Jordan Reed emerges as potential, much-needed playmaker for Gators

GAINESVILLE — In the make-believe, video-game world many young men inhabit these days, Jordan Reed is the man for the Florida Gators.

Big things are expected during Reed's junior season in Gainesville, in which his transition from quarterback to tight end is complete.

Reed enters the Gators' (2-0) visit to SEC East rival Tennessee (2-0) Saturday as Florida's leading receiver, with eight catches for 92 yards.

But Reed — Florida's top-ranked player in the wildly popular EA Sports NCAA 2013 video game — already has delivered big time for Gators fans with agile thumbs, big-screen TVs and 5-Hour Energy on hand.

In the real world on Saturdays, Reed has a good chance to reach the lofty ranking as top Gator. If he gets there, it will not surprise those who saw this coming before few people outside his town of New London, Conn., had any idea who he was.

"He was a man among boys his senior year," said Juan Roman, one of Reed's high-school coaches. "It was one of those deals where the butterfly came out of the cocoon.

"Every game, it was a video game. I remember our first game, it was third-and-one and he ran a quarterback sneak and ran through the entire team.

"That's when I realized this guy is not like anything I've seen."

But one wrong step ended his season a few weeks later. He had plantar fasciitis and dropped down recruiting lists.

"That was a tough time, a lonely time," Roman recalled. "I knew there was some unfinished business for him."

It's taken a few years and a coaching change, but two games into the season Reed has the full attention of Gators teammates, coaches and opponents.

"I'm sure he'll be playing in the NFL one day," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said.

With four catches longer than 10 yards, Reed has flashed the playmaking ability Florida's offense will need to keep pace in the SEC. During the second quarter at Texas A&M, Reed turned a crossing route into a 30-yard gain, hurdling one defender and juking another on the sideline to set up a field goal.

Reed carries 239 pounds on his 6-3 frame with ease, allowing coaches to move him around to create mismatches.

"He provides a big opportunity for us to be able to put him in a lot of spots," offensive coordinator Brent Pease said.

Gators sophomore Michael Taylor had to laugh this week as he recalled being caught one-on-one in practice against Reed.

"You better get a safety on him," Taylor said. "A linebacker better have some good hips, that's all I can say."

Reed's size and skills bring to mind some of the best Gators' tight ends in recent memory.

Reed resembled Ben Troupe, an All-American in 2003, when he hurdled a defender at Texas A&M. Reed's history playing quarterback recalls Cornelius Ingram, who moved to tight end and played a key role in Florida's 2006 and 2008 national championships.

Reed also grew up an hour down the road from Aaron Hernandez, a key member of the 2008 national champion Gators and now a Pro Bowler for the New England Patriots. But Hernandez, a native of Bristol, was a five-star recruit high on every school's list.

"I know it's a crazy statement to say," Roman said, "Aaron might be more physical, but athletically Jordan isn't holding second place to anyone."

Roman does not mean in a video game, either. In the world of football, sometimes it takes a player a while to fit in.

"It takes process to become a good player," coach Will Muschamp said. "Just because you're a great athlete doesn't mean you're going to be a really good football player. Sometimes it takes time."

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