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Former USF standout J.R. Reed makes comeback in UFL


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Former USF standout J.R. Reed makes comeback in UFL

By BHSN STAFF REPORTS

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ORLANDO --

Make no mistake about it, football players take a lot of hard hits on the gridiron that can make a fan wonder. How did that guy get back up?

The hit Florida Tuskers safety J.R. Reed took was not on a football field, but his will to get back up is truly inspirational to those who know his story.

Reed began his pro career with the Philadelphia Eagles when they picked him in the fourth round (129th overall) of the 2004 National Football League Draft. He would appear in 14 games his rookie season recording 17 tackles and his 23.1 yards-per-kick return average was second among NFL rookies. His efforts helped the Eagles reach Super Bowl XXXIX.

Sitting on the top of the world after an impressive rookie season, Reed was at home in Tampa, Fla. when he suffered a freak injury that would threaten his career. While trying to climb a fence he damaged the peroneal nerve which affects the use of his lower leg and foot that forced him to miss the entire 2005 season.

“The doctors told me I would never play again,†Reed said. “So basically I spent a year rehabbing my leg and all of the muscles around the injury that I had the best I could. I did that for about a year and a half and then had to invent a special brace that I wear to allow me to play football again.â€

The former University of South Florida standout tried to come back in 2006, but was cut by the Eagles after training camp. He went on to spend time with the St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons that season before he was let go by the New York Giants on final cut-down day in 2007.

From there, he caught back on with the Eagles where he remained until five games into the 2008 regular season and was traded to the New York Jets for the remainder of the year.

After the injury, Reed says he had to adjust and re-adjust his prosthetic brace well over 100 times to get it right so he could keep playing the game that he loves. Just like the brace itself, Reed was the first player in NFL history to play with a prosthetic brace.

“My brace has definitely been adjusted many times I have had it altered and changed little things until it fits me perfectly,†said Reed. “I have a great guy named John Sawyer that does the adjustments for me and he has been great every time I brought it in for him to work on it.â€

He left the NFL to spend the 2009 season back at his alma-mater as a Graduate Assistant defensive backs coach under his former head coach Jim Leavitt. It was through that interaction that he got to know Tuskers head coach Jay Gruden and some of his coaching staff.

“I definitely credit Jay Gruden and Jim Leavitt for convincing me to come back to play,†he said. “I’ve learned a lot from coach [Chuck] Bresnahan and coach [bill] Bradley so I know the Tuskers have a great coaching staff.â€

Gruden spent most of this off-season looking for a group of football players that are dedicated to one goal. Bluntly put, that goal is to win the United Football League championship with a gathering of men his staff hand-picked.  A staff with one goal -- find players who have not only the talent, but the passion to play football.

If there ever was a guy on Gruden’s roster that embodies his vision, it is Reed who overcame an extremely adverse situation to get himself back onto the gridiron.

“J.R.’s work ethic is top of the line and his off the field work ethic is what sets him apart from everybody else in my opinion,†Gruden said. “I feel like he is one of those guys I can count on once he learns our defensive system to make the calls and get our guys in position to make plays.â€

At 5’11, 202 pounds, Reed knows his ability to work hard has gotten him to this point in his career and has made up for the shortcomings of his stature.  The work he does in the film room is what makes him a better player to make up for any lack of size or speed.

“I put in a lot of extra work in the film room to get a feel for what my opponents like to do and just try to help myself get to the ball quicker,†said Reed. “A guy 22 years old fresh out of college might be able to run a 4.3-40 yard dash, but if he doesn’t put the time in to study his opponents he could be running that fast in the wrong direction.â€

Reed is determined to help Gruden realize his vision of bringing a UFL to Orlando in his first season as head coach of the Tuskers. He is adamant that he is in Orlando for one important reason.

“I definitely expect us to win this whole thing,†he said. “I’m not coming there for us to be second best, if we’re going to do this we’re going to do it right.â€

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I really hope this works for JR, he has been a great guy with a great attitude all these years.  I was hoping beyond hope that he would be able to make it back with Philly after the injury.

Tuskers should change their colors to Green and Gold with all the Bulls up there.

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“I put in a lot of extra work in the film room to get a feel for what my opponents like to do and just try to help myself get to the ball quicker,†said Reed. “A guy 22 years old fresh out of college might be able to run a 4.3-40 yard dash, but if he doesn’t put the time in to study his opponents he could be running that fast in the wrong direction.â€

Nice quote.

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“I put in a lot of extra work in the film room to get a feel for what my opponents like to do and just try to help myself get to the ball quicker,†said Reed. “A guy 22 years old fresh out of college might be able to run a 4.3-40 yard dash, but if he doesn’t put the time in to study his opponents he could be running that fast in the wrong direction.â€

Nice quote.

And so true.

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