reaves is going to tinker with the suitcase now that he's a part of the Commanders heading into Week 1, by the way, just zip it.
"No, it got me here," he said. "I'm not going to change the rhythm."
Once word spread that Reaves wasn't going anywhere, handshakes and acknowledgements from his teammates followed.
Despite only playing in 25 games for the organization over the last four seasons, he's become somewhat of a fixture thanks to his extensive time on the practice squad, meaning many guys have witnessed him as he's aimed to truly establish himself.
Sadly for the 26-year-old, his mother died during the 2021 campaign, meaning she wasn't able to physically partake in the celebration of Reaves' achievement. But after sharing the enjoyment with his father and sister, Reaves found a private moment so he could individually connect with his mom as well.
"'We finally got what we wanted to get,'" Reaves, who has a tattoo of his mom on his leg that he taps when he jogs onto the field, said he told her.
Reaves' personality, plus his past experiences with the business side of the sport, won't allow him to bask in his making of the roster.
Safety is one of the more well-rounded positions in Washington, so next up is gaining Rivera and coordinator Jack Del Rio's trust in order to crack the rotation there in addition to whatever contributions he can supply the special teams units with.
And throughout that grind, Reaves' memories of his mom and his suitcase will surely remain.