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Two former Patriots linebackers are making names for themselves in the AAF

Two of the upstart league’s standout defenders have ties to New England.

New York Giants v New England Patriots Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The third week of action in the Alliance of American Football is in the books and it saw two former members of the New England Patriots meet at Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium: Steve Beauharnais and the Atlanta Hotshots played on the road against Trevor Reilly and the Salt Lake Stallions. The Stallions won the game 23-15, but both of the ex-Patriots were among the contest’s standout performers — showing once again how quickly they adapted to life in the AAF.

The road leading to the upstart league was a rocky one for both players, though. After a standout career at Rutgers, Steve Beauharnais joined the Patriots as a seventh-round draft pick in 2013. Mostly a healthy scratch during his rookie season, he appeared in just two games for the club: Beauharnais played only one defensive snap — he did make a tackle on the play, though — and also was on the field for ten snaps in the kicking game.

However, he was unable to build on his rookie campaign and New England cut him after the 2014 preseason. Beauharnais joined the Washington Redskins after being let go by the Patriots but bounced a round between the club’s active roster and practice squad. The following offseason, he was signed by the San Francisco 49ers but released again only two weeks with the team. In late August 2015, his career seemed to have hit a dead end.

At that point, Trevor Reilly’s was only just beginning. Joining the New York Jets as a seventh-round pick in 2014, he appeared in 14 of the team’s games during his rookie season and carved out a role for himself as a key contributor on special teams. As opposed to Beauharnais, Reilly survived 2015’s roster cutdowns and again saw considerable action during the season: he played in 15 games as a rotational linebacker and defender.

As promising as his first two seasons in the NFL went, Reilly’s career took a different direction in September 2016. First, he was waived by the Jets with an injury designation before reverting to the team’s injured reserve list. Only two days later, he reached a settlement with New York and was released off the list and onto the free agency market. A month later, the Patriots called for the first time: they had signed him to their practice squad.

Reilly spent two months on the eventual world champion’s scout team before the Miami Dolphins added him to their active roster. One year later — after he started the 2017 campaign on the Dolphins’ own practice squad — Reilly returned to New England: Miami released him in mid-October, and the Patriots brought him back on board just two days later. Two weeks after that, he was promoted to the 53-man squad.

Reilly went on to appear in six games for the Patriots that season and saw notable action on both defense and special teams. He ended the year on the practice squad again, but after New England’s defeat in Super Bowl 52 was not signed to a futures contract. Instead, Reilly had to do what Steve Beauharnais had done for almost three years at that point: play the waiting game for a new opportunity to arise.

Up to that point, Beauharnais had ventured into the private sector and opened two businesses. In spring 2018, he finally returned to the gridiron and tried his luck in the developmental Spring Football League. Reilly, meanwhile, went to his alma mater to work as a graduate assistant as he too waited for another call from one of the NFL’s teams. A call would ultimately come for the two of them — but from another league.

Beauharnais joined the Atlanta Hotshots in the new Alliance of American Football, while Reilly moved to the Salt Lake Stallions. One thing the two have in common, other than their Patriots past: both of them have made names for themselves in the new league and as core defenders on their respective teams. On Saturday, they showed as much against each other: While Beauharnais finished the game with seven combined tackles, a half-sack and an additional quarterback hit, Reilly registered eight stops, a pass deflection and a hit.

The game was just the latest terrific outing for the two defenders. Beauharnais, who made Atlanta’s first-ever tackle in week one, now leads his club with a combined 19 tackles. Reilly, meanwhile, has 18 stops as well as a fumble recovery on his résumé. While their way back into the NFL still appears to be a long one, the two ex-Patriots are doing what they have to do to get themselves back onto the map.

And, who knows, maybe the Patriots’ scouts take note once again — which might be interesting especially in Beauharnais’ case: his former college coach, Greg Schiano, is expected to become New England’s new defensive coordinator.