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Virginia’s Joe Reed top returner in 2020 NFL draft

Virginia wide receiver Joe Reed (2) in action during the first half against the Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 in Louisville, Ky.
Virginia wide receiver Joe Reed (2) in action during the first half against the Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 in Louisville, Ky.

Credit: Timothy D. Easley

Credit: Timothy D. Easley

Adjusts his path during coronavirus pandemic

Virginia wide receiver Joe Reed’s goal has always been to play in the NFL, but he has had to adjust his path to the draft during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reed, who participated in the NFL scouting combine, is the top returner in the draft and was named first-team All-American as a returner after the 2019 season.

“A big play special teams standout who has the potential to emerge as one of the premier return men in the NFL,” according to Reed’s NFL.com bio.

Reed led the FBS in kickoff return average with 33.2 per return and two touchdowns. He returned five kickoffs for touchdowns in his career.

Reed’s chance to further impress scouts was hindered when Virginia’s pro day was canceled, he couldn’t have any private workouts or attend any visits with NFL teams after the shelter-in place orders were made.

NFL draft prospects across the nation were ordered to self-distance with the hopes of stopping the spread of the coronavirus. 
"I was really looking forward to pro day especially being back out there with my teammates and finalizing my time here at UVA so that was unfortunate that I wasn't able to participate in that," Reed said.

Reed adjusted his new quarantine training schedule.

A typical day started with breakfast and watching the sports talk shows on cable television. He then headed to campus to workout.

Although the on-campus football facilities were closed, Reed created an outdoor gym at a field beside the fraternity houses called Mad Bowl.

Each day for three hours he practiced position drills and lifted weights.

After his workout, he grabbed another bite to eat. He then would catch up on his favorite television shows. He’d end the day with nightly workouts at home or in his apartment's parking garage.

Reed is doing what he can to stay in shape even taking up new techniques.

“I’ve also recently taken up boxing as a hobby, so the combination of these things is keeping me in shape,” Reed said.

In Reed’s career at Virginia, he caught 129 passes for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns. He played in 50 games and made 29 starts for the Cavaliers.

The 2019 Jet Award winner for the nation’s top return specialist impressed NFL coaches at the combine with his 4.47 second 40-yard-dash time.

Reed’s versatility as a player makes him attractive to NFL teams. He has skill at wide receiver, kick returner, and running back and was able to show his work at each position at the combine.

Since the combine he has been in online contact with 15 teams.

Coming from the small town of Charlotte Court House, Virginia, it was a longshot for Reed to be considered an NFL prospect.  Former N.C. State defensive tackle John McCargo, a first-round pick by the Bills in 2006, was also from Charlotte Court House, Va. He played six years in the NFL.

“My community has been behind me 100% since high school.” Reed said, “I’m really blessed with this opportunity and where I'm from motivates me.”

Reed always wanted to play for Virginia and make it to the NFL, according to his cousin Christian Reed, his first cousin who grew up in the house beside and has been close since childhood.

“Being from a small town we just made do with what we had ... and it's amazing to see him living out his dream because he is so humble,” Christian Reed said. “He’s quiet but he puts in the work and lets the work talk for him.”

Reed made an impact on the younger players while at Virginia when he helped them to reach the ACC title game and the Orange Bowl last season.

“He is UVA football,” said Nick Jackson, a freshman linebacker from Atlanta’s The Lovett School. “He’s a great person, cares about the team, working hard, academics and everyone knows him.”

Ricky Brumfield, Virginia’s special teams coach, says Reed’s work ethic will make for a smooth transition to the NFL.

“In the NFL a lot of guys work out on their own especially in the off season,” Brumfield said. “Reed is using this time to continue to get better and he's gonna be ready to roll from day one in the NFL.”

The Falcons, who did not re-sign their kickoff and punt returner Kenjon Barner in free agency, have an opening. In recent seasons, the Falcons have signed former Virginia players in quarterback Kurt Benkert and wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus.

Top Returners in the 2020 NFL draft: Reed, Kentucky's Lynn Bowden, Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk, TCU's Jalen Reagor and Penn State's K.J. Hamler.

The Grady Sports Bureau is part of the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT 

SERIES

Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads classTop 10
Running backs: Cam Akers' life lessonTop 10
Tight ends:  Harrison Bryant top prospect Top 10 
Guards/Centers:  Solomon Kindley a late-rounderTop 10 
Offensive tackles:  Austin Jackson's life lesson | Top 10 
Wide receivers: Jeudy or Lamb  | Top 10
Defensive tackles: Brown, Kinlaw stand outTop 10
Defensive ends: A 'generational' talentTop 10
Linebackers: Simmons a position-less LBTop 10
Safeties: Loaded with Georgia talent | Top 10
Special Teams: Rodrigo Blankenship tops listTop 10
Part 12: Cornerbacks