Kansas State University

K-State corner D.J. Reed studies football like a coach, and it shows

K-State defensive back DJ Reed (2) celebrates his interception and touchdown against Texas Tech.
K-State defensive back DJ Reed (2) celebrates his interception and touchdown against Texas Tech. The Wichita Eagle

D.J. Reed isn’t a channel surfer, and he doesn’t spend much time viewing Netflix. But he is a binge watcher.

His program of choice: Football.

If you need to find Reed on a weekday evening, the best place to look is the film room located inside Kansas State’s football facility. There you will routinely find the junior defensive back watching replays of old games, for hours. He studies himself, his opponents and his role models. While some prefer to watch NFL games with friends at a sports bar, he likes seeing the raw 11-on-11 replays all by himself.

“We get the real film, the same exact thing NFL coaches get,” Reed said. “I watch that stuff all the time, two hours every day. Instead of watching TV I go to the facility and watch film. That is my TV time.”

Reed credits those viewing habits for his meteoric rise as a member of K-State’s defense. When he enrolled at K-State last year out of junior college, few expected him to do more than add depth to the Wildcats’ secondary. Yet he ended up starting 13 games as a newcomer, making 75 tackles and three interceptions while defending 16 passes.

Big 12 coaches named him Newcomer of the Year on defense. And his teammates voted him captain heading into his second season.

It almost sounds good to be true, until you realize how much homework Reed put in before he strapped on a K-State helmet.

“I came in knowing everything about the playbook before I even practiced for the first time with (defensive coordinator) Tom Hayes,” Reed said. “Learning the playbook is the most important thing you can do. I tell our new recruits that. Workouts and stuff, you can always work hard and do all that, but you have got to learn the playbook in order to get on the field. You are going to move much faster that way.”

Former K-State defensive back Donnie Starks helped Reed learn the playbook before he arrived on campus, tutoring him via phone whenever he had questions. When Reed got to Manhattan, he learned even more by watching K-State’s games from 2015.

“Normally, players come in blind, obviously, because they don’t know the plays, but I really studied day in, day out and got a grasp on the playbook,” Reed said. “After that first practice, Coach Hayes was speechless. The only thing he said to me was, ‘How did you learn all that?’ 

Outside of Jordan Willis, Reed estimates he spent more time in K-State’s film room than any player last season.

All those viewings helped him blow up a screen pass against Texas Tech last season in which he zoomed past a blocker, intercepted a pass from Patrick Mahomes and returned it for a touchdown. Reed had his flaws as a sophomore, but he always seemed to know where to be. His 16 pass breakups led the team by a wide margin, as Duke Shelley finished second with four.

“There was no adjustment time for him, even though he was new,” senior linebacker Trent Tanking said of Reed. “And he kept getting better. He was a dynamic player, who had several interceptions and made great plays for us. To go from newcomer to captain in this short of a time is impressive.”

Reed is hoping for more this season.

Throughout the summer, he shifted his attention away from his own film to that of NFL defenders he admires. His favorite two defensive backs both play with the Arizona Cardinals, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.

The closer his game can resemble theirs, the better K-State’s secondary will be. And Reed thinks it could be pretty good. He says Shelley is healthy again after dealing with ankle issues last year, he thinks Kendall Adams has a bright future at safety and he speaks highly of A.J. Parker, Cre Moore and Walter Neil.

Reed has binge-watched enough football to feel optimistic about the season ahead.

“We are going to be really good,” Reed said. “Our secondary is dynamic. I think we are going to be in more man-to-man situations, instead of zone like cover two and cover four. I am going to be more in press or man, just with the trust coaches have in me. That is going to open up more opportunities for other players who play zone to steal picks wile I am going at the receiver.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett