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Kean University senior DeShawn Reed overcomes family tragedy, injury to earn NJAC, ECAC and Honors

While growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, DeShawn Reed enjoyed running track and playing some baseball. However, it was Reed’s best friend Jeffrey Herron that got him into football.

“I was always fast from track and he said you should really play,” said DeShawn Reed. “I was always rough and went up to my Mom and said I want to make TD’s and tackle and just launched from there. In Pop Warner, I won the team MVP three out of four years.”

During Reed’s eighth grade year, life would be forever altered after the murder of his cousin. “He was someone I looked up to, a football player and key player at Lincoln High School and leading them to a championship,” Reed said. “I was going to go to Lincoln High School but when my cousin was killed my Mom said I don’t want you going to school in this city and have the same thing happen. My Mom said just stay the course and you are going to see a lot of people around you change as the years go by and see where they go and exactly what happened to friends’ on the streets and some I lost. Ever since I was on a drive to finish what he was not able to finish and playing for both him and me.”

Harnessing that motivation, Reed ended up attending Hoboken High School where he thrived on the gridiron winning two state championships while earning first-team all-conference and second team all -state honors. After graduating from Hoboken High School, Reed enrolled at Hudson County Community College. With the college having no athletic department, Reed developed a niche for culinary.

“My Mom is the backbone and had to play the roles of mother and father. I can never repay her and only thing I can do is be the best person I can be. She means everything to me and hard-working woman who worked two jobs and graveyard shifts and not missing high school and college games. She made it an obligation to be there for the playoff and championship games. She told me since I was little whatever you do put your mind to and just don’t do good at it but excel and says that every time.”

“Watching my mother taking care and raising three young men including myself as a single mother. My mindset was if she can do all of that I can get through this too. Just like my mother is always strong for us I took it into account I had to do for my siblings and her as well. My mother is the biggest influence out of anyone and aspire to be a great person as she is one day.”

The next stop for Reed ended up being Kean University. Appearing in 10 games his freshman year, Reed recorded nine tackles including his first career sack against Christopher Newport in the regular season opener. Reed points to head coach Dan Garrett as the main reason for the smooth transition.

“Coach G put himself out there for me and didn’t have to,” said Reed. “We held leadership meetings that taught what it meant to be a leader and man. He is a father figure to me and I grew up without a father really and male figures. Coach G showed me how to be a man on and off the field before being player. He led by example whether I needed help with football or academics.”

“He would be running four miles in the morning when he was sick as a dog with either the flu or fever and practiced what he preached. The motto was if I can fight through it, you can fight through it no matter what. We won the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Championship and happy to be part of it and played on special teams’ and got a half-sack my first game.”

Making the switch to linebacker during his sophomore year Reed registered 22 tackles and a half-sack. Not only hampered by an injury but playing a new position as defensive lineman in his junior year Reed recorded 50 tackles and nine sacks earning him first-team All-NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Conference) honors. Even with all the success on the field, Reed still faced obstacles when it came to housing. “A bunch of frat boys let me stay with them my junior year that allowed me to finish the season and school year,” said Reed.

Entering his senior year with the Cougars, Reed said he had to make some adjustments when it came to on and off the field. “I’m not a vocal person but lead by action and not a talker but Coach G said the team looks up to me. I took that role seriously when me and Coach G had our man-to-man talk and what was needed for the team. It was not an easy task to find my voice.”

“I was working out in the summer, don’t currently live at home with my family and closer to school that is more convenient and trying to find room to work out and stay in shape. I was working out at home when I couldn’t make it to the gym and also on the job. Going to the park and running hills to get stronger and faster. People wanted to see if I could produce no matter who is here and I’m going to leave my impact on the field.”

Even with Kean finishing up with a 3-7 record, Reed put up impressive stats amassing 41 tackles and nine and half sacks earning him first-team All-NJAC and ECAC honors while being named to the All-East Region third team.

“The season went by quick, had its ups and downs but there to uplift the team during the rough times. Just because you work doesn’t guarantee success and as long as you keep giving it your all and keep fighting you won’t leave the game without any regrets. Whether we won or lost I enjoyed every game, embraced every practice and every moment with my teammates and every bus ride no matter how many hours and I learned to appreciate it.”

“The last home game I said I might as well put a show on for our fans and had my second TD which was a blessing and added to number of sacks. It’s a tough conference (NJAC) and learned that my freshman year it’s no joke. I feel it’s like the Big 10 of Division III with a lot of powerhouse teams’. I knew that I had to get stronger because I’m not the biggest defensive end and had to use my quickness to maneuver around. Tackles looked at me and said I was small but strong. It showed everything paid off.”

“They tried to put me at linebacker and love doing it because I have the physique but always had my hands in the dirt. I wanted to make an impact when people played us. I looked up to Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald. When coaches are doing their scouting reports they will talking about this kid they need to worry about and left a mark on the field.”

“It means a lot to me I transferred here and I was at the bottom. The past two years have been a roller coaster ride after a bad injury last year. After I recovered and season ended I told myself I had to bounce back and do way better than the year before. This year I pushed myself way past my limits.”

“I love football, the camaraderie of the sport, intensity, roughness and overall grind of the sport. I love my teammates wholeheartedly and being their leader an honor and blessing. I loved the team bonding, always the guy joking around in the locker room and dancing and cracking jokes in the ice bath. I have close relationships from the players to the athletic trainers and they have taken care of me in ways that you can’t imagine. I made my mark and put a lot of work behind that number 33. I’m truly thankful for Kean football and my four years with those guys are memories I’ll never forget.”

For Reed, it was just not the training on and off the field but the attention to detail watching film and that is where defensive coordinator Matt Kreider, defensive lineman coach Gary Andrewshetsko, special teams coach Nick Graff and cornerbacks coach David Jimerson played pivotal roles in his development over the course of four years at Kean.

“Coach Kreider is like a brother, an uncle I never had and brings a lot of energy to the defense. Always experimenting, trying new things and watched film with him and we grew closer over the years. He would give me tips and work on pass moves after practices or days off. I love Coach A, he improved everything I knew, watching film and never made it uncomfortable for you. He never accepted mediocrity no matter who you were. I told him in my goals in the off-season and he did everything in his power that I reached those goals, I want to give out a special shout out to Coach Graff as well who contributed to the strength and power I have now. His workout plan and knowledge on fitness is like no other. David Jimerson showed me how the program works.”

Football is just not the only area Reed is focusing on these days, more importantly being a student-athlete. Majoring in exercise science, Reed passed an exam to become a certified personal trainer. On top of that Reed has started a food business as well. Furthermore Reed is part of a team that is involved in searching for the next President of the university.

“Being a student-athlete is not a walk in the park,” Reed said. “A hectic schedule, going to classes in the morning, getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning for spring ball practices, weight room then going to work. It feels great at the end of end of the day when you accomplish something. My team knows about my cooking and I invite them over to my house and cook for them. I have been cooking since I was nine years old. I don’t charge at all because they are growing and football players. We like to eat and talk about football.”

“Kean is going through a transition and I got recommended for it which is a blessing. My athletic director came to me before a spring game, we talked about it and asked me if I wanted to be part of it and I was honored.”

“I dedicated this last season not only to myself but to my cousin who I hold dearly to me. I have a saying that either you are putting that work in or you’re the one getting worked on. The choice is yours which means either you work hard now or slack off and get exposed by somebody. Aspire to inspire before you expire. Football isn’t forever and truth be told you’re not promised another day on this earth. I believe someone should inspire others before their time is up whether on the field or in life.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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