J.R. Reed, FS/2000-03
It's a shame that J.R. Reed has fallen through the cracks a little bit with the newest generation of Bulls fans. Between Grothe and Selvie and Allen and Jenkins and Pierre-Paul, there have been plenty of stars worth remembering. But if you didn't see J.R. Reed play, you missed out. He was an absolute badass.
Reed came to USF as a relatively highly-touted recruit from Tampa's Hillsborough High School, and considering the Bulls were just coming out of I-AA when he signed in 2000, it was quite a coup for Jim Leavitt. Reed played immediately, getting into all 11 games his freshman year and then starting the last 33 of his career at free safety, where he proceeded to make more big plays than I can even begin to count. He was the only three-time winner of USF's Defensive Playmaker award, in addition to being the team's Defensive MVP in 2003, the same year he was named to the All-Conference USA first team.
You know how some defenders just seem to have the ball come to them all the time? Reed was one of those players. He holds the USF career record for interceptions with 18, and is also tied for the single-season interception record with 7. He is one of six USF players to recover two fumbles in one game, and he's tied for second all time for the most recoveries in a season (3) and in a career (5). Reed has the longest fumble return in school history (63 yards against Houston in 2001).
Wait, there's more. Reed is tied for the most passes defensed in a game (5), tied for second for passes defensed in a season (16), and second for passes defenses in a career (45). On top of that, he holds the record for the most tackles in a game (19 against Cincinnati in 2003), and he's the only defensive back in school history to have 300 or more tackles in his career. If there was a big play to be made on defense, J.R. Reed was probably the guy who was going to make it. One of his biggest highlights was an incredible interception to seal the Pittsburgh win in 2001, where he took the ball away from the Panthers receiver as he was falling to the ground and landing flat on his back. (Doug Graber's "WHOA!" in the broadcast booth was much louder than normal when Reed came up with that ball.)
But that isn't even in the same stratosphere as Reed's last college game. It was the best single-game performance in USF football history, and if you ask me it's going to take one hell of an effort to surpass it. I don't want to hear about something Grothe or Blackwell or Selvie did. Your argument is invalid, and I'll prove it after the jump.
November 29, 2003. The Bulls rolled into Memphis to finish up their first season in Conference USA. A few weeks earlier, the Big East had announced that USF was coming aboard in 2005, along with Cincinnati and Louisville. The Memphis fans were beyond pissed, and you can understand why -- if Memphis wasn't where it was on the map, they may well have gotten the nod instead of us. Clearly the Tigers faithful were not letting this go easily, as nearly 48,000 of them showed up to this otherwise pointless game to scream and yell at USF for stealing their spot in the big time. The mood at the Liberty Bowl was decidedly ugly, right up there with UCF two years ago as the most hostile opposing crowd the Bulls have ever played in front of.
Statistically, Memphis dominated. They outgained USF 458-192 and held the Bulls to 25 yards rushing. But they lost 21-16 because J.R. Reed almost single-handedly stole the game from them.
First, Reed returned the second-half kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7. After Memphis drove for a field goal and then immediately got the ball back to start another drive, Reed recovered a fumble and ran that back for a touchdown, making the score J.R. Reed 14, Memphis 10.
At the end of the third quarter, Reed made his second interception and ran it back to the Memphis 14, a distance short enough that the weak USF offense was able to punch it in for a touchdown and a 21-10 lead. The Tigers started driving again and reached the USF 17, but Reed made his third interception in the end zone to kill the drive. Memphis got another touchdown late, but they couldn't put together one more drive to win the game.
That game is one of my favorites in USF football history. There's nothing more delicious as a schadenfreude-inclined fan than seeing your team make a bunch of opposing fans hate them even more than they already do, especially if they can twist the knife in the process. Not only did J.R. Reed have the greatest game any USF player has ever had, but he ripped Memphis fans' guts out at the same time. I don't think I'll ever forget that game, or the guy who basically won it by himself.
Previous entries: #3 - Matt Grothe, #4 - Kawika Mitchell, #5 - Andre Hall, #6 - Anthony Henry, #7 - Mike Jenkins, #8 - Stephen Nicholas, #9 - George Selvie, #10 - Nate Allen, #11 - DeAndrew Rubin, #12 - Hugh Smith, #13 - Kenyatta Jones, #14 - Ben Moffitt, #15 - Chad Barnhardt