The New England Revolution goalkeeper learned and followed some simple lessons that have helped him forge a noteworthy career in professional soccer. They've also made him popular with teammates and fans, who sing songs about "dreaming of a team of Matt Reis."
That timeless quality became apparent as Reis was speaking to NESN.com before an appearance at a charity fund-raiser. On Thursday from 6-8:30 p.m. ET, Reis will join teammates Benny Feilhaber, A.J. Soares and Chris Tierney as celebrity bartenders at GEM (42 Province St., Boston, Mass., 02108). They will mix and serve drinks to raise money for Think Taylor — an organization founded by former Revolution star Taylor Twellman that supports education, fundraising and awareness of concussions and sports-related brain injuries.
When asked what special cocktails he would be serving to patrons at the upscale restaurant and lounge, Reis instantly responded with an old favorite.
"I'm somewhat of a throwback, so I'll be serving up a good Jack [Daniels] and Coke," Reis said. "They go really well together."
"It's a great chance to come out and help raise money for charity. Unfortunately Taylor's career was cut short [by concussions], and he's done a great job of getting the word out about head injuries since he stopped playing."
Now in his 10th season with the Revolution, Reis has experienced times both good and bad in Foxboro. A former coach once told him that professional players should treat every day "like it's somebody's birthday," and be thankful for the time they can spend playing the sport they love. He benefits from the perspective gained over a lengthy career to keep a positive attitude and help guide the team through rough patches.
"We've been really close in every game and the difference has been down to one or two mistakes either on offense or defense," Reis said of New England's 10-game winless run. "It's important to know we're not far off and not get too down on ourselves."
Despite New England's recent struggles, Reis has enjoyed a solid 2012 season. He has been fully-fit since the start of preseason after missing parts of ther 2010 and 2011 seasons with various injuries. This year has seen him play 25 of 27 games and reach significant career milestones — specifically the 100-win and 1,000 save marks. Reis takes those in stride, saying it comes with the territory of playing a lot of games over the years.
"[The milestones] just mean I've played for a long time," he said.
"I had three surgeries in 12 months in 2010," Reis said. "Anytime you have surgery, your body reacts in ways you don't expect. I was dealing with a lot of that last year, but this year I've been healthy and been able to be in the 18 man-squad for every game."
Good health has allowed Reis to hold off competition from capable backup Bobby Shuttlesworth, who replaced him for two games in July. Reis was a backup for most of his first six seasons in Major League Soccer, and that experience helped him stay focused and regain his starting spot while continuing to serve as a friend and mentor to Shuttlesworth.
"I've been on both sides of that. When I arrived here [in 2003] I was a backup. I didn't become a regular starter until I was 28 years old, so I know what it's like to have to push someone else and be ready to step up when it's your time."
The Revolution stalwart and prankster-in-chief is a longtime favorite of the fans, but don't expect to mix it up with him on the social networks any time soon. Reis has resisted calls from teammates and fans to join Twitter, harkening back to the days when trash was talked in person.
"I don't think I'm that interesting where I have to tell people what I'm doing at all times," he said. "I've heard a lot about it, but I'm a bit old school. The internet was just coming out when I was in college, and I remember when you had to wait at home for a phone call. I don't think I'll be doing that any time soon."
We'll have to give Reis a pass on that one and let him stick with the classical methods that have served him so well through the years.
Revolution players will be showing their bartending skills from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday. There is no cover charge for the event, and fans are encouraged to come out and support Think Taylor and the Revs.