Undersized is the perfect size
UB running back Emmanuel Reed keeps proving critics wrong on the football field
Emmanuel Reed wasn’t supposed to be able to rush for over a hundred yards.
Reed wasn’t supposed to be a Division I athlete.
At eight-years-old, Reed wasn’t even supposed to be a running back. But Reed has been proving critics wrong his entire life.
In youth football, Reed was too overweight to be a running back, too short to be a lineman, but too talented to be left off the field.
His three older brothers teased him, “You’ll be the smallest linemen ever.” What his brothers didn’t know is they were only motivating the young, small, overweight kid from Crestview, Florida.
His father, Pastor Earl Reed, knew his youngest boy of eight kids had a heart that wouldn’t give up. Reed’s father challenged him by buying him a treadmill to place in their two-car garage.
“I said, ‘man, just take your little time, do a little walk, do a little exercise don’t rush it,’” Pastor Earl said. “Every night, God as my witness, he would get on that treadmill and he would walk and walk… From that day fourth, he is self-motivated. I don’t have to tell him much. From that experience all the way through high school, the worst thing to tell Emmanuel is he can’t do.”
Reed is a redshirt sophomore seizing the moment, something his father instilled in him since he was young.
Prior to this season, Reed hadn’t rushed for more than fifty-yards total. This year, Reed is the leading rusher on the team, amassing 240-yards in the Bulls first four games.
Reed has been forcing his way into getting touches his entire life and coming to Buffalo was no different for him. A high school star, Reed was under recruited compared to his older brother, Micah Reed. Micah received 30 scholarship offers and chose to attend the University of Central Florida out of high school.
Micah, now a senior running back at Kennesaw University, has been raising the bar for Reed since they were young, competing and motivating Reed every step of the way. It wasn’t Reed who garnered all the attention growing up–it was Micah, with his six-foot, 205-pound frame.
Micah recalled a game in which Reed was fed up with being overlooked. Reed was a sophomore in high school and Micah was a senior. They were playing against a highly touted team from Jacksonville, Florida.
The coach for Jacksonville prior to the game told the local papers “If we stop [Micah], will win the football game, that is it, that’s the only person they have on their team.”
Reed, angered, slipped into his thoughts, quietly fueling himself, only telling Micah “They aren’t respecting me, man. I’m gonna show them.”
Emmanuel scored on an 89-yard touchdown on a reverse to set the tone and amassed over 250-yards that game.
The Jacksonville coach made a mistake, something many have made. Reed is small, but he isn’t at a disadvantage. For Reed, his size is an advantage, something his father always told him.
“I don’t say he is undersized, I say he is the perfect size,” Pastor Earl said.
Oftentimes, by the time the defense can recognize the run, Reed is breaking into the secondary. An elusive back, a safety must deal with the low-pad-level, as well as the shiftiness that Reed brings to the table.
“Most people can’t see me back there so it is definitely an advantage,” Reed said. “When you have big guys that are blocking for you, you are able to squeeze through smaller holes… I definitely try using my size to an advantage rather than handicap me”
In football, the low-man wins, something Reed has learned from his role model–NFL running back Darren Sproles, who like Reed, is around five-foot eight-inches.
Size has never been a chip on Reeds’ shoulder as many would think: he has enough drive himself. From his strong Christian family beliefs, that can be seen through the tattoos on his body, to his personal motivation to strive on the football field and as a student-athlete.
Growing up, it was not only football that flowed through the Reed family blood; it was the drive to achieve academic excellence. Both Reed’s father and brother motivate him frequently, his father tells him he is his biggest fan and his brother tells him to keep working on and off the field.
“We always stay on top of each other with everything we do, we always work hard together,” Reed said. “Even when it’s in the classroom, he’s just always sending me text messages, always trying to encourage me… I’m grateful for that part, too.”
Reed has a lot to be grateful for, having a close-knit family, between his father, mother and seven siblings, to his close-knit Bulls football family.
The transition from Florida to Buffalo has been an easy one for Reed, in spite of the change in weather. UB gave Reed a chance to continue playing the sport he loves.
“Coach Ianello called me on the phone and he said that they were really interested in me,” Reed said. “I came down on a visit and I loved everything about UB and I just committed on the spot.”
Since then, Reed hasn’t looked back. Reed has worked his way into playing a prominent role for the Bulls, something he has done his entire life. His father reminds him not to rely on his “God given-talent,” but to use it to propel himself further. Reed hopes to use his natural swagger to lead the Bulls.
“He has a heart of gold, he would give you the shirt off his back, that’s the kind of kid he is,” Pastor Reed said. “He would always take time for the younger kids… They would scream ‘Emmanuel,’ ‘Emmanuel’ and he would say ‘if I could do it, you can do it.’”
Jeremy Torres is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at Jeremy.firstname.lastname@example.org