Reed began punting in his final year of high school and coach Phillip Fulmer signed Reed to be his punter of the future. That was off from day one on campus. Justin never showed any signs of consistency, which left Fulmer struggling to find a spot for the Florida native. "Coming in here my goal was to win the starting punter job and also a spot on the baseball team," Reed said. "I thought I would play three years of football and see where my baseball would take me."
This time last spring, Reed was just getting back to the football field after leaving the baseball team. That left coaches pondering what to do with the guy. Previously he had been relocated to scout team roles during the season. So the spring of 2002 could have been his chance after ending his baseball career. He began working as a tight end and was eventually moved to defensive end, where he would remain all the way through the 2002 season. That may have been a strategy set forth by coaches for a long term goal for Reed.
"I was at (defensive) end to add depth and also learn how to play the line position." Up until that very point in his career, Reed had no major contact on a football field ever. "I had to learn how to have contact. Defensive end helped me if for no other reason than to adjust to being in the trenches and just hitting. It's a huge mindset change to go through."
When tight end Jason Witten announced his departure for the NFL, coaches began looking to the roster for his immediate replacement. Experienced names where few and far between. Reed found himself a tight end … again. He says he sensed it coming for a few weeks.
"Last summer I went out and worked with Jason some before fall practice started. As bowl practices started, he worked with me a lot more. He has been a huge help to me even though I haven't had just a huge amount of time that I have worked with him."
Because he had to develop soft hands to be a punter, Reed already has one part of his game at tight end in good shape. With that in mind, the other major part of being a tight end is where his focus is these days. "Blocking is definitely holding me back a little bit right now. I am really working hard to get better on that since live contact started last month."
Justin says he can speak with great knowledge on one thing about the University of Tennessee's football program. The football coaches are very good at what they do. "I can say we have great coaches here 'cause I have been with all of them. The strength and conditioning staff are all tremendous. I came in to Tennessee weighing 230. I got up to 270 and now I am sitting on 265." The increase in body weight is not the only thing that the S & C staff has made Reed increase in.
"Basically I never benched until I got here. I went from getting here and not being able to put up 225 one time to maxing out at 375 recently. It's been a big change." I would say that is a definite understatement.
If Reed can keep getting better, he should play a vital role at tight end for the Vols. With Witten headed to (insert an NFL town), a spot is still left open that needs to be claimed. Fresno State will role into Knoxville before we all know it, so begs the question; Can Reed contribute early next fall?
"I think so. I think with a long summer in the weight room, I can get my strength where it needs to be to block effectively." Justin has 7 days to put a stamp on the position that will give him the opportunity to be a big part of the 2003 season. At long last Justin might be able to take a deep breath and settle into something.