In all of the country, there are two places that rise above all others when it comes to passion for high school football. One of them is Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania – the cradle of quarterbacks, college coaches, and even professional football. The other is deep inside of Dixie; a place called ‘the Republic of Texas' by its residents. It is a place where entire towns turn out to cheer for their young men, playoffs are televised statewide, and legends are born.
Fittingly, Robert Reid plays in the largest classification, 5A, because from all reports he is a big time player. Last season he led his squad to an 11-1 record, falling in the first round of the playoffs. At 6'3", 217, Robert is tall enough and large enough to stand in the pocket and deliver the football for 1,485 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. When teams stacked their defense to stop the pass or collapsed the pocket, he promptly used his 4.4 speed and rushed for 815 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Marshall Lawson, his quarterback coach, explains the conundrum opposing defenses are left with when they face his young apprentice, ""He is a big kid who can drop back and pass the ball. If you saw him run then you might not think that he is not that good of a drop back passer. Coming in he was always a pretty good pocket type of guy, but he had those other abilities that through being in a game situation and reacting – you say, ‘Wow. We did not know he could do that.'"
Nor is Robert just about talent. ""He is easy to like," said Lawson. "He is a good kid and works hard. He is intelligent. He has a lot of talent, but he has always worked hard. A good example would be his coming out for track as a sophomore, not really having an event, and learning how to triple jump. Then he came back out his junior year, this past spring and was one of the top sprinters. It surprised everybody because he is a good-size kid and just worked himself into being a good sprinter and even better triple jumper. He has abilities and is not afraid to work to develop them."
But can he play quarterback? Is his ability to produce at the high school level simply indicative of his outstanding physical abilities? Will he be able to lead his team at the next level?
According to Lawson, Reid is a rare gem at quarterback.
"I have never really had to get onto him. Even as a freshman. He has always been great. You always talk to kids, especially quarterbacks, that things will eventually go wrong. When something goes wrong, the thing we want to know as coaches is how will you react – how will you recover from a mistake? He is one of those kids that has always been great. You never have to worry about getting him to the sideline to calm him down. If he throws an interception or has a fumble, he comes off the field; he understands that as the quarterback and a leader, you have to take that responsibility. You have to do that. He accepted that early on as a young player. He is a leader. He will probably be a little more vocal this year. He will have the age and he is a senior. He has always been done it through example. Kids see him work hard every day. He is a kid that is easily coached."
Perhaps the best news for fanatics following the college sport is that Robert studies the game. When asked about his hobbies, Robert said, "I like to hang out with my teammates. We watch film every day."
Lawson seconded this statement, "The reason he has been so successful is that he studies the game, he watches film, and he really pays attention. He listens to what we tell him as coaches and tries to do what we tell him in order to minimize mistakes. He makes it look easy because he has that talent but also because he does not make a lot of mistakes."
So what does Robert think of all this attention? How does he view his season last year, what are his goals for 2003, and what is he doing to improve?
For starters, despite all of the press clippings he is collecting, Reid is not satisfied. He wants to do better and go farther.
"I think I had a pretty good football season, but if I could go back and change a couple of things I probably would - a couple of blown plays and fumbles I made that cost us a game. I think the one major thing – I need to be a bit more vocal than I was my junior year. I just feel like a couple of times I could have told an offensive lineman or receiver – somebody on the offensive side – that they could pick it up. If I see something is wrong I think I need to get on it and take care of it and leave it at that."
If that is to happen, much of the team's success will rely on his progression as a quarterback. He will not only have to be a student of the game but a technician at his position. What is Reid doing to ensure his development?
"My quarterback coach coaches me and three other young players on footwork, releasing – he coaches on everything about quarterbacking. I work on it a lot. When I go out with my receivers, I take my time and think about what I am doing. We try to go game speed, so it will be easier when the game comes around."
So where will Reid play?
Right now, he is wide open.
"I have 10 favorites. Schools move in and out of that ten every day." Consistently, there are a number of teams that remain there however: "Ohio State, Georgia, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Arkansas, Tennessee, Syracuse, and Alabama."
How will he choose?
"Really I just want to know – whatever school I end up the graduation rates are going to be up there because my mother is not going to have all that."
Robert indicated that his mother has made it clear to people that "He is not going to school just to play football, he is going to get an education." So besides the education aspect? "I know I am going to take care of that," he said. "I want to know if I am blessed to the next league, will my school be able to get me to the next league to succeed there because of good coaches and a good record every year?"
Lest fans come away with the wrong impression (that Reid is simply going to college as a coffee stop on his way to the NFL) they should understand he too is committed to his education. Quite simply, he has promised his mother that he would come away with a college degree.
"I just want to get my degree for my mom," he said. "My mother, she has been sacrificing a lot for me to make sure I am taken care of. She told me that all of this that she has done, if I make it to the NFL that would be good, but really she just wants me to get that college degree. I told her I would get it for her."
Wherever Robert ends up, he is likely to succeed with that kind of attitude. Will that success come at Ohio State? Will it be at Oklahoma State or Tennessee?
Coach Tressel reportedly stresses setting goals. What are your goals? "I have a few of them. One goal is just to take my game higher than it was this year as far as my passing, my running - just being an all-around person on the field and in the classroom. I want to get my GPA higher than it is. I want to take my team to state. In Texas football you have to be on it every week.
What are your grades and Standardized test scores? "I have a 3.3 grade point average. I made a 16 on the ACT."
What would people be surprised to know about you? "What you see is what you get. I have nothing to hide."
Do you play any other sports? "I was playing basketball, but I decided to just focus on football. I played point guard. I averaged 9 assists a game last year."
Based on your assist numbers, it sounds like you try to get your teammates involved – what do you do to get your teammates involved in football? "If I see something – there are lot of kids that have not been on the varsity. I have been there one year, and if I see something, I try to tell them that I have played against these teams before, and I know what they are going to do. I talk to them and let them know that ‘this is going to happen.' Then we all look good when we play in front of everybody."
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as a player? "Having my team follow me. If we can all be on top one day – if I do something that puts us down, I know my team is there to back me up. Wherever I lead them, they are going to follow no matter what."
What were the Elite 11 tryouts like? "They had us do a lot of throwing, a lot of accuracy throws, a lot of quarterback drills. It was nice to see the other top quarterbacks in the state. They had me as #2. They had another boy from Grand Prairie #1. It was nice to see who they were talking about."
Do you play any other positions? "I punt. I did it my freshman year but not my sophomore year. This past year I did it on varsity. I was first team district punter."
What was your average per attempt? "35.7 yards per punt, and the guy behind me had 35.6. Everybody was making a joke that my foot was bigger than his, and that is why my punts were longer."
Have you taken any unofficial visits? "I went to the Texas Spring game, I went to the Texas A&M Spring game, I went to a camp at Oklahoma State, and this past weekend I just got back from Georgia's football camp…"
Is there any date that you are trying to set on committing? "No."