On The Sidelines with Jeff Reed
Steelers.com will bring you a regular feature throughout the season titled On the Sidelines where Teresa Varley will sit down with players and help you get to know them away from the game.
Kicker Jeff Reed has come a long way since he signed with the Steelers as a free agent mid-way through the 2002 season after proving himself during a tryout at Heinz Field in adverse weather conditions.
This year he was voted the special teams' captain by his teammates, something that he considers a great honor.
"It's an honor, not only to be a captain but captain of this team," said Reed. "It's tougher for a kicker or punter to be in a situation like that. It shows a lot of respect from my teammates, so it's a great feeling."
Reed played sports as a kid, but never really looked at football as his main sport until his senior year of high school. It was a great move for him, starting a path that led him to where he is today.
Reed is an easy-going guy with a great sense of humor and keeps the atmosphere light in the locker room.
He also has made a huge impact on the Pittsburgh community, always willing to lend a hand to numerous charities.
Last year Reed and long snapper Greg Warren started their own community event when they hosted a fund-raiser at the Hundred Acres Manor Haunted House in Pittsburgh's South Park to benefit Animal Friends and Homeless Children's Education Fund.
"The haunted house is a fun event," said Reed. "If you can put on face paint and go out and scare people, it's funny for us because we scare ourselves. It's something different.
"Plus the charities are great. Dogs are creatures that look up to the humans that take care of them. They can tell when they are loved. When they are brought up to fight that is just cruelty. It bothers me."
Reed talks about his start in football, community efforts and different topics in this installment of On the Sidelines.
When did you start playing organized sports?
I was four-years old and I started playing soccer. For 15 years that was the main sport I played. Obviously you played sports in your neighborhood with your friends and classmates, but it was mainly soccer and I started playing basketball too.
What were some of the lessons you learned from playing youth sports?
You learn how to be more than just an individual. You learn how to be unified with a team. Also you learn how important it is when you are young to be active.
When did you start playing football?
My senior year in high school. Soccer guys got hit too hard and I didn't want to be a part of that. Finally I got the guts to go out and do it and just gave it a shot. I didn't have the fundamentals to be a kicker but I had a strong leg so I just rolled with it.
What kind of advice would you give to a kid who wants to play professional sports?
Follow your dreams. It's not for everybody. If there is one thing you can do be mentally tough. I think a lot of people are built for the job, but in the same respect they aren't mentally tough so they don't last. Of course you have dreams, you want to reach them and follow them. Most importantly education is number one, but after that follow your dreams and be mentally tough.
Did you ever imagine kicking at Heinz Field during your tryout that you would be where you are today, including just being voted a team captain?
Yes and no. I had a bunch of tryouts. It was just one of the places I hadn't kicked. What you hear when you are an outsider is how hard it is to kick at Heinz Field. Then you get the opportunity to do it, especially in the conditions I did, it has lived up to what I expected.
As far as being a caption I have always wanted to be one. I have leadership qualities. I didn't see it coming. I am very happy I am a captain and will represent myself and the team the best I can. When you go from being a free agent nothing to captain, it's quite a jump.
You are very involved in community activities. Why is that?
I am very blessed to be fortunate and healthy. I complain on a daily basis that I am tired, I am sore, I am weak, I don't feel like doing this today. Stuff that everyone says. But at the same time I do wake up and am healthy. You have these kids that it's ridiculously tough on them. Just to show your face or sign your name and see them smile because of who we are, it means a lot. I don't think they realize we are not heroes, we are human like them. But they see us on television. They see us doing interviews. So it's very important to them as it is to me.
What kind of impact does it have on you to be in the community?
I don't think some of the kids realize it, but I tell them they are my heroes. I went to speak to a class because they were well-behaved, had good grades and attendance. Then I go in and the whole school is there. If I could I could have heard from somebody that had a good message, rather than just keep playing football because you can play one day – because that is not necessarily true.
You are involved with the mentoring partnership. Why is that important to you?
If you say five or six things that are important, maybe one will stick in their head. That is what is important. Maybe later in life when that person is successful, they will look back and say Jeff said this to me. I use things that professors and teachers said to me and I remember those things.