Jets' Reed plays with heavy heart, dedicates season to dad

The texts started flooding D.J. Reed's phone moments before he was about to take the field for pregame introductions.

News 12 Staff

Sep 13, 2022, 1:32 PM

Updated 651 days ago

Share:

Jets' Reed plays with heavy heart, dedicates season to dad
The texts started flooding D.J. Reed's phone moments before he was about to take the field for pregame introductions.
“Condolences to your dad,” read one from the New York Jets cornerback's cousin.
“Your dad passed away,” said another from his uncle. “Rest in peace.”
His heart sank. Dennis Reed Sr. - his father, idol and hero- was gone.
Reed gathered himself after a few moments, jogged onto the MetLife Stadium field to join his teammates on the sideline Sunday for the season opener on the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks - and broke down.
“The national anthem was playing and I just was crying and stuff,” Reed recalled Monday. “Yeah, it was emotional, man.”
After an 18-year battle with multiple sclerosis, Reed's father died Sunday back home in Waterloo, Iowa. He was placed on life support last week and was breathing through a tube - but later told doctors he wanted it removed.
“He was tired of fighting,” D.J. Reed said.
Reed's mother Linda called him last Wednesday to tell him his father wasn't going to survive much longer. So he spoke to his father - Dennis Reed couldn't speak, so he listened to his son one final time.
“I said, ‘I love you,’” Reed recalled, “and, ‘You fought a good fight. ... Thank you for everything.’”
Dennis Reed breathed on his own two more days before taking a turn and dying Sunday morning.
“He fought it,” D.J. Reed said. “The thing that I loved about my dad is, in front of me and talking on the phone with him, he always had a sense of humor. He was always smiling, chuckling, joking, cracking jokes, just trying to make light of things.
"I learned a lot from his personality and doing that during tough times.”
The 25-year-old Reed's love for sports developed from his dad, who got him into football, wrestling, soccer, basketball and tennis, among others.
“When he was healthy, he was active very well in my life, like a great father and all that,” Reed said. “And he got sick and it kind of deteriorated his body and stuff, so he couldn’t be there like he wanted to be there.”
But his influence was always present.
Like when Reed was at Independence High School in Bakersfield, California, and became the first athlete in school history to be selected team MVP in both football and basketball. And in college stops at Fresno State, Cerritos College and finally Kansas State, where he developed into a fifth-round draft pick by San Francisco in 2018.
After two seasons with the 49ers, Reed broke out in Seattle after being claimed on waivers. A big payday came in March, when he signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Jets to be their No. 1 cornerback.
But before he made his regular-season debut with his new team came the news about his father.
“Yeah, it was hard,” Reed said. "It was basically just controlling my energy, really, because my emotions were everywhere. But I believe in God, and I just thought for him to pass away right before the game there was a reason for that because he could have passed during that whole week. And he passed away right before the game started.
“So I just said, 'OK, I know he’s watching, so I'm going to put on a show for him.'”
That's exactly what Reed did in a terrific debut for the Jets, allowing no catches in the 24-9 loss, forcing a fumble and intercepting Lamar Jackson late in the fourth quarter.
After coming down with the ball, Reed ran to midfield, knelt on the NFL logo and raised his arms - with the football in his right hand.
Some assumed it was ill-timed showboating. It was actually Reed honoring his late father.
“It was just deeper than football when I got the interception,” he said. “I already knew what I was going to do and that’s what I did.”
Some of his coaches and teammates were unaware of what Reed was dealing with until seeing his Twitter post on the ride home.
“Obviously a very, very tough day for D.J.,” said coach Robert Saleh, who was told before the game. “Heart goes out to him and his family. D.J. is a pro’s pro, a man’s man.”
Reed is unsure if he'll attend his father's funeral in Iowa, saying the two “already chopped it up” in their numerous conversations over the last several months. Being around his teammates, Reed said, and not dwelling on his loss might be best.
He and his girlfriend are expecting a baby girl in two months, and Reed is disappointed his father won't get to meet her during the offseason.
“That's what really had me emotional,” Reed said. “Definitely that was like one of the first things to do is go take my daughter to go see her grandfather. So for that not to happen, it was tough.”
But he knows his father will always be with him. Still watching and rooting for him.
“I’m paying tribute to my dad this year, for sure, the whole year,” Reed said. “That’s what I told myself: This season’s for my dad.”
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.


More from News 12
1:59
Toddler nearly falls into large sinkhole that formed in front yard of Fair Lawn home

Toddler nearly falls into large sinkhole that formed in front yard of Fair Lawn home

2:13
STORM WATCH: Tracking a line of strong storms headed toward NJ for Wednesday

STORM WATCH: Tracking a line of strong storms headed toward NJ for Wednesday

2:24
Family of missing South Seaside Park woman hopes public can help solve 15-year cold case

Family of missing South Seaside Park woman hopes public can help solve 15-year cold case

1:03
NJ lawmakers advance bill to ban herbal product ‘kratom’ after death of Ocean County man

NJ lawmakers advance bill to ban herbal product ‘kratom’ after death of Ocean County man

2:31
Menendez bribery trial: Senate staffer on stand for 2nd day of testimony

Menendez bribery trial: Senate staffer on stand for 2nd day of testimony

0:29
Route 1&9 reopens in Linden following 12-inch water main break

Route 1&9 reopens in Linden following 12-inch water main break

2:01
Union workers call for corporate transit tax in hopes to urgently fund NJ Transit

Union workers call for corporate transit tax in hopes to urgently fund NJ Transit

0:27
Officials: Drowning victim in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest identified as Point Pleasant man

Officials: Drowning victim in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest identified as Point Pleasant man

0:20
Large tree falls onto car in Belleville

Large tree falls onto car in Belleville

0:43
Evesham police officer hailed a hero for rescuing 2 residents from burning house

Evesham police officer hailed a hero for rescuing 2 residents from burning house

0:35
NJ man accused of flying to Florida to attack a man he met through an online game

NJ man accused of flying to Florida to attack a man he met through an online game

0:26
USPS truck bursts into flames while making Amazon deliveries in Margate City

USPS truck bursts into flames while making Amazon deliveries in Margate City

0:44
Prosecutors: 17 people arrested in Monmouth County drug ring bust

Prosecutors: 17 people arrested in Monmouth County drug ring bust

2:28
Man dies while trying to get kids off the beach during a lightning storm in Seaside Park

Man dies while trying to get kids off the beach during a lightning storm in Seaside Park

0:36
Jersey Proud: Teen with autism gets police escort to prom

Jersey Proud: Teen with autism gets police escort to prom

0:33
US Supreme Court rejects appeal on Rutgers University COVID-19 vaccine mandate case

US Supreme Court rejects appeal on Rutgers University COVID-19 vaccine mandate case

1:56
Power outage at Passaic housing complex leaves hundreds in the dark

Power outage at Passaic housing complex leaves hundreds in the dark

0:19
Hooters to close dozens of restaurant locations across the US

Hooters to close dozens of restaurant locations across the US

0:58
Officials: Large fire injures 3 firefighters, displaces more than 50 people in Passaic

Officials: Large fire injures 3 firefighters, displaces more than 50 people in Passaic

0:19
Prosecutor: 20-year-old man fatally shot in Irvington, suspect sought

Prosecutor: 20-year-old man fatally shot in Irvington, suspect sought