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House on the Hill: Into the Fire

Nov. 25, 2013

Drew Reed didn't have time to panic. He only had time to prepare.

Lafayette's freshman quarterback, who entered the season third on the depth chart and had seen the field for all of one play on Oct. 5, got word from offensive coordinator Mickey Fein that he was taking over at halftime against Harvard on Oct. 19.

“To be honest, I think going in at halftime actually helped me,” Reed said after the Leopards found out on Sunday that they'd be traveling to play New Hampshire in the first round of the NCAA FCS playoffs on Saturday at noon. “I didn't have time to get nervous and think about it all week.”

Reed's first time pass attempt against Harvard – an interception – did not go as planned. But everything he's done since has gone better than anyone could have anticipated.

Since Oct. 26 against Holy Cross when he became Lafayette's starting quarterback, the first true freshman to do so since the record-setting Marko Glavic in 2000, the Leopards are 4-1. Included amongst those wins is a 50-28 victory over rival Lehigh, which gave Lafayette the Patriot League title and first playoff berth since 2006. Reed was named the game’s most-valuable player.

He’s the first freshman to win the MVP award since Lehigh’s Phil Stambaugh in 1996 and Lafayette’s last rookie to win the award was TB Tom Costello (1988).

Prior to Reed winning the starting job, Lafayette was 1-5.

Any nerves Reed may have never show up. Any hesitation he may possess about firing into traffic is missing—in his first three games he threw one more incompletion (12) than touchdowns (11). And any chance that being just over 6-feet tall would negatively impact him has yet to appear.

During that one half against Harvard, Reed was 17-of-22 for 235 yards passing and two touchdowns. His first start against Holy Cross was even better when he completed 21-of-22 pass attempts for 283 yards and five touchdowns.

For the season, he's 112-of-152 for 1,681 yards. He has thrown 17 passes for touchdowns and only five interceptions.

“As a true freshman, it's always tough,” Fein said. “At that spot, there are so many things you have to know: the play clock, cadence, what play we're getting into."

"He's a real flat-lined kid. He never gets too high or too low, and that's a great mentality to have at quarterback. He's really proven now that his heart doesn't pound anymore in tough situations. He just goes out there and gets it done.”

Last year, Reed didn't get as many opportunities to get it done as he had hoped. As a senior at Arlington High School in Tennessee, he started the first six games. But then he broke his collarbone on the first play of the second quarter of game six. Surgery, during which he had a metal plate and a half dozen screws inserted, followed. He wound up missing the rest of the season.

As heartbroken as Reed, who had already thrown for 1,470 yards and 15 touchdowns, was, he never let it show. He went to every practice and every game the rest of the year.

“It was hard,” Reed admitted. “It really was. But I tried to stay positive and still be a leader. I wanted to show my team I still cared.”

But the injury meant colleges cared less and less about recruiting Reed, and he started to wonder if his dream of playing football after high school would still be possible.

As time wore on, though, it became obvious that one school's interest in him never waned: Lafayette's.

He loved College Hill so much when he visited Easton that it ended up being the only school Reed made an official visit to.

“The academics here are second to none,” Reed, an economics major, said.

“That's one of the main reasons I wanted to come here. If you get a degree from Lafayette, it says a lot about who you are, and it will help you in the future.”

The future will surely be bright for Reed on the football field. He's bound to get bigger and stronger. His confidence will grow. His leadership abilities will improve. 

There's no way to know if he'll have a shot at Glavic's records, which include career passing yards (9,819) and career touchdown passes (62). But coach Frank Tavani has no doubts that Reed's impact will grow every year he's the Leopards' play caller.

“A lot has to do with staying healthy,” Tavani said. “He'll continue working extremely hard and after this season, he'll come into the spring under a different set of circumstances and he'll have total confidence.”

Reed's teammate and roommate, Tim Vangelas, said even though Reed is just a freshman and had limited reps in practice for the first half of the year, he has total faith in everything Reed does on the field.

“At this point, nobody even really thinks about him being a freshman anymore,” Vangelas said. “He's the starting quarterback and everybody on this team is going to follow him to wherever he takes us. He goes out and does what he has to do. He doesn't brag to anyone. He stays composed in every situation.”

By Mandy Housenick

House on the Hill