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Randy York's N-Sider
So you want to know what really got Kyler Reed through one of the longest years of his life ... the time lapse between his break-out, record-setting sophomore season and that never-ending, injury-riddled junior season that finished with a disappointing loss in Orlando's Capital One Bowl?
It was music, plain and simple. Music is Reed's passion, his hobby, his daily refuge from the physical rigors and psychological demands of college football. Music helped him wash away the painful high ankle sprain that slowed him from the first week of 2011's fall camp to the nagging hamstring injury he suffered during Nebraska's bye week last October. If music can be the shorthand of emotion, it also can be the language to help you grow and mature when you don't feel like things are going your way.
If Reed learned one thing this past season, it's how music describes feelings and how it represents life. An introspective young man, Reed sees music as poetry in motion. In fact, he's so enamored by it all, he wants music to be a part of his life after college football and what he hopes will be a meaningful career in the NFL.
"I'm a business major, but not really a numbers guy," said Reed, who chose Nebraska over Northwestern when he reduced the recruiting process to two schools.
Helping others is a Kyler Reed priority, and he has a vision to be an entrepreneur for those who fly under the American Idol radar. "I'd have to save up a lot of money, but someday, I'd really like to have a little music studio in my house. I'd like to have enough money to help people with their music careers when no one else is giving them a chance. I'd like to search for people like that and help them get going."
Keith Zimmer is not surprised. Nebraska's associate athletic director for Life Skills says Reed is a dedicated leader who's all about teamwork, responsibility and paying it forward. "He volunteers for military sendoffs and visits hospitals and recreation centers," Zimmer said. "He helps elementary kids in gift giving, and he's served as a camp counselor at the Abbott Sports Complex. And through it all, he still manages to excel in the classroom."
Music is Reed's Medicine for the Mind
A consensus 2011 Preseason First-Team All-Big Ten tight end, Reed has used music to channel his frustration, define his thoughts and choose the wisdom he takes away from it all. For him, music's the medicine of the mind, the cleansing of his disappointments and the inspirational match that lights his last spring practice session before his fifth and final season as a Husker.
Thank goodness Reed's coaches and teammates have seen the spark back in Kyler Reed's eyes and the explosion back in his legs this spring after he's recovered from ailments he's kept to himself. The transformation not only is complete, but also introduces the new Kyler Reed. The one- time prep receiver, running back, linebacker, safety, cornerback and defensive end (but never tight end until Nebraska) has shown remarkable improvement in his ability to block much bigger defenders. At the same time, he's shown the speed that can still leave defenders in the dust.
Remember when Reed caught eight touchdown passes as a sophomore, a Nebraska single-season school record for a tight end? Remember also the 11-month drought that followed, broken only by Reed's 6-yard touchdown reception from Taylor Martinez 32 seconds before halftime of the first Hero's Game against Iowa? That critical catch gave the Huskers a 10-0 halftime lead and much needed cushion over the Hawkeyes.
As important as that play was, it's not nearly as critical as what Reed has accomplished throughout this spring practice session. He's blocked considerably better, run definitively faster and caught passes with the same sure-handed authority he showed as a talented, playmaking sophomore. Obviously, Nebraska's relatively quiet music man is happy to be healthy and geared up to make 2012 his most memorable season yet.
Getting Back a Dangerous Weapon: Speed
Reed wants his sophomore identity back as a senior. He wants to be that tight end that used to scare the daylights out of Husker opponents. He wants to be dangerous again. "Speed was my main weapon," Reed said. "But I couldn't do what I did (in his sophomore season) because I couldn't run like I did."
Reed knows how much everyone was expecting from him last year, and he understands why he never achieved those great expectations. "I was expecting a lot myself," he said, admitting the season became more of a waiting game than a playmaking experience. "I went 11 months between touchdowns, but I never did see that Iowa game as important for me to score. It was more important for us to win than it was for me to score."
The bowl game that followed in Florida left a bad taste, but has not deterred the Huskers as they prepare for 2012. "We can stand up to SEC teams," Reed said. "We don't look at 'em like they're NFL teams. We have a good locker room of guys here, and we're getting to know each other better than we ever have. We're working hard to have a great season."
In his off-the-field hours, Reed enjoys his experiences with roommates and teammates. He's even given country music his attention and found that it really can be defined as three chords and the truth. "I really tried to get into country," he said. "I understand and appreciate the lyrics. Country just doesn't express as much to me right now as the other genres I'm into ... like rap, rock and jazz. I like instrumentals, too."
A Talent Scout for Music, Not Football
Through a difficult season, music helped Reed look at life as one grand, sweet song. "I really can see myself as a talent scout," he said. "I can't sing, and I can't write lyrics all that well, but I know what kind of music inspires me."
We interrupt this post-pro football dream to remind everyone that Kyler Reed is physically ready, excitedly willing and fully able to make some music of his own in Saturday's 1 p.m. Spring Game as well as next fall.
Saturday, Reed will be introduced as a repeat member of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team. Next month, he will finish his bachelor's degree and graduate. That means he will play his final season at Nebraska as a graduate student with a stronger ankle, a healthier hamstring and probably more than one song in his heart.
Someday, Reed can envision his life without football, but he can't imagine living it without music. Whenever he builds that little studio in his house, he knows what he'll probably do. He'll crawl into that space and listen, linger and camp out on every note. Then, in his own way, he'll decide if he can help someone make it in music, a world that just might be wackier than football.
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