Tufts Senior Portrait: Tim Reitzenstein

Whether on the football field or in the classroom, the new graduate always found ways to solve problems by seeing both sides
Tim Reitzenstein
“I always try to see the other side,” Tim Reitzenstein said. Photo: Alonso Nichols
May 23, 2019

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Tim Reitzenstein, A19, is an all-conference football player who didn’t start out as a football player.

“I was a basketball player all my life, potentially a West Point recruit, but I had injuries,” he said. When he recovered, “I didn’t have a body built for basketball anymore.” But at 6’ 3” and 265 pounds, his size, quick feet, and mobile hips made him attractive to football coaches, including at Tufts. “Playing offensive line is a lot about body position and leverage,” Reitzenstein said, “and I had skills there.”

Still, reinventing himself for a new sport took time. “As a freshman, I was a practice player, but the coaches kept their interest in me, coaching me up, not just parking me on the bench,” he recalled. “They said we brought you here for a reason, and we have to figure that out.”

In his junior year, Reitzenstein played nine games and was named to the All-NESCAC First Team; he repeated the honor his senior year. By November 2018, Reitzenstein had helped the Jumbo offense finish second in the league in scoring (with 29.8 points per game) and passing yards per game (210).

Many times in his life, Reitzenstein has had to start from scratch. Born in Germany to an African-American father and German mother, he spoke only German until age ten, when he moved to New Jersey. Within a year, he was bilingual. Before starting college, he’d move again for short stints in Colorado and at boarding schools in New York and New Hampshire.

Reitzenstein is a man of liberal politics who is adept at finding ways forward with those have different beliefs. In December, a Boston Globe column chronicled how Reitzenstein and his conservative white teammate, Dan Dewing, tackled issues about kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. The issue has roiled football games around the country for more than two years, but the two linemen led their teammates in working out a solution. “As a team,” Reitzenstein told the Globe, “we’d moved beyond gestures to actual listening and respect. Once our differences of opinion became public, we were able to stay united.”

“I always try to see the other side,” Reitzenstein said recently. “I took a comparative politics course on policing in the U.S. and Europe, where a lot of liberal ideology is presented that I happen to agree with. But as discussion moved along, I’d be devil’s advocate, throwing them off with these differing remarks coming from the black guy.”

Just as Reitzenstein struggled while a novice football player his first two years at Tufts, he struggled as a freshman prospective economics major taking large introductory courses. “They were just too big,” he said. He found himself in smaller courses led by discussion, finally majoring in German and international relations. Throughout the spring, he’s taken himself to Boston for more than fifty meetings or informational interviews with firms mainly in finance, and he’s hoping to land an entry-level position by summer.

He’s bringing the same attitude to his job search that be brought to transforming himself from the basketball court to the gridiron. “I know I’ll just be an assistant on a sales desk, taking phone calls or sending emails and making coffee,” he said, “but everything ends up as an opportunity.”

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