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Winning with Reed
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            Before Jake Reed was catching touchdown passes in the NFL for 12 years, he was showcasing his skills here in Covington for the Newton Rams.

            But now the time has come for yet another exciting venture for Reed and his family. 

            Recently, Reed purchased an expansion team in the Intense Football League (IFL) - the Frisco Thunder - which is based out of Frisco, Texas. Since acquiring the team, the Thunder (8-3) has enjoyed a five-game winning streak and currently ranks among the top in the league.

            As a wide receiver in the NFL, Reed was among the top athletes on the gridiron for two teams - the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints.

            Reed scored 36 career touchdowns to compliment his 450 receptions totaling 6,999 receiving yards. In fact, Reed had four 1,000-yard seasons. His career-high in receptions (85) came during the 1994 campaign, and two years later Reed was second overall in receiving yards (1,320).

            But before he shined on the professional stage, Reed was a standout football player for the Newton Rams, and graduated from NHS in 1986. He played collegiate football at Grambling State University and was then drafted by the Vikings in 1991.

            "Jake has gone so far in his career and has seen a whole different world in the NFL," said Karen Gibbs, Covington resident and sister of Reed. "Eddie Robinson (legendary GSU head football coach) said he was one of the most respectful, humble and uplifting players."

            The Covington News spoke to Reed about his new team, what exactly the IFL is all about and how growing up in Newton County played an integral role throughout his career, on and off the field:

            Question: What made you want to own an IFL team?

            Answer: I have a friend who told me it would be a good opportunity for me to get back involved with football in this ownership role. He invited me out to the first home game on Mother's Day. I loved everything that I saw out there, especially the young men who were passionate about the game and trying to get to the next level. So, I really felt that with my experience in the NFL I (could) help them, and not just be an owner.

            Explain what the IFL is all about, particularly the main differences between the NFL and the AFL.

            Well, the NFL is a professional league (that) has a draft, the players get paid a lot more money, the field is 100 yards and the rules are basically the same. The AFL and IFL are pretty much similar. The big difference is most all of the NFL owners own the AFL teams.

            There's a lot of good talent out there, but there isn't a lot of leagues to play in. And since the (NFL) draft has been reduced by about five rounds or so over the years, those guys aren't getting picked up by a professional team. (There are approximately 1,800 professional football players.)

            Guys are staying in the NFL longer because they're taking care of themselves better, working out more and eating healthier. But these players who don't make the cut have got to play somewhere.

            We basically have our own rules in this league, but it's like a combination of minor league and pro football. One of the things we do here...since a lot of guys don't get a shot at the NFL, we go out and recruit. For example, we have two guys (who) made it to the last cut with the Cleveland Browns. I'm going to help them get into an NFL camp next year.

            How involved are you with your new team?

            I'm very, very involved with the Thunder. I'm the owner and the general manager, among other things, while my wife, Vinita, works in the front office. When I took over, the team was in such disarray. I had to go out of my own pocket and put a lot of my capital out there to get the team back, but I didn't mind doing that. Vinita and I looked at the big picture of what this team can be within the next 20-plus years and it's been worth it.

            It seems like the IFL is growing. How popular is the Thunder in Frisco, Texas?

            The previous ownership didn't do a lot of marketing. Matter of fact, I found out about the team because my son brought something home from school. But this is a very sports-minded community - we have a minor league hockey team, a minor league baseball team and a professional soccer team.

            Frisco is a prime place for sports, with good people in the community. And once they come out to the game for the first time they're hooked; they really enjoy it.

            I really built a good name in the NFL, so I think that helps. And after the games I sign autographs and take pictures with fans because that's my way of letting them know that I really care.

            You've come such a long way since your days here in Covington as a standout Newton High School football player during the mid-80s. Who or what would you attribute your success at the prep, collegiate, professional and now business level of your life?

            You know, I think it's a combination of different people in my life. I have to give my utmost respect to the good Lord above for keeping me out of a lot of different troubles I could have gotten into in Covington. Unfortunately, some of my buddies and friends did get into some trouble but I steered away from it.

            I have to give it up to my mom, Patricia Carter, because she's my ultimate hero. She was a single-parent mother who sometimes worked 12-16 hours each day for her children.

            Coach Harold Johnson, who used to coach at Newton High School, was the first to tell me that I had the talent to play in the pros. And at the time, I didn't know anything about Grambling; I was just playing football in high school for the love of the game. I never, ever thought about playing in the NFL because I really didn't know how good I really was; I just played because I loved football.

            But Coach Johnson really worked with me a lot and was the first one to take me down to Grambling; he really had my back. He took me to the bus stop and picked me up, and basically took me under his wings, as did Coach Eddie Robinson.

            So, now as a grown man I understand everything that these people in my life were doing - shaping me and molding me into the man I am today, and I'm truly blessed.

            On the pro level, there was Coach Dennis Green, who was my coach in Minnesota. He really talked to me about being a man and having responsibilities.

            My good friend, Cris Carter, really taught me a lot about the game. Cris played at OSU when I was at Grambling, and he was in the pros before me...I remember one thing Cris told me when I was a rookie: "Hey son, just hold onto my coattail, do what I ask you to do and how I want you to do it and you're going to be OK."

            I think I was just blessed to have those kinds of people in my life to point me the right way. And it's just a lot about making the right decisions at the right time.

            When it comes down to the business aspect of this whole thing, what I'm doing now is just taking a lot of stuff I learned with the Vikings and how they treated the players over into this smaller (IFL) league. I'm just trying to give back what I learned with the Vikings.

            For example, I saw how (billionaire) Red McCombs - who owned the Vikings at the time - interacted in the locker room with the ballplayers. He talked to me, talked to Cris, talked to Randy Moss; he didn't care if you were a starter or a superstar, you were one of his boys on the team and Red McCombs respected you.

            So, when I (saw) this billionaire with that type of money interacting with the players and sitting down and talking to them by their locker, it had a significant impact on me. And to this day, I have Red's cell phone number, office number, home number. Matter of fact, he called me congratulating me about purchasing the Thunder two weeks ago.

            So, when you combine all that stuff, it's kind of hard not to want to help get these young men to the next level; I don't mind putting in the time - it's been a great joy.

            What are the chances of you coming out of retirement suiting up for the Thunder and catching a few passes?

(Laughing) Slim to none...slim to none!