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Old 05-12-2006, 08:20 AM   #1
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Default Rookie snapshot: Willie Reid.....Pt.2

JEFF BOWDEN Florida State offensive coordinator/receivers coach

SCI: What can you tell me about Willie Reid?

Jeff Bowden: One, he was a tremendous leader for us. He had a great commitment, showed great commitment to the game and I think to the team. That had a lot to do with his leadership ability, his work ethic. The players saw that. And obviously his production his senior year was really good, especially in the kicking game.

SCI: Why is he knocked by scouts as a raw receiver?

JB: Well he is a little raw. There?s no question. We signed him at Florida State as a top running back out of the state of Georgia, and early on we were pretty loaded. We had Greg Jones, Nick Maddox and Leon Washington, and Lorenzo Booker was there soon after that, so he was in a real crowded position. Now, he was the only one at the time who we felt would have the best chance to perform for us as a freshman and to make a move to wide receiver, and we did that. And probably the first or second day he was there he broke a bone in his foot, so we lost him for the season. And then the next year I think he went through the same deal. Early on in his career he went through a lot of injuries, and they weren?t the career injuries ? the knee injuries and things like that. They were things that just held him back and kept him from practicing as much as he would like, so I think that slowed his development. I think when you hear ?raw? with his name, that?s where it?s coming from.

SCI: So you don?t think it?s anything he can?t overcome?

JB: No, no, no. What that means to me and what I mean by that is there?s a pretty good upside to him. What Pittsburgh?s going to find out is they?re going to find how this kid will work. He?s a tremendous worker. There?s not anything he won?t do that those coaches ask of him. They?re going to get a quality athlete/person in that regard.

SCI: That?s what they look for.

JB: Well, that?s good. I mean, he?s a character kid for us. That?s all I can tell you.

SCI: Can you give me an example?

JB: Well, I think with all he?s been through down here, offensively, and all he?s had to go through, for him to maintain his leadership, to continue to push his team to be better, to stay positive, keep working, to not sit here and worry about things he couldn?t control and just do his job, is probably the best example I can give you. And a lot of the success we had last year, even in our ACC championship game, he had a lot to do with it.

SCI: Was his strong finish an indicator of what?s to come?

JB: I think that?s an indicator of the upside to Willie. You know, I really wondered about his junior year. I really was questioning whether or not he needed to be a tailback. That?s the kind of athlete he is. But he?s such a good athlete we had to get him involved in the offense. We had Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. Not that Willie was any worse than either of them, but he had the most versatility. He?s very similar to Booker in that regard, but Willie?s just a little bigger. He was a kid that we needed to get the ball to. And for me, as a play-caller, when you?ve got to have something, you?re lucky if you have a third guy in your offense that you have to get the ball to and who will make the play. Willie was that kind of player.

SCI: Why so few reverses with him?

JB: Yeah, well, if we had more success with our reverses we certainly would?ve got him more. Florida State has such a stigma that teams look for the reverse. Bobby Bowden?s reputation is the reverse.

SCI: Kind of like the Steelers. Do you assume they?ll use him on reverses?

JB: I think they can. Look at his punt returns. Running a reverse is like being in the open field on a punt return. Once you get the ball in his hands the athlete takes over. He?s shown what he can do when he?s got the ball in his hand on punt returns, so you can kind of use that as a predictor.

SCI: What was his best moment with you guys?

JB: One of them would?ve been in the loss to Virginia where he made some big catches and took some really strong shots from a safety. It showed in him that there was a lack of fear in going over the middle. The quarterback threw high a little bit and he took a shot in the ribs. He tried to keep running but he couldn?t breathe and he just had to go down. He wasn?t hurt. He caught his breath and was right back in there. That, and he had a huge catch in the ACC championship game, a punt return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown against Maryland, a punt return for a touchdown in the bowl game, broke Deion Sanders?s punt-return record his junior year. He?s quietly built some pretty strong credentials.

SCI: So what should Steelers fans expect in terms of his lack of polish as a wide receiver?

JB: He needs at-bats. You don?t get better at that stage without at-bats. If he gets the at-bats as a punt returner, they?re going to find they?ve got a kid with great vision and great instincts carrying the ball. And he will stick it up in there. He doesn?t have to dance; he doesn?t do all that. He sees a hole and he hits it pretty good. As a receiver, the only way he?s going to get good ? just like with any kid ? is just playing time, playing time, playing time. They?re not going to get him to practice any harder than he normally does. He?ll be one of the hardest workers they bring in, I?ll bet you. So now it comes down to the game, getting comfortable with that level of ball because that?s the highest level. But I think the one thing Steeler fans will be pleased with in him is his character. I think they?re bringing in another quality person. He?ll certainly maintain what seems to be a great character level they have right there.

SCI: I talked to him on the phone and got that impression. I expected some kind of problem with a 4.3 guy who wasn?t drafted until the third round, but he comes off as a coach?s dream.

JB: His third round, I honestly believe, is just the injuries he?s gone through that have held him back. He?s a kid who, three seasons ago, when we got all of our tailbacks hurt, had not practiced at running back but we had to put him there to finish a game. He?s able to do those kinds of things. He?s special and he?s got a great, great family, a great support group, and he?s going to be around a great coaching staff and a great organization.

By: Jim Wexell
SteelCityInsider.com
Date: May 11, 2006
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Old 05-13-2006, 03:45 PM   #2
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Default Re: Rookie snapshot: Willie Reid.....Pt.2

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