For years, I have heard from NFL players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Anthony Levine about how awesome their college football coach was.
Even those who have never played for this coach have spoken highly of him. When you go to meet someone that everyone respects, admires and loves, you immediately expect for them to have an impact on you. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Coach Rod Reed of Tennessee State University to discuss his take on what it takes to be a head coach, why HBCU football teams are not second tier, as well as what it was like returning home to his alma mater.
Coach Reed is hilarious. Yet underneath that humor and charm, you discover a coach who has a heart for the game and his players. His father, a former NFL player, taught Reed everything he knows from being a man to being a coach.
Some of those lessons include reminding his son that there is no substitute for hard work, and there is no return without a deposit. So how did this former TSU football player take this advice upon taking over a struggling football program as head coach?
He fought hard and took his team to the playoffs – a first for the HBCU in 30 years. The playoff game gave not only his players exposure on ESPN, but it created what Coach Reed likens to guerilla marketing. Their playoff appearance had everyone talking about TSU. It also had people realizing that the HBCU was a playoff-producing football team.
Early on, Coach Reed realized that it would take more than just wins to promise his players success. He has a strict policy when it comes to academics. Last year, more than 30 of his players had a 3.0 GPA. Getting a degree isn't something Coach Reed takes lightly.
"When my players are sitting at home years from now, I don't want them to say that I used them for football. I make sure they have a degree as well," he said.
Outside of academics, he also recognizes that his role in the lives of his players extends far beyond just being a coach.
"Some of these kids are bipolar, have ADHD, come from backgrounds that aren't that great. As a coach, I have to be their psychiatrist and the male figure in their life. I have to be able to play all of those roles."
To read more about Tennessee State football coach Rod Reed, you can do so here at blavity.com