The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 8th

SportsSaturday - A Dream Come True

Jeff Reed couldn't have expected his dream to unfold so perfectly.

Not after getting such a late start. Not after spending his first few years at North Carolina watching games on television that his teammates were playing in hundreds of miles from Chapel Hill.

Reed rarely told people about his dream - the chances of it coming true were slim. But that's what makes Reed's patient ascent from a little-known walk-on to one of the ACC's best kickers so special.

"I had a dream, but I wouldn't ever say it." Reed said. "I would dream about wearing the Carolina blue, but it was far-fetched."

Of course it was. Reed was a soccer player, not a football player. He devoted his first three years at East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte to the soccer field, where he played center midfield and striker.

But at the urging of his father, Morris, and some friends on the East Mecklenburg football team, Reed decided to give place kicking a try during the summer before his senior year.

He went out to McClintock Middle School and learned from scratch. Pam, his mother, and Kristen, his sister, often joined Reed's father out at the field to offer their support.

Reed had no idea kickers took three steps back and two to the side before each attempt. He wasn't even sure he was suited to play football. He had seen kickers get roughed up in some games and go untouched in others.

"I was like, `Nah, I'm not a football player,'" Reed said. "I was actually kind of scared to get hit."

This coming from someone who was always the biggest guy on the soccer field.

But football worked out just fine. Reed, who helped lead the soccer team to the state finals as a senior, also set a school record with a 54-yard field goal. He now had options for a college football career.

Reed could have played at Appalachian State. He thought about attending Alabama or Notre Dame, but he decided not to visit either school. Reed chose North Carolina, where his kicking career didn't exactly get off to a flying start.

Josh McGee had solidified himself as the No. 1 kicker the year before as a freshman, and Reed knew he would have to wait patiently for his chance to come - if it ever did.

Many students saw Reed, looked at his 6-foot, 205-pound frame and guessed that he was on the football team. They would ask him what position he played. Reed would tell them he was a kicker. Some laughed. Others were skeptical. Surely he played linebacker or fullback.

Reed wasn't even safe around some of his best friends, such as fellow walk-on kicker Chris Bender.

"We used to kid him about having baby fat," Bender said. "He did what it took to get rid of that. He's a machine now."

Reed lost 30 pounds before this season. Reed, who currently bench presses about 300 pounds, can be seen from time to time walking around campus - biceps exposed - in a sleeveless T-shirt.

Not exactly standard issue for a kicker.

"It's more my style when I'm trying to put something chill on, relaxing," Reed said. "I'm not about show."

Reed said most people don't understand how important upper-body strength is to kicking. A strong leg can only do so much. If a kicker's shoulders aren't square at impact, the ball could go anywhere.

The ball has been going through the uprights for Reed this season. He has made six of seven field-goal attempts and all 14 extra-point attempts.

"Right now, in my opinion, he's one of the best kickers in the ACC," UNC coach Carl Torbush said.

Torbush rewarded Reed with a scholarship before the Marshall game, which gives Reed one more year of eligibility. Reed is keeping his success in perspective, though. He said his parents were just as responsible for earning the scholarship as he was.

And five minutes after he had completed an interview on Wednesday, Reed ran out from the UNC locker room at Kenan Stadium to tell the reporter he had talked to one last thing.

He wanted to thank Richard Moore, his holder. And Jason Helton and Jason Beamon, his deep snappers.

"I just wanted to add that, I've forgotten it too many times," Reed said, standing in the UNC tunnel.

The tunnel symbolized just how far Reed had come. There he stood, trying to hide from a once-unthinkable spotlight.

Reed said he never thought four years ago he would be running out of that same tunnel to the sound of 60,000 fans screaming and yelling. But his dream has been realized.

"It's weird," Reed said. "You have dreams, you should follow them.

"I have plenty more dreams that are far-fetched from here on out, but I think if you have dreams, your wish will come true if you overcome obstacles."



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