Reed makes grade ... finally

There are a lot of success stories on the 2004 Tennessee football team but the unlikeliest of them all is Justin Reed.

Signed as a 6-7, 240-pound punter out of Punta Gorda, Fla., four years ago, he kicked so badly as a freshman that he not only was redshirted ... he was moved to defensive end! When that switch fizzled out, he moved to wide receiver, then tight end.

Now packing 275 pound on his towering frame, Reed looks awfully comfortable at his latest outpost. He caught a 16-yard touchdown pass last Saturday night against Florida, his homestate university, helping the Vols post a 30-28 victory.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer admits that Reed's rags-to-riches tale is quite a story.

''He's a good athlete but he started out not punting very well -- really struggled -- so we started looking for a place where he could play,'' Fulmer said. ''I moved him to defensive end just to get him tougher. Then he bounced around to wide receiver. He would've been the biggest wide receiver in the history of football if he'd stayed there.''

Given Reed's size and soft hands, tight end seemed a natural position. Oddly enough, it took three years for the coaching staff to realize this.

''He's kind of found a home at tight end,'' Fulmer said. ''He's still learning how to play there but I really admire his effort and how he's improved. He's a good route-runner and receiver but he'll tell you he's still got a lot to learn.''

The head man went on to note that tight end coach Greg Adkins ''has done a great, great job with him. And Justin's done a great job ... having the fortitude to fight through and stay with it. This time last year he didn't know if he could help at all.''


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