J.R. Reed goes from under-the-radar transfer to name to know in UGA secondary

Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed (20) during the Bulldogs’ session on fhe Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. (Steven Colquitt/UGA)

Jake Rashaan Reed has gone by J.R. since back in elementary school growing up in Frisco, Texas.

 

“I don’t think the teachers even knew J.R.’s middle name at all,” his father said.

J.R. Reed has been a name to know as Georgia heads into a new season.

“He’s one of those safeties that’s going to come down and hit you and let you know that he’s there,” junior receiver Terry Godwin said. “He’s going to make sure to let you know that J.R. Reed is on the field.”

The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Tulsa transfer emerged this spring as a player that could contribute in the secondary and now is in line to start in his Bulldog debut Saturday at either the star nickel back or at safety.

“I always believed in myself and I knew I was a good player,” Reed said. “I always knew I had a chance and coaches told me that if I work hard, I always have a chance. That’s what I came in with that mindset.”

J.R.’s father was an NFL wide receiver for the Vikings who had four straight 1,000-yard seasons. Jake Reed and wife Vinita made their home in Texas, avoiding the frigid Minnesota winters. They met at Grambling State and Vinita landed a teaching job in Fort Worth.

J.R.’s first sport was soccer and he tried his hand at baseball and basketball but gravitated towards football.

“It was always a big dream, always out there playing football,” Reed said. “I wanted to be like Dad.”

J.R. hung out in the locker room while his father watched film on Tuesdays with Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Joe Horn. He remembers running around chewing gum and playing Pac-Man.

“He always wanted to be a football player,” Jake Reed said. “He always has been real knowledgeable of the game from a young kid from 5 to 6 years old.”

J.R, Reed was a two-way starter at Prestonwood Christian in Plano where he had 53 tackles and five interceptions and 18 catches for 308 yards and three touchdowns as a senior in 2013 before tearing an ACL in the playoffs on a punt return. His parents wanted him to get a good education at the private school but his father thinks not playing at a big public school in football-crazy Texas kept him from attracting offers from bigger schools.

He signed initially to play for SMU with plans to grayshirt but ended up at Tulsa in 2015.

After one season in which he had five tackles and a pass breakup, Reed left after the spring semester in 2016 to look for a new place to play even though he was competing for a starting safety spot. He wanted to play at a school where football was more high-profile.

“I asked him if he knew where he was going and he said he didn’t know,” Jake Reed said. “He said he would go walk-on somewhere. What do you do as a parent other than support your kid?”

Georgia, with its new coaching staff under Kirby Smart, was among the schools contacted. Jake Reed’s hometown is Covington, 45 miles away, and J.R.’s cousin, Deangelo Gibbs, was a highly-sought after five-star recruit that ended up enrolling early in 2017.

“I don’t think Georgia went after J.R. because of Deangelo,” Jake Reed said. “Just the conversation I had with Kirby and (defensive coordinator) Mel Tucker, the scholarships, the spots that they have mean a lot to them. If he was not a good ballplayer, he’s actually be taking up space.”

Tennessee talked to Reed and he visited Baylor before Art Briles was fired.

Gibbs was already leaning towards Georgia, wanting to be close to home, Jake Reed said.

Georgia’ didn’t have film of Reed at Tulsa.

“They looked at his high school highlight tape,” Jake Reed said. “Once J.R. talked to them and I talked to them, I said it’s a blessing my kid can play because I wouldn’t put him in a position he couldn’t handle. Coach Smart and Coach Tucker also saw that and took a chance on him.”

That chance—in the form of signing with Georgia as a transfer in June 2016—is paying off now for Reed and Georgia.

“I didn’t know what we were getting,” Smart said. “I knew he was a really good athlete, really fast. We didn’t know much. We talked to the coaches there where he was and they all said he was a good player. We were a little deficient in that area. It’s turned out to be probably the best decision that we’ve made from a standpoint of transfers. That was a huge get for it.”

The Bulldogs had offseason attrition in the secondary and starting cornerback Malkom Parrish is sidelined with a foot injury.

“You’ve got to take those chances because sometimes the blood line is real,” Jake Reed said.

Reed , who played collegiately at Grambling State, spent 12 seasons in the NFL, including 10 with the Minnesota Vikings. His younger brother Dale Carter played 13 years as a cornerback.

J.R.’s sister Jaevin Reed is a sophomore sprinter at Texas A&M where she shared honors as the SEC’s freshman runner of the year and won a gold and silver medal at the Pan American junior championships in Peru.

That made two Reeds on scholarship at SEC schools starting last year even though J.R. Reed spent last season on the scout team, watching from the stands unable to help when Tennessee beat Georgia on a Hail Mary.

His father told him his game day was Monday to Wednesday in practice since he had to sit out a season as a transfer and that was his time to audition for the coaches.

“Scout team I really gave it my all,” Reed said. “Coach Smart told me to do that.”

“He came in every day with his hard hat,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. “He has a lot of potential here.”

On Saturday against Appalachian State, Reed can show how far he’s come. Jake Reed plans to be at every game—home and away.

“I think he’s ready,” Jake Reed said. “I think he’s hungry more than anything.”

 

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