Free weights, bands, kettlebells, truck … Joe Reed is using whatever he can to prepare for the start of his professional football career. And yes, his truck is part of the former Virginia football star receiver’s repertoire.
“Yeah, so, just tying bands around it, tying ropes around it, jumping on the bed of it, doing some dips off of the tailgate, just anything I can think of that would benefit me,” Reed said, describing how he uses his truck in training. “No, I’m not pushing it around Charlottesville (laughs).”
Reed, a key cog in the resurgence of the University of Virginia football program the past four years, admits he has been “winging it” when it comes to training. Most are in the same position because of the coronavirus outbreak. Among the ramifications is the closing of gyms, which has prevented the former Cavalier star from lifting in the McCue Center.
Instead, Reed trains with a group of four, using the items mentioned above. The group lifts weights in their Charlottesville apartment’s garage before heading over to Mad Bowl for field work, which includes speed and conditioning work as well as throwing.
Fortunately for Reed, he was able to showcase his athletic talents to scouts at the 2020 NFL Combine. The 6’0”, 224-pound wide receiver demonstrated speed – he posted a 4.47-second 40 – and strength – he bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times – at the February event in Indianapolis. Reed posted a 38-inch vertical leap as well.
“It was definitely a fun experience,” Reed said of the combine. “A dream come true. Growing up, watching it on TV, just hoping that would be you one day. Being around those caliber of players, meeting new people, talking to coaches, definitely a great experience and something that I’ll always remember.”
Reed did not perform in the field work portion of the combine, something that could potentially impact his status in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was invited to the combine as a wideout, but some scouts requested to see Reed take part in running back drills. Virginia’s Pro Day scheduled for March – it was cancelled because of the coronavirus – would have given scouts the opportunity to see the versatile perform receiver and running back drills.
“It’s kind of unfortunate we didn’t have Pro Day, didn’t have any workouts,” Reed said. “Our bit just got cut short, so now it just comes down to staying in shape, being able to be professionals and working out on our own. Just keep the faith and see what happens.”
Reed has no problem playing whatever position an NFL team may want him to play, including running back.
“I’m kind of in a weird position. It really depends what a team wants, what a team sees in me,” said Reed, who mentioned slot receiver and running back as specific positions scouts have discussed in the double-digit Facetime interviews he has conducted. “All my interviews have been different. Some have been with the running back coaches. Some with the receiver coaches. Some with the special teams coaches. It’s really hard to say right now. It really comes down to what team wants to take a chance and the needs of different teams when draft day comes.”
Special teams is a big plus for Reed, who leaves UVA number one in school history in career kick return yardage (3,042 yards) and career kick returns for touchdowns (five). He is the only player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to reach 2,700 kick return yards and average 28 yards per return in a career, and he’s one of 10 players in FBS history to achieve over 3,000 kick return yards in a career.
Reed earned multiple first-team All-American honors at kick returner his senior season, including Walter Camp All-America honors. His kick return skills have been evident since his freshman campaign, when he returned 27 kicks for 678 yards, an average of 25.1 yards per return.
“[NFL scouts] love that,” Reed said, referring to his ability on special teams. “As a rookie, special teams is important, and that’s just the way it is. It’s always great to be a one or a two, but sometimes to get your foot in the door you have to play special teams. I’ve been gifted with the ability to return kicks, so that’s definitely something that I’ll be able to do in the future.”
As a receiver, Reed improved steadily before really making his mark his junior and senior campaigns. As a junior, Reed totaled 465 yards, averaged 18.6 yards per catch, and scored seven touchdowns. He exploded for 77 receptions, 679 yards, and seven touchdowns his final year in Charlottesville, earning 2019 All-ACC First Team All-Purpose honors as a result. Per Pro Football Focus, Reed had the third-most targets in the ACC last season and graded out as the 17th-best wideout.
The humble Virginia graduate’s most memorable reception, at least from his final season, was a 42-yard reception on an out pattern against Virginia Tech. The catch came with UVA trailing the Hokies, 20-13, in the third quarter, and set up a game-tying touchdown pass from Bryce Perkins to Billy Kemp IV.
A lifelong UVA fan, Reed committed to the Hoos in June of 2014, a good two months before his junior year of high school. Despite Mike London’s departure in 2015, the Charlotte Court House (VA) native kept his commitment and signed to be part of UVA’s first class with Bronco Mendenhall as head coach. He has helped revitalize the program he followed from childhood.
“One of our biggest goals was to leave the program a lot better than we found it,” said Reed, who is part of a group Bronco Mendenhall refers to as the “pioneers” of the program. “I think that’s something we’ve done. We’ve got all the faith in the world that these guys are going to keep it better. They’re going to keep improving as well. I think the program is in great hands as far as the coaches, as far as the players, and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next.”